Self Shadow

SIGGRAPH 2016 Course: Physically Based Shading in Theory and Practice

© Disney/Pixar 2016.

© Disney/Pixar 2016.

Course Description

Physically based shading has transformed the way we approach production rendering and simplified the lives of artists in the process. By adhering to physically based, energy-conserving models, one can easily create realistic materials that maintain their properties under a variety of lighting conditions. In contrast, traditional ad hoc models have required extensive tweaking to achieve the same result. Building upon previous incarnations of the course ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5]), we present further research and practical advice on the subject, from film and game production.


For an introduction to the topic of physically based shading, we recommend watching this presentation by Naty Hoffman, from the 2015 course.


This year, our course was one of a few live-streamed sessions at SIGGRAPH. You can find the recording here.


Sunday, 24th July, 2:00pm - 5:15pm, Anaheim Convention Center, Ballroom E

Course Summary

14:00 Recent Advances in Physically Based Shading (Naty Hoffman) [slides: pdf]
14:20 Unified Shading and Asset Development at Lucasfilm and ILM (Roger Cordes and Dan Lobl)
15:00 Physically Based Sky, Atmosphere and Cloud Rendering in Frostbite (Sébastien Hillaire) [slides: ppt]
15:30 Break
15:45 An Artist-Friendly Workflow for Panoramic HDRI (Sébastien Lagarde) [slides: ppt, pdf] [course notes] [supplemental]
16:05 Physically Based Hair Shading in Unreal (Brian Karis) [slides: ppt, pdf]
16:25 Practical Real-Time Strategies for Accurate Indirect Occlusion (Jorge Jiménez) [slides: ppt, pdf]
16:45 Towards Bidirectional Path Tracing at Pixar (Christophe Hery and Ryusuke Villemin) [course notes]


Note: please direct any corrections or general questions to: s2016course <at> selfshadow <dot> com.


Stephen Hill is a 3D Technical Lead at Ubisoft Montreal, now specialising in physically based graphics R&D at the studio. Prior to that, he was heavily involved in the creation of a new physically based rendering system and pipeline for Assassin’s Creed Unity. He was also the 3D tech lead on Splinter Cell Conviction, during which he developed novel systems for dynamic ambient occlusion and visibility.

Stephen McAuley is a 3D Technical Lead on the Far Cry brand at Ubisoft, where he has worked on Far Cry 3, 4 and Primal. His primary focus has been spearheading the switch to physically based shading and calibrating lighting and materials. He has also worked at Bizarre Creations, where he shipped games such as Blood Stone, Blur and Project Gotham Racing, and developed a system for deferred lighting on the SPUs.


Roger Cordes is the Digital Production Supervisor for Lucasfilm’s Advanced Development Group. He oversees asset production, lighting, and overall look-development efforts for the group. Roger has been with the Lucasfilm organization since 2010, and has focused primarily on real-time rendering, shading, and material expression.

Christophe Hery joined Pixar in June 2010, where he holds the position of Senior Scientist. He wrote new lighting models and rendering methods for Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella, and more recently for Finding Dory and Piper, and continues to spearhead research in the rendering arena. An alumnus of Industrial Light & Magic, Christophe previously served as a research and development lead, supporting the facility’s shaders and providing rendering guidance. He was first hired by ILM in 1993 as a Senior Technical Director. During his career at ILM, he received two Technical Achievement Awards from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Sébastien Hillaire is a rendering engineer within the Frostbite engine team at Electronic Arts. You can find him pushing visual quality and performance in many areas, such as physically based volumetric simulation and rendering, visual effects or post processing, to name a few. He obtained his PhD in Computer Science from the French National Institute of Applied Science in 2010, during which he focused on using gaze tracking to visually enhance the virtual reality user experience. Before joining Frostbite, he worked at Dynamixyz and Criterion Games.

Naty Hoffman is a Principal Engineer & Architect in the Lucasfilm Advanced Development Group. Previously he was the Vice President of Technology at 2K, and before that he worked at Activision (doing graphics R&D for various titles, including the Call of Duty series), SCE Santa Monica Studio (coding graphics technology for God of War III), Naughty Dog (developing PS3 first-party libraries), Westwood Studios (leading graphics development on Earth and Beyond) and Intel (driving Pentium pipeline modifications and assisting the SSE/SSE2 instruction set definition).

