The surface area heuristic (SAH) is widely used as a predictor for ray tracing performance, and as a heuristic to guide the construction of spatial acceleration structures. We investigate how well SAH actually predicts ray tracing performance of a bounding volume hierarchy (BVH), observe that this relationship is far from perfect, and then propose two new metrics that together with SAH almost completely explain the measured performance. Our observations shed light on the increasingly common situation that a supposedly good tree construction algorithm produces trees that are slower to trace than expected. We also note that the trees constructed using greedy top-down algorithms are consistently faster to trace than SAH indicates and are also more SIMD-friendly than competing approaches.
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