February 26, 2006 10:40 PM PST
High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting has recently been showcased in games such as Half Life 2: Lost Coast
technology demo. The idea is that this type of rendering more clearly represents how we see things by over or underexposing things we're focused on in the game.
What's interesting about HDR is that games are working to reduce the amount of exposure (eg, if you focus on the sky, details in the shadows disappear, and if you focus on a dark area, details in the sky are washed out). Games basically render environments in an unrealistically high dynamic range, just as they typically do not simulate depth of field or motion blur as our eyes would see it.
At the same time as gaming engines are reducing the dynamic range of renders - people are taking photos that increase the level of dynamic range by merging the same photo taken at different exposures. With these photos you can now see both shadows and light at the same time with equal detail. Amazingly - it makes reality look more like a rendered game environment! We've come full circle in rendering and photography - amazing times ahead.
A great example is this recent HDR image at Chromasia
. The software that created this and a great overview of HDR processing is available at Photomatix
. Many more images are in the Flickr HDR Pool