Aline Normoyle
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Volumetric Clouds

This project is based on the techniques described by Jerry Tessendorf during his visit to UPenn. Clouds are composed of groups of "pyroclastic" puffs whose surfaces are calculated from 3D perlin noise. The clouds are then rendered using a ray marching technique.  Users can create and configure puffs from an interactive editor and then render the final result.


Here are some animations and still images created by my application:


Descriptions, from left to right:


Descriptions, from left to right, top to bottom:

Rendering Algorithm

To calculate the surface shape, I start with a sphere and then use 3D perlin noise to add a displacement for the each point on sphere's surface. The user can set the puff density to be constant or to vary linearly from the sphere center.

To render the puffs, I first discretize the puff into a grid so that I can cache the amount of light penetrating throughout the cloud. I can then do a ray cast where I accumulate the opacity and color along the line of sight between the eyepoint and each pixel. The resulting opacity and color are then blended with the background. The accumulation algorithm looks like:

color = (0,0,0)
transmitivity = 1.0
pt = eyepos

while not done:
pt += eyeDir * stepsize
deltaT = exp { -Kappa * stepsize * densityAtPt}
T *= deltaT
color += 1/Kappa * (1 - deltaT) * LightColor * colorAtPuff(pt) * T * LightT

// where T = transmitivity = 1 - opacity
// Kappa = user specified constant
// LightColor and colorAtPuff are piecewise combined

pixelColor = color + backgroundColor*T

User Interface

The interface consists of an interactive 3D window and corresponding ray traced render window:


The UI is based on a framework I've made in previous projects. The user can load and save scenes and create and configure puffs. Users control the surface shape of puffs via perlin noise (amplitude (via the persistence parameter), frequency, and number of octaves).

The 3D interactive view gives an approximation of the puff. To render the scene, select "Render" from the render menu.