Water drop 4a – Reflecting wet world

Version : 1.0 – Living blog – First version was 08 September 2013

This is the fourth post of a series about simulating rain and its effect on the world in game. But it could be read without reading the previous post. The subject is “the reflection”.  The post is split in two parts A and B:

Water drop 1 – Observe rainy world
Water drop 2a – Dynamic rain and its effects
Water drop 2b – Dynamic rain and its effects
Water drop 3a – Physically based wet surfaces
Water drop 3b – Physically based wet surfaces
Water drop 4a – Reflecting wet world
Water drop 4b – Reflecting wet world

When a world scene is totally wet, the most striking visual cue is the reflected environment. Of course all surfaces permanently reflect their surrounding but this is more visible under rainy day. The topic of this post is “reflection”. The reflections as we see it in real world includes all the surrounding lighting. When we talk about reflection in game, too often we restrict this to water or smooth surfaces reflection. But “reflection” is just a convenient word to designate the normal lighting process. In game we separate lighting as direct, indirect and emissive. If you handle direct and indirect lighting on any kind of surfaces from smooth to rough, you have your reflections. There is no need of a particular process for it.
For Remember Me we decided to go this way. To get a good rainy mood, we were looking for having reflection everywhere on every surface. For example, we use the same process to get reflection on rocks as well as in puddles.

Reflection – Theory

The observation post already presents many pictures illustrating reflection. But I will present some others here to highlights some characteristic of reflections.

Reflection with smooth surfaces

Let’s consider à perfectly smooth surface. Most people think that the reflection of a scene in surface like calm water or mirror is the scene itself upside down.

But this is a really wrong assumption. The reflection depends on the distance from reflected objects and the viewer’s position.

The differences become smaller, the closer we bring our eyes to the reflecting surfaces and the farther away the objects are. On the pictures below, see how Mickey Mouse is hidden by the blue cow until you reach a glazing angle with the mirror.

Water drop 3a – Physically based wet surfaces

Version : 1.3 – Living blog – First version was 19 March 2013

This is the third post of a series about simulating rain and its effect on the world in game. As it is a pretty big post, I split it in two parts A and B:

Water drop 1 – Observe rainy world
Water drop 2a – Dynamic rain and its effects
Water drop 2b – Dynamic rain and its effects
Water drop 3a – Physically based wet surfaces
Water drop 3b – Physically based wet surfaces
Water drop 4a – Reflecting wet world
Water drop 4b – Reflecting wet world

Physically based rendering (PBR) is now common in game (See Adopting a physically based shading model to know more about it). When I introduce PBR in my company few years ago we were actually working on rain. At this time we were questioning about how our new lighting model should behave to simulate wet surfaces. With classic game lighting model, the way everybody chose was to darken the diffuse term and boost the specular term (Here I refer to the classic specular use as RGB color to multiply with the lighting). The wet diffuse/specular factors being eye calibrate. I wanted to go further than simply adapt this behavior to PBR and this required to better understand the interaction between water and materials. This post is a mix of the result of old and recent researches. I chose to provide up to date information including experimental (not complete) work because the subject is complex and talking about it is useful. This might be of interest for future research. The post describe how water influence materials and provide ways to simulate wet surfaces with physically based lighting model.  I suppose here that’s the reader know the basics of reflected/refracted lights with Snell’s law and index of refraction (IOR).

Wet surfaces – Theory

People are able to distinguish between a wet and a dry surface by sight. The observation post show many pictures to illustrate this point. The main visual cue people retain is that wet surfaces look darker, more specular and exhibit subtle changes in saturation and hue when wet:

This behavior is commonly observed for natural or human made rough material/porous materials (brick, clay, plaster, concrete, asphalt, wood, rust, cardboard, stone…), powdered materials (sand, dirt, soil…), absorbent materials (paper, cotton, fabrics…) or organic materials (fur, hair…). However this is not always the case, smooth materials (glass, marble, plastic, metal, painted surface, polished surface…) don’t change. For example, there is a big difference between a dry rough stone and a wet rough stone but a very small difference between highly polished wet stone and highly polished dry stone.
In the following discussion, wet surfaces refer mostly to rough and diffuse materials quenched in water and having a very thin water layer on their surfaces.

