An Algorithm for Rendering Generalized Depth of Field Effects Based on Simulated Heat Diffusion

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Abstract

Depth of field refers to the swath through a 3D scene that is imaged in acceptable focus through an optics system, such as a camera lens. Control over depth of field is an important artistic tool that can be used to emphasize the subject of a photograph. In a real camera, the control over depth of field is limited by the nature of the image formation process and by physical constraints. The depth of field effect has been simulated in computer graphics, but with the same limited control as found in real camera lenses. In this paper, we use diffusion in a non-homogeneous medium to generalize depth of field in computer graphics by enabling the user to independently specify the degree of blur at each point in three-dimensional space. Generalized depth of field provides a novel tool to emphasize an area of interest within a 3D scene, to pick objects out of a crowd, and to render a busy, complex picture more understandable by focusing only on relevant details that may be scattered throughout the scene. Our algorithm operates by blurring a sequence of nonplanar layers that form the scene. Choosing a suitable blur algorithm for the layers is critical; thus, we develop appropriate blur semantics such that the blur algorithm will properly generalize depth of field. We found that diffusion in a non-homogeneous medium is the process that best suits these semantics.