Variable Ring Light Imaging: Capturing Transient Subsurface Scattering with an Ordinary Camera

  • Ko NishinoEmail author
  • Art Subpa-asa
  • Yuta Asano
  • Mihoko Shimano
  • Imari Sato
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11215)


Subsurface scattering plays a significant role in determining the appearance of real-world surfaces. A light ray penetrating into the subsurface is repeatedly scattered and absorbed by particles along its path before reemerging from the outer interface, which determines its spectral radiance. We introduce a novel imaging method that enables the decomposition of the appearance of a fronto-parallel real-world surface into images of light with bounded path lengths, i.e., transient subsurface light transport. Our key idea is to observe each surface point under a variable ring light: a circular illumination pattern of increasingly larger radius centered on it. We show that the path length of light captured in each of these observations is naturally lower-bounded by the ring light radius. By taking the difference of ring light images of incrementally larger radii, we compute transient images that encode light with bounded path lengths. Experimental results on synthetic and complex real-world surfaces demonstrate that the recovered transient images reveal the subsurface structure of general translucent inhomogeneous surfaces. We further show that their differences reveal the surface colors at different surface depths. The proposed method is the first to enable the unveiling of dense and continuous subsurface structures from steady-state external appearance using ordinary camera and illumination.



This work was supported in part by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers JP15K21742, JP15H05918, and JP17K20143.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (mp4 75467 KB)

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Supplementary material 2 (pdf 8428 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ko Nishino
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Art Subpa-asa
    • 2
  • Yuta Asano
    • 2
  • Mihoko Shimano
    • 3
  • Imari Sato
    • 3
  1. 1.Kyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Tokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan
  3. 3.National Institute of InformaticsTokyoJapan

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