We describe the design space for real-time photon density estimation, the key step of rendering global illumination (GI) via photon mapping. We then detail and analyze efficient GPU implementations of four best-of-breed algorithms. All produce reasonable results on NVIDIA GeForce 670 at 1920x1080 for complex scenes with multiple-bounce diffuse effects, caustics, and glossy reflection in real-time. Across the designs we conclude that tiled, deferred photon gathering in a compute shader gives the best combination of performance and quality.
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