Disney will now make its popular animated characters such as Mickey and Minnie mouse sparkle with a new ‘virtual ray’ technology which makes scenes appear more realistic.

A team of scientists from Disney Research, Zurich, Karlsruhe Technical Institute in Germany, and the University of Montreal in Canada have developed a new and efficient way to simulate how light is absorbed and scattered in scenes, the Daily Mail reported.

The team’s new virtual ray lights technique is being presented in the ‘Light Rays’ session at an international conference, which focuses on the latest advances in computer graphics at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“Our technique could be used to simulate anything from vast cloudscapes, to everyday ‘solid’ objects such as a glass of orange juice, a piece of fruit or virtually any organic substance,” Dr Wojciech Jarosz, of Disney Research Zurich, who led the research team, was quoted by the paper as saying.

Normally, realistic rendering techniques simulate light using a set of particles (virtual ‘photons’) that bounce off of walls and objects, depositing tiny bits of light-energy along their trip.

It’s this light-energy that’s collected to form the final simulated image. But Disney researchers have found that it’s much more efficient to use long and thin beams of light, instead of tiny photon particles, as a building block for generating images.

This photon beams approach was presented at last year’s conference in Vancouver and was also used to create magical wispy effects for The Walt Disney’s Tangled.

With this new technique computer graphics experts can simulate more realistic participating media effects, which occur more commonly than one would expect in the real-world: participating media effects account for the way we observe clouds, the appearance of fruit juices and milk, the haze in smoggy cities, and even the subtle dimming of distant objects on an otherwise clear day.

(This article was published on August 8, 2012)
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