The Evolution of Belief

Erik Johnson
Group22 Rendering Competition Entry
Computer Graphics 1 - Winter Term 2019/2020
Saarland Univerity, Germany

High Rez Low Rez Code

Concept

I was inspired over the Christmas break by thinking about belief and how it is changing in the digital age (digitalisierung as would be said in Germany). Originally, I intended to specifically focus on digital technology and how that effects the evolution of our belief, but this seemed overly reliant on my interests and the current computational zeitgeist. The clean and sharp symbol of evolution from Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick struck me as a much better way to represent evolution in the abstract.

Analysis

belief noun
1. an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.
2. trust, faith, or confidence in (someone or something).

For all of human history, belief has been present to provide meaning and explain the nature of the universe. These beliefs provided a world view around which communities organized and structures, both physical and of power, were erected. It is likely that the accumulated damage of belief exceeds any other concept. It is belief that drove us to reject Semmelweis' discovery, burn witches, and embark on the crusades. Our beliefs caused us to make these mistakes; what beliefs are we currently holding that lead us to make similar mistakes? Or, more precisely, what beliefs are we evolving towards that will cause us to repeat mistakes of the past?

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the seminal work of Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick (Arthur C. Clark shown below on the set of the movie), evolution is imagined to be precipitated by the appearance of a black monolith. The discovery of the monolith is shown to precede the development of tool usage by apes, the rebellion of the AI HAL, and the final ascension of the Star Child. The connection of the black monolith to evolution is cemented in pop culture through the initial minutes of the film depicting the first of these scenarios.

Arthur C. Clark on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Synthesis

In this work, the image of the black obelisk is placed in the context of Christian religious imagery to ask a question about the evolution of our beliefs. Light is projected on the scene from an external outside despite the scene existing in an apparent infinite darkness. The floor deliberately resembles that of Notre Dame de Paris (shown below), with the two pillars being photogrammetrical scans from there as well.

Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick on set of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Construction

This section presents the steps and iterations of the scene as it evolved.

Object placement in Blender

In order to avoid the performance costs and headache of placing objects using the Instance class, the layout was done in Blender. All downloaded .obj models were imported into Blender and scaled/positioned as needed. They were then exported individually with the same export settings to be used by the ray tracer.

Scene layout and framing

The scene was initially laid out with the arches on either side of the camera and the Notre Dame de Paris pillars placed on either side of the central axis. The floor and its material was completed immediately, but the materials on the arches and pillars were left default.

Window and volume placement

Windows are procedurally generated in a line with shadows cast by a modified AreaLight. The volume was initially placed as a SphereVolume and with a low number of marchSteps for performance. Due to the high frequencies caused by the window shadows, significant aliasing can be seen in the volume. This was later solved.

Monolith, alcoves, and materials

The alcove altars were added along with the monolith. Volume rendering is disabled here. Materials are added to all models. A marble texture is used for the arches and pillars, while a wood texture is used for the altars. The FuzzyMirror of the floor has its max angle reduced to better match the reference.

Fine scale iteration

Much iteration on materials and light values was done. A significant performance detriment was removed. Perlin noise was added to the volume along with using distributed concepts to trade the aliasing for noise. The final images were rendered with 120 samples per pixel and 30 volume march points.

2.89M

Primitives

12.1G

Rays Intersected

11.5G

March Points

10.1h

Render Time
(AMD FX-8350)

Image Highlights

This section presents detail views on the scene highlighting important features. All images below have no additional interpolation applied (i.e. both image-rendering: crisp-edges; image-rendering: pixelated; are used).

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Floor Detail 1

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Volume Full View

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Jesus Pillar Detail 1

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Mary Pillar Detail 1

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Orebygard Altarpiece Detail

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Floor Detail 2

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St. George Altarpiece Detail

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Shadow Detail 1

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Mary Pillar Detail 2

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Shadow Detail 2

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Volume Detail 1

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Jesus Pillar Detail 2

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Floor Detail 3

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Volume Detail 2

Technical Details

This section presents articles about engine features used in the production of this image.

This article presents the design and implementation of the volumetrics system used to create the lightshafts around the monolith.

This article presents design decisions, hacks, and profiling that led to the current level of performance.

Credits

This section presents the elements used to construct the scene and this website. Credit must also be given to this course for providing so much information and assistance in the production of this scene. This website and the work it presents is created solely for academic purposes.

Triumphal Arch

Created by #NEWPALMYRA and released under the title: "Triumphal Arch (No Colonnade)." This work is modified for use in the scene. This work is licensed under CC BY 4.0 and is used in accordance with this license.

Gothic Window

Created by curledlife and released under the title: "Gothic Window." This work is modified for use in the scene. This work is licensed under CC BY 4.0 and is used in accordance with this license.

Jesus Christ Pillar

Created by Benoit Rogez and released under the title: "Notre-Dame de Paris - Jesus Christ." This work is modified for use in the scene. This work is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 and is used in accordance with this license.

Virgin Mary Pillar

Created by Benoit Rogez and released under the title: "Notre-Dame de Paris - Virgin Mary." This work is modified for use in the scene. This work is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 and is used in accordance with this license.

Orebygard Altarpiece

Created by Geoffrey Marchal and released under the title: "Altarpiece from Orebygard." This work is modified for use in the scene. This work is licensed under CC BY 4.0 and is used in accordance with this license.

St. George Panel

Created by Geoffrey Marchal and released under the title: "Saint George." This work is modified for use in the scene. This work is licensed under CC BY 4.0 and is used in accordance with this license.

Arthur C. Clark

Created by James Vaughn and released under the title: "1968 ... '2001' Athur C. Clarke on pod bay set." This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and is used in accordance with this license.

Notre Dame de Paris

Created by affnpack and released under the title: "Kathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris." This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and is used in accordance with this license.

Tile Texture

Created by Sketchup Texture and released under the title: "Checkerboard cement floor tile texture seamless 13425." This work is licensed under a custom terms of use and is used in accordance with this specification. Images from Sketchup Texture cannot be hosted externally and therefore the work is not reproduced here.

Marble Texture

Created by Sketchup Texture and released under the title: "Slab marble veined white texture seamless 02619." This work is licensed under a custom terms of use and is used in accordance with this specification. Images from Sketchup Texture cannot be hosted externally and therefore the work is not reproduced here.

Wood Texture

Created by Sketchup Texture and released under the title: "Old raw wood PBR texture-seamless 21551." This work is licensed under a custom terms of use and is used in accordance with this specification. Images from Sketchup Texture cannot be hosted externally and therefore the work is not reproduced here.

Not Applicable Icon

Created by debivort and released under the title: "NA cap icon.svg." This work exists in the public domain and is included here as a joke.

Moon Bootstrap Template

Created by FreeHTML5.co and released under the title: "Moon: Free Minimal Multipurpose Bootstrap Template." This template is modified to create the website. This work is licensed under CC BY 3.0 and is used in accordance with this license.