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Photon Mapping - Internal Renderer

Farsthary (one of the guys bringing us Volumetrics) and Broken have been working behind the scenes to bring Photon Mapping to Blender, something which is a very exciting prospect for the future of Blender. Both of the coders have their own versions of the photon mapper in progress, but now they are joining forces to make this a reality sooner. The coding is still in the early stages, so don't expect anything amazing yet. But its the first of many steps to bring photon mapping to Blender.

Photon mapping is an advanced type of rendering technique which in an initial render phase traces rays of light from both the camera's perspective and the light source, the two being combined in a second phase to produce an accurate render. Its not quite that simple though, so for those who want more info, a detailed explanation of Photon mapping can be found on the wiki page.

Farsthary explains:

"Hi all!

In my free free time (because in my free time I'm doing volumetrics ;) I have started the implementation of a photon mapper for blender render internal, it basically allows add support for Global Illumination and Caustics."

You can read the rest of the above blog entry here.

There's quite a lengthy discussion thread going on over at BA, with a lot of opinions and interesting views on everything related to photon mapping, including more information and answered questions from Farsthary and Broken. A few render demo pictures (made by Broken's version of the Photon Mapping renderer) are shown below.


  • thinkinmonkey

    IT ROCKS !!! Go ahead !

  • nowherebrain

    Great work guys, can't say it who's going to build this so I can play with

  • BrunoCornelsen

    AWESOME!! The most expected feature of the universe!! =D

  • jpcosta

    I remember long time ago when I hooked up with Blender+Yafray to do the exact same thing.
    At the time the some of the parameters required to get nice caustics involved manually edit the xml output files.
    I'm really glad to see something like this starting in Blender!!!

  • Terry

    Awesome, its about time the render was as good as the modeller :) Soon as its even half way good with photons I will dump yafaray! Great work!

  • teppic

    To be fair it should be mentioned that all of those renders were made with Matt's own photon-mapping implementation. He didn't just make the images. The article gives the impression that it was based on Farsthary's implementation. It's all in the BA-thread that was linked.

    But still, this is great news!

  • Aden



    \Happy birthday tooooo meeeeeeeeee.

  • txrx

    Most impressive :D Look forward to testing this one out!

  • ibkanat
  • miecz

    Maybe you could talk with Yafaray guys and work on a solution together? They're renderer is also a free one, right? I'm just saying that you could work together on integrating Yafaray with Blender and combining features of Blender Internal Renderer with Yafaray (like SSS). I'm looking forward for photon mapper in Blender, but that will most probably take ages to implement :).

  • Aka

    One of the most important days for Blender!
    But still waiting for enormous etch-a-ton. xD

  • florinel

    SUPERB!!! Many thanks to Farsthary and Broken!!!

  • Aka
  • ByronK

    Farsthary and Broken,
    Thanks for all your wonderful work.
    Farsthary, I am glad to hear from you and that you survived that terrible hurricane season.

  • STart_blender

    Realy interesting thing is going on here. Congratulations! But as mentioned miecz why don't you think of cooperating and joining forces with yafaray developers or other open source renders developers? Isn't it true that more brains do greater things and jobs more faster? Or this is ordinary week side of open source that lots of developers are creating the same thing instead of cooperating each other and make faster, higher quality software.

  • motionblur

    Awesome! Just .... awesome!

    If the usability of the UI goes up with 2.5 (*fingerscrossed*) and together with this here Blender will seriously rival some commercial apps out there. SO awesome! :)

  • Phrozen

    Holy Mother of God!!!!! Global Illumination on Blender Internal!!!! Well if 2.5 goes out with this, I'll stop using, sunflow, yafray, and anything else if just Blender can make this happen. And of course, as motionblur says it will put Blender on a nice stand with comercial apps if the new UI is nicer looking and easier to "learn" cause we all know it's absolutely awesome to work with once you know.

  • RH2

    Cant wait for radial menus!
    Good work mke3 :)

  • banor

    Wow, excellent! Thanks so much, Farsthary and Broken! It is looking highly promising so far - great work. Imagine what this would look like combined with volumetrics?! :D

  • Icono

    Start- Well, they'd probably have to either 1) build a new render program from the ground up (which I am not complaining about because it wouldn't be me doing the work) or 2) make Yafaray basically a blender plugin.

  • shul

    I join teppic's fairness comment. I think you should update the article to reflect that Matt is the one the work belongs too and Farsthary is now joining forces with him to expedite the process.

