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CUDA Path Tracer

University of Pennsylvania, CIS 565: GPU Programming and Architecture, Project 3

  • Rony Edde (redde)
  • Tested on: Windows 10, i7-6700k @ 4.00GHz 64GB, GTX 980M 8GB (Personal Laptop)

This is a path tracer running on the GPU using CUDA.

  • reflections

  • Controls

    • Esc to save an image and exit.
    • S to save an image. Watch the console for the output filename.
    • Space to re-center the camera at the original scene lookAt point.
    • A for enabling / disabling anti-aliasing.
    • 0 for resetting depth of field to zero focal length and zero blur.
      • for decreasing depth of field.
    • = for increasing depth of field.
    • [ for decreasing focal length.
    • ] for increasing focal length.
    • C for enabling / disabling caching and sorting (disbled by default).
    • X for enabling / disabling subsurface scattering (only materials with sss).
    • F for enabling / disabling stream compaction and ray sorting by material.
    • T for enabling / disabling benchmark tests.
    • 1 reduce soft reflections/refractions.
    • 2 increase soft reflections/refractions.
    • Keyboard up shifts the camera up.
    • Keyboard down shifts the camera down.
    • Keyboard left shifts the camera left.
    • Keyboard right shifts the camera right.
    • Left mouse button to rotate the camera.
    • Right mouse button on the vertical axis to zoom in/out.
    • Middle mouse button to move the LOOKAT point in the scene's X/Z plane.
  • Features

    • BSDF shading with diffuse, reflection and refractions.
    • Thrust stream compaction for eliminating unused rays.
    • Ray sorting by material id.
    • Caching rays on first bounce to avoid repetitive regeneration.
  • Additional features

    • Fresnel refraction using Shlick's 5th power implementation.
    • soft reflections and refractions.
    • Anti-aliasing using uniform spherical distribution to avoid polar distribution.
    • Obj file format loader with auto loading mtl material file suppport.
    • Depth of field using uniform spherical distribution and focal point jitter.
      Caching must be disabled for this to work (C).
    • Subsurface scattering by depth tracing and uniform scattering.
  • Fresnel reflection refraction

    • Using Shlick's approximation formula, we can decide when to break our rays into reflection or refraction. There is still a random factor in place due to the nature of path tracing but this gives a smooth transition between reflection and refraction. We start with basic reflection only. Here the ray is just reflected when it hits the surface. There are no other randomization factors although this would be beneficial for soft reflections later on. Here's what we get when we reflect the ray:

      • reflections Now we have to implement refractions. In order to do this we need to know if the ray is inside the surface or outside so that we can refract with the correct index of refraction or reflect. The index of refraction used entering the surface is the inverse of the ray exiting the surface. We keep track of the inside flag and update that accordingly. We then apply our fresnel function to determine if we reflect or refract. Bur before we do so, we need to decide beforehand if the ray will be refracted instead of just using glm::refract since we need to know how to set the inside flag. Once this is done we apply our fresnel function and we are done. Here's what refraction loks like when we don't check for change in surface penetration.
      • reflectionsbad And after fixing with proper separation, the final result can be seen:
      • reflectionsbad

      Here are a few tests with different reflection / refraction coeficients

      • reflectionsbad
  • Soft reflections When using a uniform distribution function, one can achieve soft reflections and refractions Here's a reflection and refraction test Once we check for surface penetration and apply our fresnel function we get this:

    • reflectionsbad And finally when we enable soft reflections, we get this:
    • reflectionsbad
  • Anti-aliasing

    • jittering the ray to produce antialiasing. Initial tests uniformly blurred the image procucing undesirable effets. In this image the random generation was being recycled to identify the spread.

      • antialiasingblur

      Using a blur the size of 2 pixels produced a much better result.
      Here's the final result after implementing a uniform spherical distribution.

      • antialiasinggood1

      • antialiasinggood2

  • Obj reader with mtl file support

    • Using tinyObj, we can read obj data and material info and use the loaded geometry to compute our paths. This implementation supports polygons with normals and interpolates normal values in order to maintain smooth shading. The biggest hurdle as is well known, is computing the intersections of all the polygons in the scene. This tends to get heavy very quickly which means that a KD-Tree solution or BSP or alike is inevitable. Due to time constraints this was not possible but this is definitely worth pursuing. The obj loader looks for mtl files within the same directory as the obj. If none exist, the objects loaded will have a default white material. The material information is converted to our scene format and used for shading. Topological information is stored linearly due to the complexities of allocating pointers of pointers on the GPU. While this is usually not desirable, the only disadvantage was the function parameters which increased. Each object is checked for intersection by checking the cached object bounding box. If the object's bounding box intersects the ray, we go through all the polygons and check for intersections. One polygon at a time. And this still preserves surface contuinuity since the normals are interpolated based on their barycentric coordinates. The only exception is when the model's normals have been cusped before exporting them which is the desirable result. All 3D models are from turbosquid Here's a wolf model with smooth normals and a few cusped normals for creasing parts of the geometry:

      • objsmoothandcusped

      And here's a model with completely cusped normals.

