Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New Way to Make Realistic Shadows for Computer Images, Animation


Caixia Zhang

Scientists and computer gamers alike could benefit from a new method for creating soft, realistic shadows in computer-generated images.

Engineers at Ohio State University have created computer algorithms that model how light passes through translucent three-dimensional objects or fluids such as water, clouds, fire, and smoke. The result: shadows that begin to approach the realism of Hollywood animation, but don’t require as much computer memory to create.

Caixia Zhang, now a doctoral student at Ohio State, began this project for her master’s thesis. She and Roger Crawfis, professor of computer and information science, described the work in the current issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics.

The new software algorithms are unique because they generate soft shadows for 3D objects, and take into account factors such as how light fades as it passes through a translucent object, Zhang said.

The engineers tested the algorithms by creating shadows for objects of varying complexity, including a cloud, a group of robots, and a bonsai tree.

Crawfis characterized Zhang’s work as a bridge between low-level animation software and the high-end products used by Hollywood to create animated movies.

"The ultimate goal is super-accurate, super-fast, low-memory image rendering," he said. "This work is a step in that direction."

"Hollywood now spends an hour per frame, for animation that uses 30 frames a second," he continued. But moviemakers could use the Ohio State algorithms to make more realistic mock-ups as they’re developing an animation.

Other possible applications include software that simulates surgical procedures or helps scientists visualize complex data.

"The challenge is to display the data in a way that someone can get the information they need," Zhang said.

To make the new algorithms, she used a common volume-rendering method called splatting. Some methods trace a viewer’s assumed line of sight to an object to create an image. Splatting, on the other hand, assumes that the object will be projected against a two-dimensional surface such as a TV or movie screen, so the calculations can be done as if for a 2D object.

The name "splatting" comes from software developers likening the method to throwing snowballs against a board, Zhang said. (The object’s 2D footprint is called a splat, and the object is broken up into volume elements, or "voxels" -- the 3D equivalent of pixels.)This sentence is re-written to :The 3D object is broken up into volume elements, or "voxels", and a voxel’s 2D footprint is called a "splat."

"The advantage of splatting is that you can keep track of relevant voxels, and it’s less expensive in terms of data storage," she said.

With the current advancements being made in graphics cards and related computer hardware, Crawfis feels that consumers would soon be able to enjoy computer games that use the new algorithms on their home PC.

The University of Erlangen-Nuremberg supplied the data for the bonsai tree used in this study, and funding came from a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

Contact: Caixia Zhang, (614) 688-3766;
Roger Crawfis, (614) 292-2566;

Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475;

Pam Frost Gorder | Ohio State University
Further information:

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>