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ACUSTlCA· acta acustica

Vol. 82 (1996) 517 -525 © S. Hirzel Verlag· EAA 517

Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing - a New Algorithm for Room

Acoustics and Noise Immission Prognosis

Uwe M. Stephenson*
Fachhochschule Hamburg, Fachbereich Bauingenieurswesen, HebebrandstraBe I, 22297 Hamburg, Germany

Dedicated to Prof Heinrich Kuttruff on the occasion of his 65th birthday

Some ideas of a new room acoustical algorithm are outlined combining the advantages of three algorithms in one: the
mirror image source method, the sound particle simulation method and the radiosity method. Transient carriers of energy
are pyramidal beams ("pyrs") each representing a mirror image source which are split at each reflection or diffraction
thereby giving their energy to new pyrs. Above a certain reflection order, the pyrs are quantized with respect to source
position and solid angle. Their number is limited to an optimum. This Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing (QPBT)
converges to an efficient time dependent radiosity method, being able to take reflections and diffractions of higher
order into account but avoids the usually expected exponential increase in computation time. Applications concern not
only room acoustics but also the field of noise immission prognosis in a free field. Some fundamental properties of the
algorithm are discussed.
PACS no. 43.55.Ka, 43.58.Ta

1. State of the art are considered to represent constant solid angle fractions of
a spherical wave emitted from a point source. As with all
1.1. Algorithms of room acoustics numerical methods, additional errors have to be taken into
account. With ray tracing, this has to do with the fact that a
With increasing reflection order, the mirror image source
ray, i.e. an infinitesimally thin line, arbitrarily emitted from
(MIS) method (Borish, 1984), ray tracing methods (Krokstad
a source point almost never hits a receiver point. With other
et aI., 1968; Stephenson, 1985; Vian and v. Maercke, 1986)
words, 'pure ray tracing' does not exist. Either the rays or
and, for the reverberation tail, the radiosity method, prove
the receivers must be spatially extended.
to be most efficient. (The term 'radiosity' is well-known in
Rays with a non-vanishing cross section are called beams,
the fields of computer graphics and in lighting simulation,
which, in turn, may be cones with circular cross section
but, curious enough, not among acousticians - although the
or pyramids with polygonal cross sections. Cones have the
radiosity method is nothing else than the numerical formu-
advantage of ease of handling, however, the usually admit-
lation of Kuttruff's integral equation (Kuttruff, 1994).) It is
ted overlapping causes errors (Vian and v. Maercke, 1986).
presupposed here that the reader is familiar with the basic
This can be avoided by using pyramids, since all spaces of
concepts of mirror image source and ray tracing methods.
sound propagation are assumed to be approximately enclosed
Therefore, a short introduction and a quoting of only some
by polyhedra with polygons as walls and, hence, pyramidal
typical publications should be sufficient. However, as the dif-
beams of first order may each simply be built out of a wall
ferent assumptions and versions of these methods are often
polygon and the sound source point. Such a beam tracing
confused, especially the difference between ray and particle
(often implied by 'ray tracing') implies actually a scanning
tracing, the following classification may be useful.
of the room for MIS: Each time a receiver point is found to
The basic assumption of geometrical room acoustics i.e.
be within the beam the 1/r2-distance law of a point source
the optical limiting case of wavelengths small compared with
is applied. At reflections, beams are usually not split. Their
typical room dimensions is common to all methods consid-
new directions are determined by applying an appropriate
ered in this context. The MIS method is the most popular
reflection law to their 'middle rays'. Since in most cases a
method used for graphical ray constructions without com-
part of the beam's energy is reflected by neighbouring walls
puter. It replaces the situation of a source enclosed by a
this causes a scanning error - as it always occurs with a finite
polygonal room by a set of mirror sources in free field visible
number of rays. Pyramidal beams may be split according to
from a receiver, thus it is an indirect but deterministic algo-
the surface fractions which hit different walls of the room;
rithm. Ray tracing, on the other side, is a straight-forward
this avoids the scanning error (see below).
but statistical (or at least quasi-statistical) algorithm nec-
With strict ray tracing, the receivers are spatially extended
essarily depending on computers. Rays, as well as beams,
and are either spheres or cubes or of any shape. The sound
powers of rays or energies of 'sound particles' crossing these
Received 6 March 1995, to be published in ACUSTICA, 'detectors' are summed up. Thus the 1/r2-distance law is
accepted 23 J uly 1995. produced on average, in a statistical way. Concerning the
* Address until 1995: Fraunhofer-Institut fUr Bauphysik OBP),
tracing algorithm, there is no difference between particle and
Nobelstr. 12, 70569 Stuttgart, Germany ray tracing ('particles travel along rays'). The decisive differ-
ACUSTICA· acta acustica
518 U. M. Stephenson:A QuantizedPyramidalBeam Tracing Vol. 82 (1996)

