3D Illustration

Tachyon – parallel / multiprocessor ray tracing system

Tachyon is a parallel / multiprocessor ray tracing system.

Tachyon is heavily used as a built-in ray tracing engine wthin VMD, where it is frequently used to render scenes containing hundreds of millions of objects, often with ambient occlusion lighting, depth cueing, angle-modulated transparency, and other features that are well suited for molecular visualization. Tachyon has been used to render VMD movies in parallel on the NCSA Blue Waters supercomputer, on over 15,000 CPU cores.

One of the advanced features provided by the Tachyon ray tracer (built into VMD), is the ability to render scenes with ambient occlusion lighting. This lighting technique mimics some of the effects that occur under conditions of omnidirectional diffuse illumination, e.g. outdoors on an overcast day.

This lighting used in concert with traditional point source lights and directional lights to increase the perception of shape, depth in images of molecular structures, and decreases the deleterious effects of harsh shadows which otherwise occur with lighting based on a small number of point sources. This lighting model is particularly good at emulating the appearance of chalky materials, and can make molecular graphics more understandable and aesthetically appealing.

Features include:

  • TachyonOptiX GPU-accelerated ray tracing engine. The engine is written in C++, CUDA, and OptiX 7, with a GPU-centric API
  • Supports MPI for distributed memory parallel computers, threads for shared memory machines, and can support both simultaneously for clusters of shared memory machines. Tachyon is built as a C/C++ callable library, which can be used with the included demo programs or within your own application. The distribution also includes a simple scene file parser front-end which reads
    a few other input file formats such as MGF, NFF, and an old version of AC3D.
  • Automatic grid-based spatial decomposition scheme for greatly increased rendering speeds.
  • Simple antialiasing based on psuedo-random supersampling.
  • Supports the typical ray tracer features including:
    • Provides many useful geometric objects including Spheres, Planes, Triangles, Cylinders, Quadrics, and Rings.
    • Texture mapping.
    • HDR image output.
    • Ambient occlusion lighting.
    • Material properties for shading with angle-modulated transparency.
    • Support for various triangle mesh and volumetric texture formats beneficial for molecular visualization (e.g. rendering VMD scenes).
  • Cross-platform support.

Website: github.com/thesketh/Tachyon
Developer: John E. Stone
License: BSD-like License

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Tachyon is written in C and C++. Learn C with our recommended free books and free tutorials. Learn C++ with our recommended free books and free tutorials.

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