Over the weekend as I cracked open the 3D Mathematics book by Eric Lengyel and poured over the Illumination models, I realized how important lighting is. To my surprise and reluctant delight, my math book covers Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Functions, which is a prelude to the more advanced BSSRDF model that is used to model skin.
Lightning is so important. All the new research has to do with lighting. If you look at the NVIDIA dawn demo, the textures themselves are so unimpressive. In fact, the textures generally are used simply to store contour or color information. It is the lighting that makes it look so fabulous. For those who think there is no art in programming, think again. Programming is an art.. look at all the cool graphics created from procedural code! That code started with imagination from the programmer. An artist is a slave to the tools – tools that a programmer creates.
In modeling reality, you can never underestimate the importance of physics. When I go back and finish my degree at UCF I plan on minoring in Physics with some extra courses in Optics, Wave Mechanics, and Mechanics.
Unfortunately, as with all things worth pursing, the math is quite, quite difficult. I then realized that one thing to get started that tends to focus more on lightning is raytracing. So it would seem that writing a "simple" raytracer is in order.Baby steps. In the sea of things one must do to learn, it is hard to prioritize what to learn.
Here is a link I found: http://www.flipcode.com/articles/article_raytrace01.shtml