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Piotr Dubla: Global Illuminations in Computer Graphics

Piotr's field of expertise is global illumination, the group of algorithms used in computer graphics to give realistic lighting to 3D scenes. His work has led to the development of new algorithms to allow a faster rendering of images which he hopes will benefit the highly-competitive graphics industry.

His research is directly applicable to fields such as architecture or the car industry and enables lighting considerations to become part of the early design process. And he said his experiences at Warwick, which involved networking at prestigious conferences across Europe, will give him an edge in his future career.

“The graphics industry is so competitive that you have a better chance of getting work accepted if you are talking to people who are well-known in the field and this is something Warwick has given me an opportunity to do.'

It all began after Piotr, who was born in Poland, moved with his family to South Africa nearly 20 years ago and his father made a chance purchase of a rudimentary computer with a self-help manual - which he would have had little chance to access in his homeland. By the age of 11, the whiz-kid was busy programming and he has barely been away from his computer since.

He arrived in England in 2006 armed with an insatiable work ethic, having completed computer science undergraduate and honours degrees at the University of Cape Town, while simultaneously working full-time on high-end web design for a company, Clickthinking, and running his own web design company.

While in South Africa he had met Professor Alan Chalmers at a conference and decided to join his team in Bristol, which subsequently moved to Warwick and is now based at the International Digital Laboratory (IDL), a WMG facility.

His PhD, titled Interactive Global Illumination on the CPU, was carried out under the supervision of Professor Chalmers and Dr Kurt Debattista. It ran alongside a project conducted with Napper Architects in Newcastle, with funding for both coming from EPSRC.

The research involved examining how light interacts with everything else in the virtual environment to produce an image which doesn't appear to the participant to be merely computer-generated. The algorithms have to take into account not only light from a direct source but also the reflections from all the surfaces in the scene - of varying colours and textures - to create realistic effects such as soft shadows.

'To do a physically-correct simulation of light is very expensive,' said Piotr. 'It can take weeks to generate a single image or you would have to run it from many PCs over hundreds of hours to get an image out.

"The big thing we looked at was how this could be made interactive, between five and 10 frames a second, so that things could be changed in the scene and the users would have instant feedback."

Piotr Dubla