Proceedings: GI 2010

Hybrid rendering of dynamic heightfields using ray-casting and mesh rasterization

Lucas Ammann, Olivier Génevaux, Jean-Michel Dischler

Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2010: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 31 May - 2 June 2010, 161-168

  • BibTex

    author = {Ammann, Lucas and G{\'e}nevaux, Olivier and Dischler, Jean-Michel},
    title = {Hybrid rendering of dynamic heightfields using ray-casting and mesh rasterization},
    booktitle = {Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2010},
    series = {GI 2010},
    year = {2010},
    issn = {0713-5424},
    isbn = {978-1-56881-712-5},
    location = {Ottawa, Ontario, Canada},
    pages = {161--168},
    numpages = {8},
    publisher = {Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society},
    address = {Toronto, Ontario, Canada},


This paper presents a flexible hybrid method designed to render heightfield data, such as terrains, on GPU. It combines two traditional techniques, namely mesh-based rendering and per-pixel ray-casting. A heuristic is proposed to dynamically choose between these two techniques. To balance rendering performance against quality, an adaptive mechanism is introduced that depends on viewing conditions and heightfield characteristics. It manages the precision of the ray-casting rendering, while mesh rendering is reserved for the finest level of details. Our method is GPU accelerated and achieves real-time rendering performance with high accuracy. Moreover, contrary to most terrains rendering methods, our technique does not rely on time-consuming pre-processing steps to update complex data structures. As a consequence, it gracefully handles dynamic heightfields, making it useful for interactive terrain edition or real-time simulation processes.