Ray tracing is often introduced using direct light estimation only, often without any random algorithm, whereas path tracing usually requires Monte Carlo integration and handles indirect light.

Is that enough differentiation to have two separate tags? Or should there should be some other division?


1 Answer 1


I believe ray tracing describes a general class of algorithms based on the ray-cast operation, as opposed to e.g. FEM style methods like Radiosity that do not cast rays.

The classic "mirrors and point lights only" ray tracing is really more appropriately named "Whitted ray tracing". The class of ray tracing algorithms also includes Monte Carlo ray tracing methods such as path tracing or bidirectional path tracing, Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods such as Metropolis Light Transport, many-light methods such as VPLs or VRLs and density estimation methods such as photon mapping.

I don't know how this is commonly handled on SE, but I suggest we leave "ray tracing" as a catch-all tag and additionally add more specific subtags such as "whitted ray tracing", "path tracing" and friends where appropriate.


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