Rendering Iridescent Rock Dove Neck Feathers

Weizhen Huang, Sebastian Merzbach, Clara Callenberg, Doekele G. Stavenga, Matthias B. Hullin
In Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2022 (Conference Papers), 2022.


Bird feathers exhibit fascinating reflectance, which is governed by fiber-like structures. Unlike hair and fur, the feather geometric structures follow intricate hierarchical patterns that span many orders of magnitude in scale. At the smallest scales, fiber elements have strongly non-cylindrical cross-sections and are often complemented by regular nanostructures, causing rich structural color. Therefore, past attempts to render feathers using fiber- or texture-based appearance models missed characteristic aspects of the visual appearance. We introduce a new feather modeling and rendering framework, which abstracts the microscopic geometry and reflectance into a microfacet-like BSDF. The R, TRT and T lobes, also known from hair and fur, here account for specular reflection off the cortex, diffuse reflection off the medulla, and transmission due to barbule spacing, respectively. Our BSDF, which does not require precomputation or storage, can be efficiently importance-sampled and readily integrated into rendering pipelines that represent feather geometry down to the barb level. We verify our approach using a BSDF-capturing setup for small biological structures, as well as against calibrated photographs of rock dove neck feathers.