Glossary

Graphics engine – A computer program that draws images to a display monitor. You are currently viewing this page on your display monitor. The computer program that draws what you’re currently seeing onto your display monitor is a type of graphics engine.

Ray tracing – In computer graphics, ray tracing is a technique for generating an image by tracing the path of light through pixels in an image plane and simulating the effects of its encounters with virtual objects. This is an unorthodox way to program what should be drawn in each pixel of the user’s display monitor. As opposed to the usual method of rasterization, it is based on real physics, and thus can produce photo-realistic images. The draw back is that such a program takes a long time to perform.

Rasterization – The task of taking an image described in a vector graphics format (shapes) and converting it into a raster image (pixels or dots) for output on a video display. This is the orthodox method of drawing three dimensional graphics to a computer screen. It is fast but essentially produces little more than coloured and shaded shapes arranged orthographically and with perspective. It can be extended and convoluted to include complex effects and produce convincing scenes, however in origin it is an artist’s impression and is not based on physics.

Global Illumination – This is essentially a sufficiently comprehensive simulation of real light. A satisfactory implementation of global illumination should be very close to photo-realistic. As mentioned above, ray tracing can achieve such a simulation.

Interactive – In the context of computer graphics drawing interactivity is the ability to draw images to the screen at a rate that seems effectively instantaneous to the user. Rasterization has been achieving interactivity for decades. To my knowledge satisfactory global illumination has not been achieved at interactive rates on current consumer hardware.

DirectX 11 – Microsoft DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) for handling tasks related to multimedia, especially game programming and video, on Microsoft platforms. DirectX 11 is the latest standard of DirectX and is compatible with most mid-range quality cards today (AMD HD 5xxx series and NVIDIA GeForce 4xx series and above).

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