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Progressive rendering is becoming a popular alternative to precomputation approaches for appearance design tasks. Images created by different progressive algorithms exhibit various kinds of visual artifacts at the early stages of computation. We present a user study that investigates the effects of these artifacts on user performance in appearance design tasks. Specifically, we ask both novice and expert subjects to perform lighting and material editing tasks with the following algorithms: random path tracing, quasi-random path tracing, progressive photon mapping, and virtual point light (VPL) rendering. Data collected from the experiments suggest that path tracing is strongly preferred to progressive photon mapping and VPL rendering by both experts and novices. There is no indication that quasi-random path tracing is systematically preferred to random path tracing or vice versa; the same holds between progressive photon mapping and VPL rendering. Interestingly, we did not observe any significant difference in user workflow for the different algorithms. As can be expected, experts are faster and more accurate than novices, but surprisingly both groups have similar subjective preferences and workflow.
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Jiawei Ou, Ondrej Karlik, Jaroslav Krivanek, and Fabio Pellacini, "Toward Evaluating Progressive Rendering Methods in Appearance Design Tasks." Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report TR2012-715, May 2012.
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