Creating Realistic Animations of Nature


One of the most exciting areas that researchers use MSI for is computer-generated visualizations. Avery Musbach, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is the lead author on a paper that demonstrates the power of scientific computing to create visualizations. The paper, “Full-Wave Modeling of Light Propagation and Reflection,” appeared recently in the journal Computer Graphics Forum (published online Feb 4, 2013, DOI: 10.1111/cgf.12012). Other authors include Associate Professor Gary Meyer (Computer Science and Engineering), Professor Fernando Reitich (Mathematics), and Assistant Professor Sang-Hyun Oh (Electrical and Computer Engineering).


The goal of this paper was to show a new way to use computer graphics to model how light interacts with objects. The authors used the finite difference time domain (FDTD) method to compute the propagation of electromagnetic energy in three dimensions. This is a more general approach to creating computer graphics than has been previously used. The authors created a video of a butterfly opening and closing its wings using this method. The image above is a still from the video.


MSI resources used for this project included the Scientific Development and Visualization Laboratory and MATLAB, a software package that is used for a wide variety of applications, including image and video processing. While the final rendering of the butterfly video was done using CSE computers, the high-performance computing work was done at MSI. Scientific Computing Consultant Dr. Shuxia Zhang, who is a member of the HPC Operations group, provided technical expertise on this project.


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