R – Computer Graphics: Raytracing and Programming 3D Renders


I've noticed that a number of top universities are offering courses where students are taught subjects relating to Computer Graphics for their CS majors. Sadly this is something not offered by my university and something I would really like to get into sometime in the next couple of years.

A couple of the projects I've found from some universities are great, although I'm mostly interested in two things:

  • Raytracing:
    • I want to write a Raytracer within the next two years. What do I need to know? I'm not a fantastic programmer yet (Java, C and Prolog are my main languages as of today) but I'm slowly learning every day. Also, my Math background isn't all that great, so any pointers on books to read or advice on writing such a program would be fantastic. I tend to pick these things up pretty quickly so feel free to chuck references at me.
  • Programming 3D Rendered Models
    • I've looked at a couple of projects where students have developed models and used them in games. I've made a couple of 2D games with raster images but have never worked with 3D models. What would I need to learn in regards to programming these models? If it helps I used to be okay with 3D Studio Max and Cinema4D (although every single course seems to use Maya), but haven't touched it in about four years.

Sorry for posting such vague and, let's be honest, stupid questions. It's just something I've wanted to do for a while and something that'd be good as a large project for me to develop in my own time.

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Best Solution

The book "Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice" (known in the Computer Graphics circles as the "Foley-VanDam") is the basic for most computer graphics courses, and it covers the topic of implementing a ray-tracer in much detail. It is quite dated, but it's still the best, afaik, and the basic principles remain the same.

I also second the recommendation for Eric Lengyel's Mathematics for 3D Game Programming and Computer Graphics. It's not as thorough, but it's a wonderful review of the math basics you need for 3D programming, it has very useful summaries at the end of each chapter, and it's written in an approachable, not too scary way.

In addition, you'll probably want some OpenGL or DirectX basics. It's easier to start working with a 3D API, then learn the underlying maths than the opposite (in my opinion), but both options are possible. Just look for OpenGL on SO and you should find a couple of good references as well.

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