GPU accelerated particle methods for simulating and rendering fire and water effects : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
The simulation of complex natural phenomena such as fire and water is a complicated problem
and with the surge in popularity of video games and other interactive media, it has become
an area of interest in computer graphics to be able to simulate these phenomena in real-time.
The challenge exists not only to simulate as accurately as possible for the best degree of visual
realism, but also to use a method which allows for this real-time interaction.
In this thesis, the use of particle systems as a method for simulating fire and water effects
is explored, as well as the rendering methods used to visualize them. Particle systems are
well suited to this type of problem as they can be parallelized and provide many methods
of behavioural customization in order to produce a wide range of different effects. Realistic
looking results can be achieved when a sufficient number of particles are able to be simulated
within an adequate time frame.
It can be shown that particle system methods such as Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics
and Velocity-Vortex methods are able to simulate these phenomena well. These methods are
implemented using NVIDIA CUDA to parallelize the governing algorithms on the graphics
processor, and with the use of spatial grid division techniques to reduce the computational
complexity, they are able to run at real-time interactive rates.
Additionally, when utilizing point-based approaches for rendering fire, and a surface generation
approach using the Marching Cubes algorithm for rendering water, it can be shown
that these particle systems are able to be rendered with realistic-looking visualizations while
maintaining interactivity. Combining both the computational aspects of the particle system and
the rendering aspects directly on the graphics device produces good quality rendered fire and
water effects at speeds fast enough to be used with interactive media applications.