Get Started With Real-Time Ray Tracing


What is ray tracing? Conventional 3D rendering has used a process called rasterization since the 1990’s. Rasterization uses objects created from a mesh of triangles or polygons to represent a 3D model of an object. The rendering pipeline then converts each triangle of the 3D models into pixels on a 2D screen. These pixels may then be further processed or “shaded” before final display on the screen.



Ray tracing, which has long been used for non-real-time rendering, provides realistic lighting by simulating the physical behavior of light. Ray tracing calculates the color of pixels by tracing the path that light would take if it were to travel from the eye of the viewer through the virtual 3D scene. As it traverses the scene, the light may reflect from one object to another (causing reflections), be blocked by objects (causing shadows), or pass through transparent or semi-transparent objects (causing refractions). All of these interactions are combined to produce the final color of a pixel that then displayed on the screen.

While ray tracing has long been "the future" or holy grail of computer rendering, we are now seeing the advent of consumer GPUs which have enough compute capability to do interesting ray tracing workloads in real-time. It is expected that many use cases will employ hybrid renderers which combine rasterization and ray tracing, so tight integration with an existing rendering API is very important. For more information on this topic please see our blog on the left.



Ray Tracing Essentials Video Series


Get inspired by beautiful showcases of ray tracing technology and techniques you can soon master. In this seven-part video series by NVIDIA’s Eric Haines, editor of Ray Tracing Gems, you can learn various terms and concepts used in the field, and see how artists are using ray tracing to create stunning, dramatic visuals.


Learn how ray tracing and path tracing enable professionals to create photorealistic graphics.

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Compare and contrast ray tracing with rasterization and see the benefits of each technology.

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Explore the latest progress in making special-purpose hardware that accelerates ray tracing.

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Ray Tracing Webinars


Gain insights into the history of ray tracing, learn key concepts and explore related topics such as denoising.

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Learn how to implement ray tracing in Unreal Engine 4 and explore NVIDIA RTX™ technologies.

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Ray Tracing News


You don’t need specialized hardware to do ray tracing, but you want it. Software-based ray tracing, of course…

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What is ray tracing? Just go to your nearest multiplex, plunk down a twenty and pick up some popcorn…

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Engineers from MachineGames and NVIDIA outline how they used the latest in ray traced…

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When you are creating triangle meshes for ray tracing or reusing meshes that have been…

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NVIDIA researchers Eric Haines and Adam Marrs have selected the nine most compelling questions, and provided in-depth answers…

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The RTX Developer User Guide is a living knowledge document that details all the latest improvements and optimizations…

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All Unreal Engine developers can now produce sophisticated lighting simulations in their applications. With the release of update 4.25,…

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Many developers port content from DirectX to Vulkan to take advantage of broader market reach. However, porting a title requires…

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Deep Dive Into Ray Tracing With GTC Digital



NVIDIA RTX™ is pushing creative boundaries with advances in AI for graphics and real-time ray tracing. Watch featured talks and courses on-demand to explore how today’s leading applications and technologies are transforming graphics workflows.




NVIDIA RTX Technology - RT Cores



The NVIDIA Turing™ architecture first introduced RT Cores, accelerator units that are dedicated to performing ray tracing operations with extraordinary efficiency. These units, combined with NVIDIA RTX™ software technology and sophisticated filtering algorithms, enable artists to use real-time ray-traced rendering to create photorealistic objects and environments with physically accurate shadows, reflections, and refractions.




RTX Platform Ray Tracing Solutions


NVIDIA RTX platform includes a ray tracing technology that brings real-time, cinematic-quality rendering to content creators and game developers. Developers can access NVIDIA RTX ray tracing through the NVIDIA OptiX application programming interface, through Microsoft’s DirectX Raytracing API (DXR) and Vulkan, the new generation, cross-platform graphics standard from Khronos Group.


The OptiX API is an application framework that leverages RTX Technology to achieve optimal ray tracing performance on the GPU. It provides a simple, recursive, and flexible pipeline for accelerating ray tracing algorithms. Additionally the post processing API includes an AI-accelerated denoiser, which also leverages RTX Technology. The post processing API can be used independently from the ray tracing portion of the pipeline.

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Microsoft’s DirectX Ray Tracing (DXR) API extends DirectX 12 to support ray tracing. DXR fully integrates ray tracing into DirectX, allowing developers to integrate ray tracing with traditional rasterization and compute techniques. NVIDIA partnered closely with Microsoft to enable full RTX support for DXR applications.




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NVIDIA VKRay is a set of extensions that bring ray tracing functionality to the Vulkan open, royalty-free standard for GPU acceleration. NVIDIA Introduced Vulkan ray tracing with the experimental VK_NVX_raytracing extension. Application developers can confidently build Vulkan applications that take advantage of ray tracing knowing that NVIDIA drivers will support the new extension.


Lean More about Vulkan