Archive for scala

Planes, Textures, and Soft Shadows

My toy raytracer written in Scala got a few new features:

  • Planes
  • Textures
  • “Soft Shadows” (distributed raytracing)
  • Supersampling Anti-Aliasing

Textures don’t add much to the computation time, but distributed raytracing is a real performance killer (at least when implemented naively, as in my version). Essentially, when determining the surface color at a given point, instead of sending just one ray to a lightsource to see if it’s obstructed by any other object, many rays (typically at least 25) are sent out to an area that describes the light source (e.g. a box). The return values (black if the ray was obstructed, the light source color otherwise) are then averaged, leading to smooth transitions at the edges. And it does look nice… combined with supersampling (anti-aliasing) it now becomes easy to spend hours rendering a single image at, say, 1024×768 pixels.

Pool Scene

Next idea: writing a parser combinator for (a subset of) POV-Ray’s Scene Description Language (SDL) to skip the painful step of modeling scenes in compiled code. This will also enable me to do some Scala coding again, since adding new features to the raytracer itself usually means spending much more time wrapping your head around math stuff than actually writing code.

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Everything Is A Sphere

When I was down with a cold last week I dug out a book about computer graphics that I bought during my university time (3D Computer Graphics by Alan Watt). It provides a mathematical foundation for many core techniques in CG, and it got me interested again. About 8 years ago when I bought this book I wrote a small raytracer in C++, and since I am really in search for new hobbyist projects to teach myself Scala, I figured I could give it another shot.

Scala is a statically typed functional/object oriented language for the JVM and the CLR, and at least on the JVM it is known for providing performance similar to Java (in contrast to dynamic JVM languages such as Groovy or JRuby). This is the first scene that provides something my 8-year-old project couldn’t, namely a checkered surface (composed of two other surface instances). The code is pretty newbie-like and a bit unstructured, so for now I’ll leave it at that. FWIW, it took about 5 seconds to render this picture on my rather mundane home machine (Athlon X2 @ 2.2GHZ, Windows XP) using the 1.6.0_11 server JVM.

A World of Spheres

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