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'Ultra-realistic' rendering creates beautiful, eerie animation

'Ultra-realistic' rendering creates beautiful, eerie animation

By Alex Larrabee | Posted - Feb. 13, 2012 at 4:14 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- While this technology is nowhere close to being fully integrated into a video game or the like anytime soon, it's still beautifully eerie.

Programmer and graphics researcher Jorge Jimenez has developed what he is calling "ultra realistic skin", using technology that is available at the consumer level.

The technical aspects of his design are quite complex. The key element to making this happen was evidently Jimenez's separable subsurface scattering (SSSS) procedure.

Subsurface scattering is what happens to light when it hits a surface that is slightly translucent. Surfaces like skin, as anyone who has ever held up a flashlight to their finger can tell you.

Some of the light bounces right off, but most of it penetrates the skin, bounces around a bit, and then exits in a totally random location. In fact, 95 percent of light is scattered by your skin, rather than reflected straight off. It's this subsurface scattering that makes real things appear...well, real.


Jimenez made his "ultra-realistic" approach to subsurface rendering more feasible, using relatively low-end equipment by switching from a 12-pass approach to a two-pass approach.

Jimenez made his "ultra-realistic" approach to subsurface rendering more feasible, using relatively low-end equipment by switching from a 12-pass approach to a two-pass approach.

Essentially, a 12-pass approach means that the computer is attempting to "pass through" the data twelve times in order to create the components of the completed render, which is a very CPU intensive procedure. Jimenez narrowing that down to a two-pass approach meant the computer exerted a lot less effort in creating his render.

This SSS approach attempts to address the many issues of rendering skin in real time on consumer level hardware, including the translucent properties of human skin and different effects of lighting.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, this technology is far from usable in any video game. The demo showcasing a non-moving render can be downloaded on his website, and even that, he warns, requires a powerful computer to be able to run, even though it does not require specialized equipment.

Jimenez himself outlined a list of elements necessary in order to make this appearance doable in the near future.

"Efforts towards rendering ultra realistic skin are futile," Jimenez wrote in his blog, "if they are not coupled with HDR, high quality bloom, depth of field, film grain, tone mapping, ultra high quality models, parametrization maps, high quality shadow maps and a high quality anti-aliasing solution. If you fail on any of them, the illusion of looking at a real human will be broken."

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Alex Larrabee

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