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

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Massey University
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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.
Computer graphics, Graphics processing units, Programming, Virtual reality, Fire, Water, Computer simulation