Fast Animation of Lightning Using
an Adaptive Mesh

Theodore Kim and Ming Lin,


We present a fast method for simulating, animating, and rendering lightning using adaptive grids. The "dielectric breakdown model" is an elegant algorithm for electrical pattern formation that we extend to enable animation of lightning. The simulation can be slow, particularly in 3D, because it involves solving a large Poisson problem. Losasso et al. recently proposed an octree data structure for simulating water and smoke, and we show that this discretization can be applied to the problem of lightning simulation as well. However, implementing the incomplete Cholesky conjugate gradient (ICCG) solver for this problem can be daunting, so we provide an extensive discussion of implementation issues. ICCG solvers can usually be accelerated using "Eisenstat's trick," but the trick cannot be directly applied to the adaptive case. Fortunately, we show that an "almost incomplete Cholesky" factorization can be computed so that Eisenstat's trick can still be used. We then present a fast rendering method based on convolution that is competitive with Monte Carlo ray tracing but orders of magnitude faster, and we also show how to further improve the visual results using jittering.

Full Paper:       Appearing in IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, March/April 2007 [0.8 MB PDF]

Source code:       LumosQuad - A 2D implementation of the techniques from this paper.

Links:       Physically Based Animation and Rendering of Lightning
(Pacific Graphics 2004)