Teapot Rendering Competition 2017

December 21, 2017

Eighteen students with 22 beautiful images met on December 15th to compete in the annual Teapot Rendering Competition. The competition, which is open to all students who have taken the Ray Tracing for Rendering (CS 6620) course and have written their own rendering software from scratch are allowed to compete. Students present their original scenes rendered with their own software, commemorating the famous Utah Teapot with dazzling visuals!

The rules of the competition are simple: the scenes must be original, they must include at least one visible Utah Teapot model, and the images must be rendered using student’s software. Students entering the competition are permitted to work with other individuals for preparing their scenes and the related artwork, but they must write the rendering software themselves.
This marks the 6th year of the competition, which is organized by Dr. Cem Yuksel.

Below are the winners and the stories behind each image.

Ian Mallet Winner, Audience Choice Award
I made my image a tribute to the grand history of University of Utah graphics research. First, we have the Utah Teapot—the most-famous icon in all of graphics and the competition theme. The metallic-orange sphere at left uses a Phong BRDF, the blackboard shows Catmull-Rom splines, and the post-it has Kajiya’s rendering equation—all Utah-related contributions. The circuit board represents the Utah Hardware Raytracing Group, and the cloth and bust represent the simulation and character-animation aspects of graphics. The knitted patch and refractive objects stand in for ongoing research projects (special thanks to Kui Wu and Cem Yuksel for the fiber-level knit data). And there are more easter-eggs for the attentive eye! I focused heavily on realism by setting up a realistic lighting environment and adding imperfections, like scratches and bumps. The scene was modeled in ~2 days and rendered with my full-spectral unbiased path tracer, taking ~500 billion rays.

Daqi Lin Juror Choice Award, Best in Class Award, Student Choice Award
We were all awed by the great solar eclipse on August 21th. Do you remember the crescent-shaped shadow casted by tree leaves? It was so beautiful that the first time I saw it, I want to render it with ray tracing. Before working on this competition, I thought that there must be some complex math to figure out to simulate this rare phenomenon. However, the problem turned out to be embarrassingly simple. We can just model the actual geometry of sun and moon and trace rays. You might think that it is a crazy idea. In fact, instead of creating a sun with a diameter of 1.4 million kilometers and putting it 150 million kilometers away, we can simply put a 1-unit wide sun 100 units away from our scene, where 1 unit is approximately how big our scene is. It is supposed to have almost the same result. Then we use the same kind of trick to put a moon with a slightly smaller diameter and slightly ahead of the sun to make sure that the sun is eclipsed by it with a crescent shape. By treating the sun as an isotropic spherical emitter, the moon as a diffuse occluding sphere, and use a tree model with detailed alpha-masked leaf texture, I got results that are surprisingly good and also fast to compute. In such a simple way, I created a nice image with a glass Utah teapot sitting under a tree on a lawn behind the Warnock Engineering Building with crescent-shaped leaf shadows at the background.

Justin Alain Jensen Juror Choice Award
The Golden Teapot is worshiped by the zealot walking teapots. They are so delighted by the arrival of their deity that they leap from their teapot-shaped abode and begin a frenzied, frantic march around it. This image was rendered using brute force path tracing with next event estimation. In order to make the path tracer more physically-based, I replaced the Blinn material model with separate Lambert and Reflection materials. Since I didn’t know beforehand how long I would have to render, I rendered multiple passes at 1024 samples per pixel, then averaged each of the passes to achieve a final image with lower noise.

Nathan Vollmer Morrical Juror Choice Award
For my render, I initially was focused on creating a scene that could showed off as many technical aspects of my renderer as I could, while still creating something fun to look at. As the project deadline creeped closer, and my time budget grew shorter, I couldn’t seem to create a scene that I was satisfied with. So, venting my frustration, I started thinking about breaking teapots, which in turn led me to create the scene I showed off at the TRC.

Benjamin Richard Draut Juror Choice Award
My image was inspired in part by my children. They love to watch Moana and Finding Dory, so several scenes from those films were on my mind as I considered what kind of scene I wanted to render. There is a scene in Moana when she dives to the sea floor to retrieve the glowing Heart of Te Fiti. I thought it would be fun to attempt to replicate that scene, but with a teapot. The scene still looked a bit empty though, so I decided to incorporate the seashells that guided Dory back to her home, also as teapots. Combining these two ideas led to my final scene.

For more information about the competition and high-res images go to Teapot Rendering Competition