Ray Tracing – The real-time 3D rendering revolution

Last updated on August 23rd, 2023 at 12:31 pm


Hey! Today we’re going to talk about Ray Tracing, a rendering technique that comes close to photorealism. In a nutshell, Ray Tracing and Path Tracing are two methods to simulate light and interactions with objects in a 3D scene. Ray Tracing is faster but less accurate than Path Tracing.

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What is Ray Tracing?

Ray Tracing is a rendering technique that consists of simulating the path of light rays in a 3D scene. By tracing these rays, we get a realistic rendering of objects, shadows, and reflections. Here’s how Ray Tracing influences four main areas:

1. Light

Ray Tracing allows realistic simulation of light sources by taking into account the interactions between light and scene objects. This includes light diffusion, refraction and absorption by different materials.

2. Shadows

With Ray Tracing, shadows are calculated based on the position of light sources and objects that block them. The generated shadows are softer and more natural, thus giving the scene a more realistic look.

3. Colors

Ray Tracing takes into account how colors interact with light. The colors of objects are influenced by the light striking them and by the reflections from other surrounding objects. This creates more complex and realistic color effects.

4. Reflections

Ray Tracing is able to simulate reflections on surfaces, like mirrors or metallic objects. Reflections are calculated based on the position of objects and light sources, providing more accurate and realistic reflection effects.

Availability of Ray Tracing in real-time 3D rendering engines

Is Ray Tracing available in all real-time 3D rendering engines? Well, not yet. Despite the growing popularity of Ray Tracing, this technique is not yet fully integrated into all rendering engines. Ray Tracing is still limited in WebGL and works mainly in computer applications and video games, thanks to the power of modern graphics cards like the latest ATI or NVIDIA RTX cards.

This video already presented in 2019 the radical change in Minecraft with RTX 20X0.

Using Ray Tracing in Unreal Engine

So how do you use Ray Tracing in Unreal Engine? It’s simple! You just need to enable Ray Tracing in your project settings and choose which scene elements you want to apply it to. Here are some steps to achieve this:

  • Enable Ray Tracing in project settings.
  • Use Ray Tracing compatible materials.
  • Configure light sources to use Ray Tracing.

Keep in mind this option should be optional, as it can only be activated on the most powerful devices. For example, it is not yet possible to activate Ray Tracing on a phone or Nintendo Switch.

One of the first Ray Tracing demos under Unreal Engine

If you’re having a hard time believing this is real-time and want to see it running on your PC equipped with an RTX card, with your own eyes, then download the demo on the TechPowerUp website, double click the launcher and admire the result calculated by your GPU.


In conclusion, Ray Tracing is a revolutionary lighting method that allows for higher quality, photorealistic renders. Future improvements in graphics card and console performance will make it possible to achieve rendering levels similar to the biggest Hollywood productions.

If you’re learning 3D, Ray Tracing is a technique you don’t want to miss to bring your creations to life. Feel free to experiment with different settings and materials to achieve stunning results.

So what are you waiting for? Dive into the adventure of Ray Tracing and take your 3D projects to the next level! And if you don’t know where to start, download our guide on our ‘Learn 3D’ platform, titled “The 7 Tips to Start Learning 3D and Become an Opportunity in This Expanding Field“.

Feel free to leave a comment to share your experience with Ray Tracing or ask questions. Together, let’s explore the infinite possibilities offered by this incredible rendering technique!

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