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Perception Experiment 

Goal of the psychophysical experiment.
Illumination accuracy  was controlled in the measurement experiment. Rendering generated using measured BRDF materials are closer in global illumination values to the actual scene than the global illumination generated using arbitrary values artistically created. Also in the first case the illumination was under-evaluated  as opposed to the second case where it was over-evaluated, leaving a consequent gap between the two methods.
Simply concluding from the numbers, the scene rendered using BRDF should be darker and appear more realistic than its artistic counterpart. But because such a conclusion could not be reached easily by watching rendered images, we decided to validate results in a full scale cross-media comparison in which images displayed on the CRT screen were compared directly against the real-world atrium. Twenty five subjects were questioned, seventeen of them had taken an undergraduate general computer graphics class; from this group, twelve had graduate-level knowledge about lighting, global illumination and advanced rendering techniques. The reminder eight persons were not trained or had no particular interest in computer graphics.  The subjects were chosen from different nationalities (perception might be influenced by culture and education), the age of the tested group varied from 22 to 30 years old. The total experiment involved an extensive questionnaire of sixteen very precise questions in addition to more general comments requested from the subjects. A scanned copy of the questionnaire is provided here

Part one: a comparative first impression.

Three images were presented. After watching the atrium through an aperture during ten seconds, subjects were exposed randomly to one of the pictures displayed on a computer screen during the same period of time. After having answered the following questions for the picture viewed, the exercise was repeated two more times.
The pictures were shown in a random order.

Image A: the rendering using BRDF measured data.
Image B: the rendering using artistic values.
Image C: a picture taken with a digital camera.
For further details about pictures please refer to the gallery page on this site.

Question 1:
    How well did the image approximated reality?


Question 2:
    Is the model detailed enough and correct?


Question 3:
    How does the tone and contrast compare to reality?

Question 4:
    How does the lighting compare to reality?

Analysis of variance:
The analyze of variance was conducted to make sure the results we got in the experiment can be used as a solid ground before making conclusions about the images. The following table shows a summary of the variance analysis performed on the data obtained during the first part of the experiment.
Table 1 analyses two variables: "image", composed of the three different images A, B and C and a "method" composed of the four questions asked in part one of the experiment. The table provides values for: the Sum of Squares SS, the Degree of Freedom df, the Mean Square MS, the value F and the probability p.
The effect of the method appears in the first row, the second row is the effect of the image and the third row is the interaction of the two parameters.

A probability of error less than .05 is considered (p<.05)

SOURCE                SS     df             MS         F      p

method           35.2667      3        11.7556     6.425  <0.05
ms/             131.7333     72         1.8296

image            64.4067      2        32.2033     4.990  <0.05
is/             309.7600     48         6.4533

mi                4.0733      6         0.6789     0.706  0.645
mis/            138.4267    144         0.9613

Since the probability of error is within the considered boundary (<.05) in both cases, the data obtained through the experiment can be used with certainty and conclusions will be based on solid proof.
From a statistical point of view, the experiment was a success.

 In all cases the photograph got the highest scores with the mean ranking falling into the range 7.36--8.48. The artistic and BRDF-based approaches got lower scores falling into the ranges 6.88--7.24 and 6.56-6.96, respectively. What is remarkable is that the differences in the mean ranking of photographs and computer images were rather small, below the value of standard deviation error. The artistic approach which is much easier and cheaper (no expensive BRDF measurement is required) was slightly higher ranked than the BRDF-based rendering, which to certain extent explains why always pragmatic industry chooses tweaking rendering parameters instead of performing full-fledged physically-based computations. Obviously, such an approach will fail for rendering the scenes whose appearance is unknown and cannot be reconstructed even by a skilled artist because of the lack of reference views.

Part two: detailed comparison

Two sets of four images rendered from different viewpoints in the atrium and using BRDF data versus the artistic method were analyzed without any constraint of time or location.  The questionnaire consisted of seven main questions and various comment area.

Group A identify images rendered using BRDF measured data.
Group B identify images rendered using artistic values.
The images presented are shown in the gallery.

1- Lights and lighting conditions:

Question 1:
    Is the overall lighting comparable to actual conditions?

Question 2:
    How do you feel is the reproduced lighting, too dark or too bright?

Question 3:
    How well do the shadows represent reality?
Hint: watch dark areas under the stairs, in the walkways and behind the columns; also criticize the position of those areas in the picture.

Question 4:
    How well so the highlights represent reality?
Hint: watch metallic and highly reflective parts like glass or ceramics. Parts may have too much or not enough highlights.

Question 5:
    How luminaries compare to reality?
Hint: watch for color of lights and strength of illumination close to the light sources.

2- Textures and materials:

Question 1:
    Are surfaces and materials in accordance to the atrium?
Hint: criteria such has brightness, contrast, hue, material structure, surface aspect and reflectance characteristics should be taken into consideration.

Note: further questions were asked concerning which surface appeared to be poorly recreated.

Question 2:
    How well do the reflections represent reality?

General questions:

Question 1:
    How well does the overall tone of the images compare to reality?

Question 2:
    Would you say that those images are a good approximation of the atrium?


Analysis of variance:
The variable "question" represents the eight questions asked (the question about tone accuracy was omitted because using a different rating), "group" represents the two groups of images presented.
The effect of the question appears in the first row, the second row is the effect of the group and the third row is the interaction of the two parameters. The table provide values for: the Sum of Squares SS, the Degree of Freedom df, the Mean Square MS, the value F and the probability p.

A probability of error less than .05 is considered (p<.05)
SOURCE                SS     df             MS         F      p

question         16.9175      7         2.4168     1.170  0.323
qs/             347.1450    168         2.0663

group             5.0625      1         5.0625     0.923  0.346
gs/             131.6250     24         5.4844

qg                9.3175      7         1.3311     0.457  0.864
qgs/            489.4950    168         2.9137

The variance is too different from given parameter, the conclusions we can make from this experiment are not based on solid statistical basis. To reach reliable results we might need to consider a greater number of subjects or test only experts in the field.

While in a majority of cases the artistic approach obtained slightly higher mean ranking scores, the quality of highlights and reflections appearance was higher ranked for the BRDF-based approach. This suggests that by measuring the BRDF, better image fidelity can be expected especially for materials with complex reflectance characteristics. The detailed comments provided by the subjects revealed that lack of contrast in highlight and shadow areas is especially annoying. This could be improved by more careful selection of the TMO. The architectural perfection of the model does not account for variations in construction and disparities of materials. This becomes especially well visible near highlights and reflection regions, which are distorted because of inaccuracies in tiles positioning. Also, in the real-world scene subjectively stronger specularity can be observed for pink tiled columns and brown painted panels in the central part of the atrium. This disagreement in appearance can be explained by inaccuracies in capturing of rapidly changing specular reflectance during the BRDF measurement.


Question 1:
    Which group of images better represents the real atrium? (which group is more realistic?)

9 persons answered group A (BRDF) and 16 persons answered group B ( artistic)

Question 2:
    Which group of images do you like the best? (for example to print a postcard of the atrium)

11 persons answered group A (BRDF) and 14 persons answered group B ( artistic)

Statistical analysis:
The numbers indicate a preference towards the artistic images (16 subjects found them more realistic), but this result should not be taken as an irrefutable proof of the superiority of the method. A Chi-square analysis of the four values provided for groupA and groupB gives a result of 0.778 showing that results might not reflect real variations due to sensitivity of differences.


Model | Material | Luminaires | Illumination
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