University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Deconstructing Photorealism: Art or Science?
Grant Bryan Jeffrey Cox

Last modified: 2011-12-21


Photorealism is in the author's opinion a broad and overused term in computer graphics and often many of the processes that are layered (both archaeologically and artistically) to create an image that can be considered visually convincing are overlooked. Discussions regarding the use of engaging imagery in archaeology to reconstruct or convey an idea often focus heavily upon scientific elements, but these only constitute to part of the process that is needed to generate a convincing final render.

At present in the 3D community ‘unbiased’ renderers such as IRay and Maxwell are being adopted more frequently, however they do not currently set the ‘standard’ for renderers because they do have the same saturation, or provide the same control as Chaos Group’s VRay, or Mental Image’s packaged Mental Ray. Instead they fulfil a niche that whilst ever growing seems to fulfil a very specific role.

This paper will attempt to deconstruct exactly what constitutes a photorealistic image, looking not only at how current technologies are perceived, but also at the important role that artistic mechanisms play in achieving a convincing output and producing visualisations that could rightly be deemed photoreal. Furthermore it will cover how understanding and embracing these processes can be benefitial from a critical archaeologial perspective.


3D Graphics; Photorealism; High Fidelity Rendering