I decided to add some extra screenshots to illustrate how the raw diffuse and specular components map to the complex model used for the material tests. Please note, they use a slightly different RSRM, but the results are consistent with one used for the original article.
For any late readers, I've since added an article expanding on this topic (RSRM Enhancements).
After much deliberation, I have decided to drop Lighting Volumes from my renderer in favor of a more dynamic lighting system. In fact, I have opted to use a piece of tech I tried to implement ages ago, but only recently got working. I am of course refering to Radially-Symmetric Reflection Maps (RSRMs), the Image-Based Lighting (IBL) technology used by the game Brütal Legend.
So, just what are they? Well, I can't tell you all the details, since the official document & video are only available by purchasing them from ACM. What I can tell you is that they combine Chrome Mapping with Prefiltered IBL, and hope that you can figure out the rest. However, simply knowing how to make and use them is only half the problem. Using them requires a fundamental shift in your thinking about lighting towards a Physically-based Shading paradigm.
Following the presentations linked in my prior post, I found out that traditional ad-hoc shading models have been getting it wrong for a long time now. Things like diffuse lighting being too bright, specular lighting being too dark, specular color being completely incorrect, etc. In order to make my lighting and materials mesh well with prefiltered IBL of any kind, I had to make a few changes.
Firstly, my analytical lights' diffuse term needs to use the Lambertian BRDF, which effectively boils down to multiplying it by 1/PI. This may not seem like much, but it make a big difference. The most common symptom of getting this wrong is that most materials' albedo textures end up being much darker to get good looking results.
Secondly, my analytical lights' specular term needs to use Normalized Phong. This ensures that the specular highlight's intensity gets darker/brighter as its distribution increases/decreases. The typical consequence of this being wrong is that specular color maps have to modify intensity in a way that corresponds to specular power. Often, this can require that the specular color map have multipliers to exceed the range [0,1].
Thirdly, specular color itself is a farse, and doesn't match up with reality at all. Instead, materials need per-pixel, per-RGB fresnel cooefficients that determine the substance of the material. Then specular power maps, more correctly called smoothness maps, can control the distribution of a specular highlight to make it more blurred/sharp. By doing it this way, artists can use real-world fresnel values to define the substance of a material, then adjust the smoothness without changing that substance.
Finally, just a few little concerns, like ensuring that my albedo & fresnel data produces energy conserving materials. Also, ensuring that metals and semiconductors have an albedo of zero since they absorb all diffuse lighting. If you want to learn more, please refer to the presentation links in my prior post.
Having taken all that into account, let's see what we get with RSRMs!
By itself, an RSRM's diffuse contribution looks like a Hemisphere Light, but having more color variation toward the center of the sphere. Once we add a Directional Light, it suddently gains more detail and becomes a passable source of illumination. As for the specular lighting, again it is essentially Chrome Mapping with more variation. It may not sound like much, but let's see how it looks in practice.
What follows are a series of example materials, including one that uses per-pixel albedo, fresnel, and smoothness data to have metal embeded inside plastic.
Figure 1. 1, Input; 2, Output
Figure 2. 1, Ambient; 2, Ambient +Directional; 3, Specular (m=2); 4, Specular (m=10); 5, Specular (m=50); 6, Specular (m=100)
Figure 2.5. 1, Ambient; 2, Ambient +Directional; 3, Specular (m=6)
Figure 3. 1, Plastic; 2, Glass Coating; 3, Silicon; 4, Iron; 5, Copper; 6, Gold; 7, Aluminum; 8, Silver
Per-pixel Fresnel & Smoothness:
Figure 3. 1, Front; 2 Left; 3 Back; 4 Right
(Model by Ben Mathis)
Despite the simplicity of the technique, the results are surprisingly good. RSRMs are efficient to author and bake, and require little in the way of storage. Since I do not require photorealism, they produce excellent IBL results that will work well as my ambient lighting solution. Now I just need to add translucent sun shadows and SSAO to really improve the results. ;)