Here’s an early exploration into using neural networks for guiding Monte Carlo integration, from Disney Research. Interestingly, they note how their learned models can be adapted to slightly modified scenes (e.g. changes in camera) and that might make it quite applicable to optimizing renders of animations.
We propose to use deep neural networks for generating samples in Monte Carlo integration. Our work is based on non-linear independent component analysis, which we extend in numerous ways to improve performance and enable its application to integration problems. First, we introduce piecewise-polynomial coupling transforms that greatly increase the modeling power of individual coupling layers. Second, we propose to preprocess the inputs of neural networks using one-blob encoding, which stimulates localization of computation and improves inference. Third, we derive a gradient-descent-based optimization for the KL and the χ2 divergence for the specific application of Monte Carlo integration with stochastic estimates of the target distribution. Our approach enables fast and accurate inference and efficient sample generation independent of the dimensionality of the integration domain. We demonstrate the benefits of our approach for generating natural images and in two applications to light-transport simulation. First, we show how to learn joint path-sampling densities in primary sample space and how to importance sample multi-dimensional path prefixes thereof. Second, we use our technique to extract conditional directional densities driven by the triple product of the rendering equation, and leverage them for path guiding. In all applications, our approach yields on-par or higher performance at equal sample count than competing techniques.
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