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Towards Filmic Quality at 30 FPS: Real-Time Ray Tracing for Practical Game Engine Pipelines

Natasha Tatarchuk  (Graphics VP, Unity Technologies)

Location: Room 2001, West Hall

Date: Thursday, March 21

Time: 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Conference - Get your pass now!

Topic: Programming

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Ray tracing has long been regarded as a great set of algorithms to achieve high quality visual fidelity. Offline rendering pipelines have largely converted to some flavor of ray tracing in the last decade, craving the expected consistent quality, ease of uniform content setup and extensibility of algorithms. Yet despite real-time ray tracing being a frequent buzzword over the same decade, real-time pipelines have not been able to take advantage of this functionality in a full-fledged manner, yet.

With the recent advances in hardware architecture we are starting to see initial adoption of real-time ray tracing functionality into modern game engines, yet the domain is just starting to be explored. This presentation aims to share the lessons, tips and tricks from the integration of real-time ray tracing into a modern unified PBR rendering pipeline for real-time content creation focused on games and other high-end real-time experiences. The author will build on the insights learned by extending the engine architecture to support real-time ray tracing APIs and incorporating the power of real-time ray tracing to increase realism for resulting renders at interactive 30 fps rendering on high-end consumer hardware. Topics of how ray tracing can be incorporated into the artist pipeline for ease of scalable content creation for both RT ray tracing and rasterization-based pipelines will be covered.

The author will also share several state-of-the art techniques developed for achieving high-visual quality in real-time rendering with usage of primary ray visibility for higher-fidelity materials including multi-layer smooth transparency, advanced approaches for shadowed textured area lights, support of dynamic indirect diffuse and specular lighting as well as other global effects, such as ambient occlusion and others, taking advantage of ray tracing algorithms. Details of approaches for merging TAA and stochastic techniques along with denoising approaches will be covered when focusing on how to achieve fast frame rates for complex scenes on GPU and CPU.

Lastly, the author will discuss the insights gained through this integration and explore some of the limitations and challenges of current ray tracing APIs for modern games and game engine architectures, with several calls to action for evolving the API and hardware approaches for future generations to support the trends from gaming communities.


Attendees will learn about the pragmatic approaches for extending existing modern game engines to support real-time ray tracing without a complete re-write. They will learn about how to achieve fast rendering on GPU through a set of techniques, how to improve visual quality with high-fidelity ray tracing algorithms. They will also learn important considerations for content creation targeting ray tracing and non-ray tracing rendering hardware with minimal impact to the authoring pipeline.

Intended Audience

Indie and AAA game developers focusing on state of the art graphics, technical artists, real-time content creators, ray tracing enthusiasts, game engine architects.