Why rough wet surfaces are darker when wet ? Because they reflect less light.
There is two optical phenomena imply in this decrease of light reflection and they are details in [3] and [4]. A rough material has small air gaps or pores which will be filling by water when wetting process begin. When pores are filled, there is  “water saturation”, water propagates onto the material as a thin layer.

Let’s first see the impact of the thin layer of water. The rough surface leads to a diffuse reflection (Lambertian surface).  Some of the light reflected from the surface will be reflected back to the surface by the water-air interface due to total internal reflection. Total internal reflection occur when moving from a denser medium into a less dense one (i.e., n1 > n2), above an incidence angle known as the critical angle (See [1] for more detail). For water-air interface, this is $\theta_c=arcsin(\frac{n_{air}}{n_{water}})=arcsin(\frac{1.0}{1.33})=48.75^{\circ}$

Source [1]

This reflected light from the surface is then subject to another round of absorption by the surface before it is reflected again. This light’s back and forth result in darkening of the surface.

Source [2]

Now take a look at the water filling in the pore inside the rough material. There is a concentration of water beneath the surface. The water which replace the air have an index of refraction higher than that of air (1.33 against 1.0) which is closer to index of refraction of most rough dielectric material (1.5). Consequence, following the Snell’s law, light entering in material will be less refracted due to the reduced index of refraction difference: The scattering of light under the surface is more directional in the forward direction. The increase scattering events before the light leave the surface increases the amount of light absorbed and thus reduce the light reflection.

Source[5]

The darkening of the material is also accompanied by a subtle change in saturation and hue. In [11] the spectral reflectance (i.e the “RGB” representation of real world color, the visible range of the spectrum is around 400nm blue to 780 nm red) of a dry and wet stone has been measured to highlight these characteristics. Analyze show that’s there is a significant reduction in reflectance across the whole range of the visible spectrum when the surface gets wet. Which confirm the darkening of the surface. It also show that’s the surface color becomes more saturated because of this reduction.

Source [11].

Water drop 1 – Observe rainy world

Version : 1.2 – Living blog – First version was 10 December 2012

This post is the first of a series about simulating dynamic rain and its effect on the world. All in the context of games:

Water drop 1 – Observe rainy world
Water drop 2a – Dynamic rain and its effects
Water drop 2b – Dynamic rain and its effects
Water drop 3a – Physically based wet surfaces
Water drop 3b – Physically based wet surfaces
Water drop 4a – Reflecting wet world
Water drop 4b – Reflecting wet world

In several games today there are dynamic weather effects. The most popular weather effect is rain. Rain has sadly often no effect on the gameplay but it has on the visual. Rain in real life has a lot of impact on the appearance of the world. The goal of this series is to describe technique, both technical and artistic, to be able to render a world rainy mood. By wet world, I mean not only world under rain, but also world after it stop raining. Let’s begin this series by an observation of the real-life wet world. As always, any feedbacks or comments are welcome.

Real wet world

The first thing I have done when I started to study this topic for my game “Remember Me” is to make a lot of references. All pictures are programmer’s photography with low camera🙂. I should advice that’s I focus on moderate rain in urban environment not rain forest or other heavy rain. Let’s share some result (click for high res version).

The first thing everybody notice when it’s raining in the night is the long stretched highlight reflection of the bright light sources:

But this is not restricted to the night (and even not restricted to wet surface, it is only more visible with wet surfaces):

Highlight reflection vary with the roughness of the underlying surface:

The highlights get dimmer when the surface is rougher (This is energy conservation):

Highlights size depends on view angle. The anisotropic reflection seems to follow a Blinn-Phong behavior (Also Blinn-Phong model don’t allow to strech so much):