    It's true that Farsthary wrote about it in the ML and wanted to start such a project, but the Matt already started it and the renders are Matt's.

  • Alex Delderfield (AD-Edge)

    @ teppic & shul

    Ive changed the wording around a little in some places and added an extra sentence in the intro explaining it a little clearer. Sorry for the confusion, I hope this is more fair now.

    Any further problems will need to be reported to Bart, as I'm going on holiday in a hour or so, and wont be back until next week.


  • kijja

    my free time I sleep :D
    Wait for render with Global Illumination in Internal Renderer!!

  • Cracker

    Hope this make into 2.5 release...

  • ysvry

    great work, people here are talking about yafray integration i would like to see kerkythea integration did anybody talk to the coder of that external renderer?

  • Hedge

    @Cracker: I don't think it will make it to 2.5

  • Vaclav

    That's great! Can't wait!

    Can someone tell me more about:
    - What is the difference from radiosity?
    - The pictures lack specularity and reflections. Is this because this is only GI, in reality one would combine GI and Raytracing?

  • Nemesis

    That is great.

    Looks like I was right to start switching to Blender.

    If this is in 2.5, it will help Blender penetrate universities, schools and build up its user base.

    This is brilliant news.

  • SeanJAM

    This is some great work guys. I look forward to using it to get some hyper-realistic renders going on.

  • Nathan Braswell

    This is great! I've been wanting this for a long time. Can't Wait!
    Keep going guys!
    By the way, do we have an ETA for this feture?

  • Olaf

    Isn't photon mapping very similar to ray-tracing?

  • nowherebrain

    Some of you should do more homework before posting. Not to be rude, but misrepresentation can do a lot of damage(as far as who is doing what they both have working prototypes).

    P.S. GI=Happybrain

  • nowherebrain


    BTW, look at this!
    unbiased, monte carlo, blah blah blah...= very good stuff.

  • Aka

    Hoooo!! Damn it! This MAN is going to ROCK the WORLD!!!!

  • iulian

    wow... good news

  • Thorack

    this is so SWEET, the power of opensource is beeing showed I think with more users the rate of wich blender grows will be of sutch a great scale we will be as good or better then the top products ^^ (atleast I hope so=

  • crsrma

    I think that unbiased rendering posting is far more news worthy personally, great to see it happened to be so little hassle to start incorporating in Blender, but for not having suitable materials, that is.

  • Dread Knight


  • simo

    in the initial render phase no rays of light are traced from camera's perspective. Only the light sources shoot photons to store the values in global and cautic photon map. Their are no rays which can be combined in the second phase...

  • simo

    their = there ;)

  • Sim Pern Chong

    Wahaha ! Final true GI for Blender.. Yay

  • Toon Scheur

    The power of Opensource is also a weak point. Sure Farsthary and Matt are working on it. That's the point. Initially they weren't aware of each others independent efforts on this topic. And now I've heard that Radiance from Luxrender is at the Blender institute and it not difficult to guess what they are talking about. This level of enthusiasm is commendable and even more with those gifted programmers working on it. But it looks a bit uncoordinated right now. These programmers should fall in line and draw a strategy. I bet those 3 can put something together that will really rock the world, if they just work together in synergy.

  • nowherebrain

    Or at least drink a bunch of coffee! yessss!

  • Aka

    @Toon Scheur - currently there is a talk on mail list about BRDF materials implementation, next to old shader system. So time will well. But I'm on it if it comes to new material types in Blender. That will work well with those "fancy" rendering techniques.

  • Robert

    That looks great, hopefully they incorporate FG caching and interpolation.

    Toon Scheur : I wouldnt like to say they are disorganised as they are now, not knowing how they are planning
    things but I totally agree about how open source development being prone to wasted/duplicated effort. Atleast they're pooling efforts now

  • toontje

    Brdf is most definitely a plus. I hope it will be node based and measured brdf's based. I've seen an image of some wooden soldiers with measured brdf's material. Needless to say with plain old scanline rendering it looks photorealistic.

  • Jonmike

    Well! The community have been waiting for such things!!! hey! Guys, you rock it, we all enjoy it! PROUD of you...

  • NathanKP

    I'm very impressed with the results. It looks like a high quality radiosity render, just without the huge mesh size. The Frankenstein model is especially good. The splashy light and patterned shadows are very nice.

    I can't wait until this is incorporated in the Blender release.

    NathanKP - Made With Blender

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