      • objcusped
  • Depth of field

    • By rotating the camera around its focal length, we can produce a blur that increases with the distance from the focal point. This in effect generated a depth of field similar to a camera focusing with a large aperture. Rotating the camera around it's focal point is not always straight forward because of the axis alignment problem. That's why the spherical distribution needs to be uniform and not polar. Furthermore, to support all camera directions, we need to make the angles valid. So the main idea is to generate a uniformly random distribution cone aligned to the Z axis and align this to the camera's look at vector. This is then used to rotate the camera around the focal point offset. Here are a few results.
    • fov1
    • fov1
    • fov
  • Subsurface scattering

    • When enabled, every ray that hits the surface will get projected inside the surface with a scattering factor. The rays will bounce out of the surface and the depth travelled by the ray is computed and used for shading the final result. This only applies with obj files that have a translucency color. This effect can be enabled or disabled with the X key. When the depth calculation doesn't take into account a zero influence outside the surface, we get artifacts and in some cases this can be seen as banding. Here's what the low poly stanford bunny looks like with and without sss.
      • sss
  • Performance

    • Analysis on the time taken for the cuda calls is as follows.

      • The functions in question are
        • generateRayFromCamera which generates rays from the camera.
        • pathtraceOneBounce which calculates one pass for the rays.
        • shadeMaterial which applies the BSDF functions to the rays.
    • The test runs 100 iterations using the following wedges:

      • caching off: no ray caching of the camera rays.
      • caching on: the initial camera rays are cached for reuse
      • no stream compaction: rays with final hit are not removed.
      • sorting off: ray sorting by material id is disabled.
      • blocksize 16/32/64/128/256 are tests running with different blocksizes.
    • The initial graph when all is put together is not particularly helpful. We notice slight improvements with caching and stream compaction but it is difficult to see clearly how every function compares. Here's the initial graph (lower is better):

      • allgraphs
    • In order to get a better view of the result, we seperate the calls.
      Here are the calls to the pathTraceOneBounce function:

      • onebounce And the calls to generateRaysFromCamera:
      • genray We have a slightly better view on the performance advantage of caching but we still can't easily compare the results. In order to get a better comparison we generate a chart for all the tests by their category. We do this by averaging the results. We now have the following charts:
      • chartall The shadeMaterial function is too fast to be shown so we plot it separately:
      • chartshadematerial

      Now we can clearly see what's happening. (lower is better)

      • genRayfromCam shows a pretty good improvement with ray caching. This is expected since the rays that are being cached are reused instead of being regenerated. Changing block sizes didn't seem to make a big impact though.

      • pathTraceOneBounce shows quite a big drop in performance when disabling stream compaction. with double the time taken when stream compaction is disabled in a default scene. This obviously would be a much bigger impact if the scene was mostly background color. Again this is expected sine we recompute rays that would have been removed. What was not expected was wiht a block size of 16. The performance hit of 1.8 times is considerable since caching is enabled for all the block size benchmarks. The hit is so considerable that it is actually worse than not having stream compaction with an different block size.
        This is possibly due to the use of a full warp for only 16 blocks underutilizing the processor and stalling the remaining blocks. The interesting thing to note is that a block size of 32 was the most efficient while increasing this slightly reduced performance.

      • shadeMaterial is now clearly visible in the isolated chart. We can see that the results are similar to the pathTraceOneBounce function. The only difference is that caching the rays did not affect the shading which is completely normal since the rays that are being passed are the same size. But we do see a massive hit in performance again when caching is disabled. This reduced the performance by 2.8 times which is very significant. Reducing the block size to 16 also had an impact. Although being less than the one we got with pathTraceOneBounce, at 1.4 times the time needed, it's a 40% decrease in performance.

  • Bloopers

    • inaccurate distribution blooper1

    • collisions gone wrong blooper2

    • flat posters blooper3

    • grids and lines from distorted camera blooper4

    • lack of precision blooper5

    • Thanks! chartshadematerial

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