Games

Programmer nails real-time rendering of ultra-realistic human skin

Programmer nails real-time ren...
With his "separable subsurface scattering", graphics researcher Jorge Jimenez may just have cracked the problem of rendering realistic human skin in real-time on consumer-level hardware
With his "separable subsurface scattering", graphics researcher Jorge Jimenez may just have cracked the problem of rendering realistic human skin in real-time on consumer-level hardware
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On his GeForce GTX 580-equipped machine Jimenez was able to run the demo at a mean of 112.5 frames per second
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On his GeForce GTX 580-equipped machine Jimenez was able to run the demo at a mean of 112.5 frames per second
In addition to releasing video, Jimenez has made an executable real-time demo and source code available
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In addition to releasing video, Jimenez has made an executable real-time demo and source code available
With his "separable subsurface scattering", graphics researcher Jorge Jimenez may just have cracked the problem of rendering realistic human skin in real-time on consumer-level hardware
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With his "separable subsurface scattering", graphics researcher Jorge Jimenez may just have cracked the problem of rendering realistic human skin in real-time on consumer-level hardware
The code is based wholly on original research using DirectX 10
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The code is based wholly on original research using DirectX 10
If the principles are applied to games in the near future, it may be that the results are significantly watered down
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If the principles are applied to games in the near future, it may be that the results are significantly watered down

Graphics researcher Jorge Jimenez has cracked the problem of rendering what he calls "ultra realistic skin" in real-time with consumer-level computer and graphics hardware. It's a breakthrough made possible by the process of separable subsurface scattering (SSS) which quickly renders the translucent properties of skin and its effect on light in two post-processing passes. The code is based wholly on original research using DirectX 10. Jimenez describes the achievement as the result of hours of "research, desperation, excitement, happiness, pride, sadness and extreme dedication."

Though Jimenez has released a high definition video of the effect, he's gone two better by releasing downloadable executable demo files that will run on a home PC provided it has a powerful enough GPU, as well as making the source code available on GitHub.

Though the code runs on consumer-level hardware, it'll take more than an everyday PC to run well. On his GeForce GTX 580-equipped machine Jimenez was able to run the demo at a mean of 112.5 frames per second, varying between 80 and 160 FPS. It's worth bearing in mind that that's a graphics card that costs about US$470 from Amazon.

And it may be too early to salivate at the prospect of a Call of Duty, Mass Effect or Elder Scrolls sequel with such realistic characters. The demo consists of a single, stationary head and shoulders - literally a world apart from the dynamic, character-filled environments of modern video games. If the principles are applied to games in the near future, it may be that the results are significantly watered down simply because the graphics processors have a lot more on their plate (unless Attack of the Gigantic Mutant Killer Head from Venus is released any time soon).

The code is based wholly on original research using DirectX 10
The code is based wholly on original research using DirectX 10

And SSS alone is not sufficient for rendering realistic character models. "Efforts towards rendering ultra realistic skin are futile if they are not coupled with HDR, high quality bloom, depth of field, film grain, tone mapping, ultra high quality models, parametrization maps, high quality shadow maps (which are lacking on my demo) and a high quality antialiasing solution," writes Jimenez on his blog. "If you fail on any of them, the illusion of looking at a real human will be broken." The task of rendering realistic skin is especially challenging close up at 1080p, he adds.

It's an impressive achievement, and one you can observe in all its HD glory in the video below. Of course, if you've got the hardware, you can run the demo for yourself.

Source: Jorge Jimenez via Wired UK

Separable Subsurface Scattering (Real Time)

18 comments
dsiple
astounding - gathering the hair patterns, scars, ingrown hairs - never would have guessed this wasn\'t human. Well done!
Jim Parker
That\'s pretty impressive. I was hoping the guy would open his eyes. Later versions?
Walter Costescu
Looks spot on, but means nothing until you see it in motion. Huge difference between making something look realistic in an illustration and a video
Lee Storm
Having no eye lashes makes it look inhuman still.
socalboomer
@Lee Storm - good eye. I was wondering what was just a bit freaky about it. I don\'t think he was worrying about eyelashes, though; the skin is amazing. . .
phydeaux
Just wait until the porn industry gets this.
ivorybow
Stunning! Congratulations to Jorge Jimenez for this achievement.
Paul Perkins
Good, Awesome... Now sell it to MicroSmith Poser Pro, It will speed up their rendering time by squillions, and you will be a multi millionaire al. What\'s the music?
windykites
Have I got a suspicious mind, but could this be a real person(without eyelashes)? Most models of a head tend not to look real, due to the inability of an artist to get proportions right. This is absolutely spot on, and the detail is stunning. This level would not be require in computer games. Let\'s face it, the main aim is to KILL!
Minnnesota
Congrats! The pc industry has been waiting for this for EONS.... Just think...realistic computer generated porn, newscasters, games, you name it. You wouldnt be looking for investors would you?