7.1 Ray Tracing and Shading Models

Suppose that a virtual world has been defined in terms of triangular primitives. Furthermore, a virtual eye has been placed in the world to view it from some particular position and orientation. Using the full chain of transformations from Chapter 3, the location of every triangle is correctly positioned onto a virtual screen (this was depicted in Figure 3.13). The next steps are to determine which screen pixels are covered by the transformed triangle and then illuminate them according to the physics of the virtual world.

An important condition must also be checked: For each pixel, is the triangle even *visible* to the eye, or will it be blocked by part of another triangle? This classic *visibility computation* problem dramatically complicates the rendering process. The general problem is to determine for any pair of points in the virtual world, whether the line segment that connects them intersects with any objects (triangles). If an intersection occurs, then the line-of-sight visibility between the two points is blocked. The main difference between the two major families of rendering methods is how visibility is handled.