Geomerics' The Lab: Adding polish to dynamic reflections

Geomerics' The Lab: Adding polish to dynamic reflections

Presented by ARM

December 4th 2015 at 11:04AM

Enlighten’s latest release brings affordability and screen-space independency to dynamic reflections

Global illumination middleware company, Geomerics, has unveiled its latest demo which showcases more realistic representations of dynamic reflections and enhanced gameplay experiences in Unreal Engine 4. 

Lighting setup

The Lab demo follows the production of a new reflections solution which efficiently balances visual quality and performance by implementing Enlighten’s cluster-based cubemaps on the GPU.  The main focal point of the demo is the central laboratory bench, situated directly within the middle of the room. A three-point lighting setup was applied around the object to emphasise it as the dominant subject within the scene’s overall composition. The image below shows the initial design of this setup, using the fluorescent tube light as the key and flickering blue monitor screens acting as fill lights to inject some colour into the shadows.

Initial lighting setup

For the reflection captures, seven nested reflection capture actors are strategically placed throughout the scene, giving careful consideration to the location of our reflective objects of interest. The ‘Use Enlighten’ parameter on these actors was then enabled to ensure that the new Enlighten reflections were being fully utilised.

Reflection captures

Screen-space independent dynamic reflections

The critical aspect of The Lab is that dynamic light changes can be easily observed during gameplay within object reflections even if the dynamic light source is outside the field of view.

The image below shows the player observing the flashing red light of a triggerable security alarm within the reflections of some laboratory equipment. It’s clear that the flashing light is situated far behind the player, yet its influence on the scene’s global illumination is still easily observed. This is a more accurate representation of "real" lighting than traditional screen-space techniques.

Dynamic lighting observed within the reflections of our objects

Consistent reflections across physically-based surfaces

Working in conjunction with physically-based shaders allows the demo to effectively replicate more physically correct reflection values across a range of different objects and surfaces. The image below shows a sub-section of the central laboratory bench on which a range of different items are arranged. These items can be closely examined from different angles and positions, allowing the player to observe how the reflections are affected by the varying roughness of each material. For example, the grease, rust, dirt and surface imperfections are all incorporated into the roughness map textures, in order to modulate the reflectivity.

Reflections are modulated by the varying roughness of each material

Consistent reflections across different lighting conditions

Throughout demo gameplay there are various different lighting configurations which demonstrate how the scene reflections are affected by varying changes in light. Perhaps one of the most notably dramatic changes is when all direct lights are switched off and the previously closed shutter windows are opened to flood the room with natural daylight. This allows the player to observe the reflection changes as the scene transitions from florescent tube lighting, to no lighting at all, through to full natural daylight. Here we can also easily see the massive impact Enlighten is having on the indirect lighting of the scene. The image below shows the laboratory fully lit by the directional sunlight, with Enlighten’s global illumination turned on and off respectively.

The impact of Enlighten (click to enlarge)

If you are interested to find out more about how the demo was made, visit the development blog or request an evaluation.