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What is ray tracing on the PlayStation 5?

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What is ray tracing?

Ray tracing is a rendering technique that improves visual fidelity by modeling how light interacts with and travels through virtual objects in a 3D environment. If you want the most realistic-looking environment possible, ray tracing is the way to do it. Usually, this is a technique that only big-budget Hollywood movies would employ, and also Nvidia GPUs on computers, but it hasn’t made its way to consoles yet. That is set to change with the PlayStation 5.

How will it benefit PlayStation 5 games?

Ray tracing will obviously benefit PS5 games by offering better graphics than ever, especially when it comes to lighting and shadows. According to lead PlayStation console architect Mark Cerny, however, it should also improve audio sources.

“If you wanted to run tests to see if the player can hear certain audio sources or if the enemies can hear the players’ footsteps, ray tracing is useful for that,” he said. “It’s all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment.”

Since we’re still in the dark surrounding a lot of PS5 details, it remains to be seen just how PlayStation intends to get true ray tracing to work as it requires a significant amount of power to do so.

What technique do video games usually use to render lighting?

Video games typically use a technique called rasterization. With rasterization, any object you see on-screen is made up of millions of triangular polygons to create a 3D image. Where these polygons intersect are called vertices, which store information on how to display the pixel, such as which direction is it facing and what color it should be assigned. From this, a shading process is employed that dictates how each color changes based on the environment’s lighting.

How is ray tracing better?

Ray tracing can more reliably track the way light interacts with 3D objects, where and when it refracts, what surfaces it bounces between, and how it reflects off of another surface. Because of this, the overall image that you are seeing is better and more realistic than that of one rendered using rasterization.


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