Brian Karis is a Senior Graphics Programmer at Epic Games, where he works on Unreal Engine 4, focusing on physically based shading, anti-aliasing and geometry. Prior to joining Epic in 2012, he was employed at Human Head Studios and created the renderer for Prey 2.

Jorge Jiménez is a Graphics R&D Technical Director at Activision Blizzard. He received his PhD in Real-Time Graphics from Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain) in 2012. He has made contributions to conferences, books, and journals, including SIGGRAPH and GDC, the GPU Pro series, Game Developer magazine and ACM Transactions on Graphics. He co-organized the course Filtering Approaches for Real-Time Anti-Aliasing at SIGGRAPH 2011, declaring open war against the jaggies. At GDC 2013, he co-presented the talk Next Generation Character Rendering, and collaborated on the Digital Ira project, which used this character rendering technology. Since then, he has worked on the Call of Duty franchise, including Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III. His interests include photorealism, special effects and attention to the details.

Sébastien Lagarde is a software engineering graduate who has worked in the game industry since 2003 as an engine programmer with expertise in rendering. He has worked on many consoles for a lot of different titles, from small casual games to AAA (Remember Me, Mirror Edge 2, Star Wars Battlefront etc.). He also developed the kernel of the Trioviz SDK, a stereoscopic system used in many AAA games (Batman: Arkham City and Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed II, Gears of War 3, etc.).  Sébastien has worked for Neko Entertainment, Darkworks, Trioviz, Dontnod and EA Frostbite. He is now at Unity Technologies as Director of Rendering Research.

Dan Lobl is a VFX Digital Asset Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic. He oversaw the lighting and rendering for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and facilitated the development of artist tools and workflows. Since starting with the company in 1997, Dan has contributed to over 25 feature films, with particular contributions in the areas of Look Development, Set Capture, Asset Management, Crowd Pipelines and Materials Development.

Ryusuke Villemin began his career at BUF Compagnie in 2001, where he co-developed BUF’s in-house ray-tracing renderer. He later moved to Japan at Square-Enix as a rendering lead to develop a full package of physically based shaders and lights for mental ray. After working freelance for a couple of Japanese studios (OLM Digital and Polygon Pictures), he joined Pixar in 2011 as a TD. He currently works in the Research Rendering department, on light transport and physically based rendering.

Additional Contributors

Florian Hecht joined Pixar in 2011 and currently works in the Research Rendering group. He developed a GPU volume renderer for final frames and worked on Pixar’s switch to path tracing with Finding Dory, with a focus on the lighting technology. Before coming to Pixar, he spent some time at the UC Berkeley Computer Graphics group, after graduating with an MSc in Computer Science from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology as well as the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Adrián Jarabo is a post-doctoral researcher at Universidad de Zaragoza, where he received his PhD in Computer Graphics in 2015, under the supervision of Prof. Diego Gutierrez. During his predoctoral studies, he enjoyed research placements at Trinity College Dublin and Microsoft Research Asia. His research focuses on topics such as light transport simulation, plenoptic manipulation, and virtual human depiction.

Cyril Jover has been working in the videogame industry for more than 10 years as a Technical Artist. He has experienced very different domains such as VFX and terrain generation (at Eugen Systems), tools and physics (at Darkworks), character geometry and material acquisition (at Eisko), plus destruction and city generation (at Dontnod). He joined Unity Technologies in 2015 as a Technical Artist.

Sébastien Lachambre has been working in the videogame industry for twenty years, as an Artist, Lead Artist and Technical Artist. He has worked on many productions for PC and consoles, at Silmarils, Infogrames, Delphine Software, PAM Development, Cyanide and Ubisoft. He joined Unity Technologies in 2015 as a Technical Artist and has been working on HDRI, photogrammetry, material acquisition, etc.

Angelo Pesce started coding computer graphics in his teens within the demoscene. After a few forgettable productions and obtaining a master’s degree in Computer Science, he left his PhD to start working in the videogame industry. Since then, he has been helping rendering teams on many projects, for companies such as Milestone, Electronic Arts, Capcom, and Relic Entertainment. He currently serves as a Technical Director within the Activision Central Technology group.

Xian-Chun Wu serves as an R&D Graphics Programmer within the Activision Central Technology Group, where he works on the Call of Duty franchise. He received his BSc degree from the Department of Mathematics of the Northeastern University of China. Before Activision Blizzard, he worked for Tencent as a Senior Engine Programmer. He likes to solve videogame rendering, animation and physics problems with mathematics.