Raytracing Multiple Objects

2010, Dr. Lawlor, CS 481/681, CS, UAF

Z-Buffer integration with gl_FragDepth

At the moment, our raytraced geometry writes the proxy geometry's depth value into the Z buffer. This is incorrect, of course, because the real geometry is somewhere inside the proxy, leading to depth errors where ordinary geometry (like the ground plane) intersects with the proxy geometry.

You can fix this by computing a new depth value in your pixel shader, and writing this to "gl_FragDepth" (just like gl_FragColor, but it's a float for the depth buffer).  We can compute the Z buffer depth value by running our 3D ray-object intersection point P through the gl_ProjectionMatrix, and do the perspective divide, just like happens to each vertex.  This looks like:
	vec3 P = ... world coordinates ray-object intersection point ...
vec4 projP = gl_ProjectionMatrix*vec4(P,1);
float depth = projP.z/projP.w; // perspective divide
Note that we usually don't want to also run through the gl_ModelViewMatrix, because we compute ray-object hit points in world space already.

However, OpenGL also applies a "depth range", set with glDepthRange, to convert the projection matrix's -1 to +1 value into a 0 to 1 range, so we also need to scale our depth to get gl_FragDepth:
            gl_FragDepth = 0.5+0.5 * depth;

Writing to gl_FragDepth this way works correctly, and allows our raytraced geometry to coexist in the Z buffer and intersect other raytraced geometry and ordinary polygon geometry without problems.

Moving Raytraced Objects

If I've written the equation to raytrace a sphere, centered at the origin in world coordinates, my sphere is going to be centered at the origin regardless of what I do with the proxy geometry or transformation matrices.

That's rather annoying.  It'd be nice to be able to move raytraced objects around.

One way to move objects around is to change their equations so they're centered at a new location.  This turns out to be rather annoying for some objects, introducing new complexity into the already-hairy object equation that we'd prefer not to deal with.

An alternative to moving the object is to move all the rays that intersect the object.  This can often be done without too much trouble, for example by shifting the ray origin at the start of the ray-object intersection function:
float hyp_intersection(vec3 C,vec3 D) {
C=C-obj_center; /* move the ray so the object's centered on the origin */
// Quadratic equation terms:
... as before, now using the new ray start point "C" ...

You can apply an arbitrary linear transformation to rays, including matrix transformations, although you've got to be a bit careful applying projective transformations to the ray direction--as a direction vector, its "w" component should be treated as zero.

Curiously, the returned t value from a shifted intersection calculation actually applies to the original ray, which should not be modified.  If you move the ray origin permanently, the object (or its shadow, or its normal vector) is likely to show up in the wrong place.  One way of thinking about this is to explicitly list all out our coordinate systems:
Moving the ray is actually sometimes more efficient than moving the object.