### Big or beautiful

Here is a capture from a couple of simple demos. I've made a number of improvements to the solver lately and also now gathering multiple contact points in the initial manifold. Incremental manifold is such a neat idea, but it does affect stacking stability, and objects tend to penetrate more, which in turn affects both performance and behavior. I'm now using relative rotations and reiterating GJK to find multiple points, but I'm experimenting with other methods that should be both cheaper and more stable.

All demos use a 60 Hz update and four solver iterations. Various shock propagation methods in the solver remove a lot of the sponginess you normally see at four iterations. I strongly believe in elegant algorithms, rather than hand-optimized brute force code. Hence, I think it's better to have a rather sophisticated solver that do more work per iteration rather than just increasing the number of iterations. As you can see in the demos, even a quite large stack is pretty stiff.

Speaking about demos, I am SO tired of physics demos running in slow-motion.

1) Most programmers know that taking smaller time steps increases general stability. Objects move less per time step, hence making things easier to compute.
2) Decreasing gravity improves stability, since stacks feel less weight of the objects above them.

Most people would agree that altering any of the above is cheating. People are generally very picky about keeping the time step realistic, and some are proud to use 9.82 as gravity instead of just 10. But hey, why do most physics demos run in slow-motion then? Because there's a third way to cheat that nobody cares about:

3) Making objects larger is just as bad as decreasing gravity.

Remember what Galileo taught us four hundred years ago: Large objects receive the same gravitational acceleration as small objects. So, keeping the acceleration constant and increasing the size is equivalent to keeping the same size of the object and decreasing the gravity! Increasing the size of an object might seem quite innocent "Ho ho ho, my simulation is so stable. This box just happen to by six feet tall, who can blame me for that?"

How about simulating a pile of books? Or a couple of plates and wine glasses? At 60 Hz that's quite a challenge, and which objects are going to be more common in your game? So, if you evaluate a physics engine always make sure to do it in a realistic scale. The boxes in these demos are just above one foot along the side, which I think even that is questionable. A set of physics demos that really impressed me for their natural looking motion is the Tokamak Physics Engine.

1. Hi Dennis! I'm glad to see you have a new blog.

I'm curious how you are able to avoid artifacts while using shock propagation. Are you able to compute realistic contact forces (which would be useful for destruction)?

2. Hi Dennis!

While the gravitational acceleration is independent from the size of the object the inertia is not. Larger inertias improve the convergence of the iterative solver a lot since they reduce angular non-linearities.

Cheers,
-Dirk

3. Hi Erin, it's fun to be back again :) Yes the shock propagation I'm using does affect contact forces... I haven't thought much about it, but there's probably a way to compute (or at least estimate) the actual forces by analyzing the contact graph. There are some artifacts on large stacks tipping over, but it's quite hard to spot.

Dirk, I'm not sure I follow. The inertia of course gets bigger with size, but the distance from contact point to center of mass (contact lever) at contact or impact also gets bigger, so the net result is exactly the same motion. My point is that scaling up objects is equivalent to scaling down gravity, even though it seems more harmless.

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### Bokeh depth of field in a single pass

When I implemented bokeh depth of field I stumbled upon a neat blending trick almost by accident. In my opinion, the quality of depth of field is more related to how objects of different depths blend together, rather than the blur itself. Sure, bokeh is nicer than gaussian, but if the blending is off the whole thing falls flat. There seems to be many different approaches to this out there, most of them requiring multiple passes and sometimes separation of what's behind and in front of the focal plane. I experimented a bit and stumbled upon a nice trick, almost by accident.

I'm not going to get into technical details about lenses, circle of confusion, etc. It has been described very well many times before, so I'm just going to assume you know the basics. I can try to summarize what we want to do in one sentence – render each pixel as a discs where the radius is determined by how out of focus it is, also taking depth into consideration "somehow".

Taking depth into…

### Stratified sampling

After finishing my framework overhaul I'm now back on hybrid rendering and screen space raytracing. My first plan was to just port the old renderer to the new framework but I ended up rewriting all of it instead, finally trying out a few things that has been on my mind for a while.

I've been wanting to try stratified sampling for a long time as a way to reduce noise in the diffuse light. The idea is to sample the hemisphere within a certain set of fixed strata instead of completely random to give a more uniform distribution. The direction within each stratum is still random, so it would still cover the whole hemisphere and converge to the same result, just in a slightly more predictable way. I won't go into more detail, but full explanation is all over the Internet, for instance here.

Let's look at the difference between stratified and uniform sampling. To make a fair comparison there is no lighting in these images, just ambient occlusion and an emissive object.

They …

### Undo for lazy programmers

I often see people recommend the command pattern for implementing undo/redo in, say, a level editor. While it sure works, it's a lot of code and a lot of work. Some ten years ago I came across an idea that I have used ever since, that is super easy to implement and has worked like a charm for all my projects so far.

Every level editor already has the functionality to serialize the level state (and save it to disk). It also has the ability to load a previously saved state, and the idea is to simply use those to implement undo/redo. I create a stack of memory buffers and serialize the entire level into that after each action is completed. Undo is implemented by walking one step up the stack and load that state. Redo is implemented in the same way by walking a step down the stack and load.

This obviously doesn't work for something like photoshop unless you have terabytes of memory laying around, but in my experience the level information is usually relatively compact and seriali…