The simplest way is using a sky dome, i.e. sphere or hemisphere, and coloring the sphere by linearly interpolating two gradient colors according to the fragment’s height, i.e. z axis. The gradient colors consists of the apex color and center color.

Here’s the result:


Instead of linear interpolation based on height, using eye angle upon the sea level (a) is closer to real: apex * sin(a) + center * cos(a):


Although using cosine and sin of the eye angle makes a nice blending, it doesn’t take account the fact that light is scattered based on light-traveling distance from the outer atmosphere to the eye.

So far the vertex blending trick has been working well. But when it comes with light scattering, the theory gets a bit complex. The discretized light transport process goes as follows:

  • The light along the camera ray is integrated by analyzing the in-scattering light in each point p
  • At each point p, calculate the in-scattering light by counting for the light scattered away from the sun to point p, and from point p to the camera. Phase function is use to attenuate the scattered light towards the camera in the very beginning. Here’s the in-scattering equation:

Image Credit: Sean O’Neil, “Accurate Atmospheric Scattering”, GPU Gems 2, within which the phase function F(theta, g) and out-scattering funtion t(P_aP_b, lamda) are included

However.. I don’t think it’s right to attenuate the entire light by the phase function.. The phase function should only be used to attenuate light when the light direction deviates from the direction to the camera:


Evaluating the two out-scattering integrals and the one in-scattering integral per sample point during rendering is expensive. The amount of evaluation for every camera ray is: N_{in-scattering} * (N_{out-scattering_pp_c} + N_{out-scattering_pp_a}). Considering the wavelengths of the three color channels (i.e. red, green, blue), and the two scattering (Rayleigh and Mie Scattering), the computation per camera ray is 2 * 3 * N_{in-scattering} * (N_{out-scattering_pp_c} + N_{out-scattering_pp_a}). To make the rendering result accurate, the value of the Ns have to go high.

One way to save the scattering evaluation per camera ray is pre-computing and storing the optical depth (the integral part of out-scattering) and atmospherical density at a specific height to a 2D lookup table which consists of altitute and angle towards the sun as the dimensions that respectively define the staring point and direction of a ray. Each of the rays reflected in the 2D lookup table starts from a sample point in the atmosphere, and exits in sky vertex, if the ray doesn’t hit any objects.

With the pre-computed 2D lookup table, the optical depths of all rays from the sample point to the sun (pp_c ) can be directly found in the table. The optical depths from the sample points to the camera, if the camera is in the atmosphere, need two steps to be obtained:

  • If the camera ray towards the sample point doesn’t intersect with the ground, the optical depth between the camera ray and the sample point is the substracted result of the camera ray towards the sky vertex and the sample point towards the sky vertex.
  • Otherwise, if the camera ray towards the sample point intersect with the ground, the optical depth between the camera ray and the sample point is the substracted result of the sample point towards the sky vertex and the camera ray towards the sky vertex.

Now if we implement the shader, we need to pre-calculate the 2D lookup table (stored in a texture) and pass the texture to the shader. Given that using texture on blender needs a few manual configuration which I’m trying to avoid, is there a way of squeezing the values in the 2D table to a math equation which takes the altitude and angle then returns the optical depth? Sean O’Neil plotted the curves of the 2D lookup table and found the curves fitting the values. That way, the computation per camera ray is reduced from 2 * 3 * N_{in-scattering} * (N_{out-scattering_pp_c} + N_{out-scattering_pp_a}) to 2 * 3 * N_{in-scattering} * (1 + 1). That’s a good approach but I can’t use the result since I modified the in-scattering equation a little bit. So I’ll plot the values in the 2D lookup table using the revised equation and see if there’s a curve fits the values.

Using Matlab, the fitted surface turns out a polynomial representation with vertical angle and altitudes. The final result looks like the following:


Capture Capture