Research Projects

Lighting Grid Hierarchy
for Self-illuminating Explosions

Wave Particles
A frame from an example explosion simulation in a box. The scene is illuminated by the explosion using our lighting grid hierarchy.


Rendering explosions with self-illumination is a challenging problem. Explosions contain animated volumetric light sources immersed in animated smoke that cast volumetric shadows, which play an essential role and are expensive to compute. We propose an efficient solution that redefines this problem as rendering with many animated lights by converting the volumetric lighting data into a large number of point lights. Focusing on temporal coherency to avoid flickering in animations, we introduce lighting grid hierarchy for approximating the volumetric illumination at different resolutions. Using this structure we can efficiently approximate the lighting at any point inside or outside of the explosion volume as a mixture of lighting contributions from all levels of the hierarchy. As a result, we are able to capture high-frequency details of local illumination, as well as the potentially strong impact of distant illumination. Most importantly, this hierarchical structure allows us to efficiently precompute volumetric shadows, which substantially accelerates the lighting computation. Finally, we provide a scalable approach for computing the multiple scattering of light within the smoke volume using our lighting grid hierarchy. Temporal coherency is achieved by relying on continuous formulations at all stages of the lighting approximation. We show that our method is efficient and effective approximating the self-illumination of explosions with visually indistinguishable results, as compared to path tracing. We also show that our method can be applied to other problems involving a large number of (animated) point lights.

Contact Info

Can Yuksel:


Frames from an explosion simulation rendered using our lighting grid hierarchy with single scattering.

Frames from an explosion simulation rendered using our lighting grid hierarchy with multiple scattering.

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A scene illuminated by 227K animated balls. Both the balls and the letters are translucent. The balls illuminate each other and cast translucent shadows.


This is the SIGGRAPH2017 paper video.