Self Shadow

SIGGRAPH 2017 Course: Physically Based Shading in Theory and Practice

© DreamWorks Animation 2017.

© DreamWorks Animation 2017.

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], [6]), 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.


Sunday, 30th July, 2:00pm - 5:15pm, Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 150/151

Course Summary

14:00 Real-Time Line- and Disk-Light Shading (Eric Heitz and Stephen Hill) [slides] [code]
14:30 Physically Based Shading at DreamWorks Animation (Feng Xie and Jon Lanz) [course notes]
15:00 Volumetric Skin and Fabric Shading at Framestore (Nathan Walster) [slides] [course notes]
15:30 Break
15:45 Practical Multilayered Materials in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Michał Drobot) [slides: ppt, pdf]
16:05 Pixar’s Foundation for Materials: PxrSurface and PxrMarschnerHair (Christophe Hery and Junyi Ling) [course notes]
16:35 Revisiting Physically Based Shading at Imageworks (Christopher Kulla and Alejandro Conty) [slides] [supplemental]


Note: please direct any corrections or general questions to: s2017course <at> selfshadow <dot> com.


Stephen Hill is a Senior Rendering Engineer within Lucasfilm’s Advanced Development Group, where he is engaged in physically based rendering R&D for real-time productions such as the recent Carne y Arena VR installation experience. He was previously a 3D Technical Lead at Ubisoft Montreal, where he contributed to a number of Splinter Cell titles as well as Assassin’s Creed Unity.

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.


Alejandro Conty is a senior rendering engineer at Sony Pictures Imageworks since 2009 and has developed several components of the physically based rendering pipeline such as BSDFs, lighting and integration algorithms, including Bidirectional Path Tracing and other hybrid techniques. Previous to that he was the creator and main developer of YafRay, an open-source render engine released around 2003. He lives in Gijon, Spain.

Michał Drobot is a Principal Rendering Engineer at Infinity Ward, Activision. Most recently, he worked on the rendering engine architecture of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Before that he helped in designing and optimizing the 3D renderer in Far Cry 4 at Ubisoft Montreal. Prior to that, he worked at Guerrilla Games, designing and optimizing the rendering pipeline for the PlayStation 4 launch title Killzone: Shadow Fall. Michał specializes in rendering algorithms, renderer design, hardware architectures and low-level optimizations.

Eric Heitz is a graphics researcher at Unity Technologies. He works on physically based rendering, with a strong focus on shading and level-of-detail techniques. Eric got his PhD from Grenoble University at INRIA in France.

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.

Christopher Kulla is a principal software engineer at Sony Picture Imageworks where he has worked on the in-house branch of the Arnold renderer since 2007. He focuses on ray-tracing kernels, sampling techniques and volume rendering. In 2017 he was recognized with a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his work on the Arnold renderer.

Jon Lanz is a Senior Software Engineer on the Shading team at DreamWorks Animation. He has twenty years experience in feature animation and video games, with focus on look development, lighting, rendering and shading. His recent projects include developing a streamlined set of layerable, physically based production shaders.

Junyi Ling is a characters co-supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios. Most recently he was responsible for some of the shading and look development efforts on Cars 3 and The Good Dinosaur. He has also worked as a shading and grooming Technical Director on Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and other Pixar films. His current production and research interests are focused on general look development, material modeling and illumination.

Nathan Walster is head of the Shading department and a CG Supervisor at Framestore. He focuses on the approaches the studio takes toward rendering, lighting and look development. Nathan has been with Framestore since 2006, having worked on films such as Gravity and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Feng Xie started working for DreamWorks as a rendering engineer in 2001. She has credits on over 20 films at the studio, from Shrek 2 to the most recent release, The Boss Baby. Feng had been a principal engineer and the shading architect for DreamWorks Animation since 2009, where she lead the development and adoption of physically based shaders within the studio. In spring of 2017, Feng returned to Stanford to complete her PhD research on rendering with Prof. Pat Hanrahan.

Additional Contributors

Adam Micciulla is an independent software engineer living in Portland, Oregon. Previously, he was a Senior Software Engineer at Infinity Ward, Activision, where he worked on the material system and post effects pipeline for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Prior to that, Adam worked on engine development and optimization for a number of titles at Neversoft Entertainment, including Call of Duty: Ghosts, Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk.

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.