3D games and CGI just received a massive boost as a new breakthrough 3D technology promises 100X faster rendering of metallic and shiny surfaces.

Thanks to computer scientists at University of California-San Diego, a new procedural method allows super-fast visualization that could change the way gaming engines and 3D design software operate.

Rendering is a process of visualizing the virtual objects, especially in context to three-dimensional objects.

However, to bring photo-realistic 3D games to life, 3D designers and architects have to go through painstaking details.

Additionally, current rendering methods are slow and inefficient, as well as use a lot of CPU power to calculate the visual outcomes.

In the latest 3D game research, led by Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi at the University of California San Diago, this new breakthrough three-dimensional technology has been unveiled.

The new method is focused on improving the interaction of light with micro-details during 3D crafting.

3D games and rendering

Both terms are inseparable because every character and object you see in 3D games are funneled through complex algorithmswhich sketch out each frame.

This process gets even more complex when it comes to shiny surfaces, because just like the real world, gaming engines have to throw light on the objects, gather the reflected light, and evaluate the direction of the rays and colored light beams.

The 3D process is repeated many times over to produce the photo-realistic surfaces you see in the games.

Why do shinier surfaces take more time to render?

The problem with metallic surfaces and other sparkly materials is that they tend to be reflect more light.

As a consequence, these rendering engines and 3D game engines have to trace the rays to their next location.

The more shiny is the surface, the more tracings that 3D programs have to perform - and thus more burden on the hardware.

Specular highlights

In 3D terminology, the shining property in metal, water, and other glinting surfaces is called “specular highlights.”

Natural surfaces shine when photons bounce back off their upper layer, but the virtual surfaces are not as smooth.

Likewise, microscopic bumps on them divert too much "virtual" light.

Photo-realistic metallic surfacesare the result of repeated processing until best results are achieved.

If this diversion can be reduced, the 3D game's specular highlights rendering would proportionally accelerate.

3D game hardware vs. software

Considering the powerful simulations alone, to obtain photo-realistic 3D rendering, a still image costs huge on graphic cards.

That’s why 3D games' results vary on 3D cards that share this job.

Modern graphic cards like the latest $1,200 Nvidia Titan X offer an added stamina to withstand this hammering.

But, until now, there hadn’t been a breakthrough 3D technology to make some tweaks on the software side.

Breaking down the pixels

Ramamoorthi’s research brings thesolution to this problem by breaking the pixels into thousands of “microfacets” and calculates their ‘normal,’ which represents a forward facing arrow in 3D space.

The single decisive vector component that determines the “reflective angle” from the “incident angle” of incoming light is "normal."

100X faster rendering, smoother metallic surfaces

The computer scientists have developed an algorithm that computes so-called “position-normal distribution,” enabling 100X faster calculation of the amount of net reflected light.

This is the exact step where 3D game engines surf all their power and now has been downsized by many steps.

Future of 3D games

The outcome of the research will eventually express itself in future PC, mobile, and VR games; while CGI in filmmaking will also become more efficient.

Interested parties who wish to learn more about the research can contact UC San Diego's media representative of the study via email or phone call at 858-822-0899.

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