ence lies in the method of detection: with ray tracing one asks considered as a hybrid method of the ray tracing and MIS
for intensities, with the particle model the energy density in a methods. Hybrid models (VorHignder, 1989; Naylor, 1992;
detector volume is the quantity directly computed. Therefore Heinz, 1993) make use of the advantage of the MIS method
the energies of crossing particles have to be weighted with the in yielding exact MIS ideal for auralization and of the ad-
inner crossing distances (or times). The idea is that the longer vantage of ray tracing in avoiding the exponential law of
a particle stays in the detector, the higher is its contribution computation time and replacing it by an L3-law. Recursive
to the energy density. (With stationary emitted sound power, pyramid tracing with splitting, finally is, as will be presented
the immitted energy density is proportional to the integral here, the most effective version of the MIS method.
over the whole echogramme; with an impulse experiment While the MIS method assumes specular reflections, ray
one may consider a short time averaged energy density.) It tracing methods may handle specular and diffuse reflections
is due to that weighting of the particle model that there is as well. Some combined algorithms (Naylor, 1992; Heinz,
no directivity for non-spherical detectors, their sensitivity 1993) exploit this ability. The radiosity method may be used
is exclusively proportional to their volume (which is often preferably for reverberation modelling as the diffusivity of
misunderstood). Only for ray tracing are spherical detectors reflections does not only increase with the 'roughness' of
required. Cubic detectors have a computational advantage as a surface but, due to its finite extension, also with the path
the algorithm to find the next detector being crossed by the length an incident ray has travelled from the source (one may
same particle is very effective (Stephenson, 1985). consider Fresnel zones on the surface). Many authors, espe-
With the radiosity method, radiation interchange depends cially those at Professor Kuttruff's institute, have considered
exclusively on the orientation of pairs of surface elements to the possibilities of combining the advantages of the different
each other (and to a source and receiver point). This permits methods. However, there is still a need for one single univer-
a matrix of constant form factors to be set up. The solution sal algorithm which is effective both for low and high order
of the corresponding linear system of equations yields the reflections, and for both specular and diffuse reflections.
local radiosity values as an eigenvector. A precondition is the
assumption of totally diffuse reflections, or, more crucially,
1.2. The tree problem of introducing diffraction into ray
"particles" must "forget" their past. All surfaces should be
subdivided into small elements of approximately equal size.
In summary, such a classification of numerical methods in For many problems of sound propagation, especially in a free
room acoustics reads as follows: field, diffraction must be taken into account. While in closed
rooms reflections or the direct sound dominate the sound field
wave theory (for low frequencies):
at almost every place, in free field shadow zones often oc-
finite or boundary element method (FEM or BEM)
cur where sound is incident exclusively via diffraction as for
geometrical theory (high frequencies):
example behind screening walls. While single screening can
specular reflections:
still be handled analytically, e.g. by the deviation approach,
- deterministic: MIS method
these methods fail with multiple screening, which often oc-
specular or diffuse reflections:
curs· with sound propagation in urban or industria] areas.
- statistical: ray tracing methods:
However, also in closed rooms, where apparently specular
- sound particle simulation (arbitrary detectors)
reflections dominate, diffraction occurs according to Babi-
- ray tracing with spherical detectors
net's principle, namely at the walls' edges, which causes
- beam tracing with point receivers:
diffusion to a certain extent. So far, diffraction is mainly a
- cone tracing
low frequency effect.
- pyramid tracing
Another cause of scattering and diffusion is the roughness
·no splitting (criterion: middle ray)
of the surfaces (e.g. at reliefs, stairs etc.), which becomes
,splitting (recursive)
important at higher frequencies. This is usually only glob-
diffuse reflections:
ally described by a diffusivity coefficient D attached to every
- radiosity method
wall (Stephenson, 1985). (D describes the extent to which
The disadvantages of the methods are the following. The the reflection is diffuse; D = 0 for specular reflections,
classical MIS method, with increasing reflection order L, D = 1for diffuse reflections, obeying Lambert's law.) In the
leads to an exponential increase of MIS which have to be field of auralization, it has turned out that rooms modelled
constructed but are increasingly invisible. Hence the MIS with specularly reflecting sound are 'unnatural'. The qua]-
method leads to an exponential increase of computation time ity of aura]ization, which depends more sensitively on high
and becomes ineffective (Stephenson, 1990a). Ray or parti- frequencies, may already be improved by the introduction of
cle tracing methods lead to an undersampling of the room some diffuse reflections.
structure with higher order, and thus also become ineffec- Therefore, diffraction should also be introduced into room
tive later. To reduce the computation time of ray tracing, a acoustics, not only in the somewhat crude way of using dif-
number of methods were tested, mainly based on spatial sub- fusivity coefficients but with a well-defined angular depen-
dividing techniques. For room acoustics, the voxel technique dence. In other words: It is desirable to extend the validity
is most efficient (Forsberg, 1985; Stephenson, I990b). Beam of ray tracing to the lower frequencies, where the usually
tracing, especially cone tracing, as mentioned above, can be assumed 'optical limiting case' is no longer valid and the
ACUSTlCA· acta acustica
Vol. 82 (1996) U. M. Stephenson: A Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing 519

Table 1. List of pyr data (to be stored dynamically for each pyr).

• type (quantized or not, diffracted or not)

• solid angle
• parameters of the last plane having been mirrored (truncating the pyr) for each frequency (octave) band:
• total sound energy (or power)
optionally if diffracted:
• the last source point before diffraction
• position and orientation of the diffracting edge
• diffraction angle around the edge
(with the help of these parameters, the correct angle and distance laws of edge diffraction may be applied
in each octave band)
if unquantized:
• source point (top of pyr)
• number of edges
for each edge:
• edge directional vector (normalized to I)
if quantized:
• quantum numbers nr, n{), n", for the position, and n();, ni3 for the direction which refer to the
actual position of the source point and the edge directional vectors of predefined pyr shapes

key parameters for sorting by "age":

• rtot = r + ro, where
r = distance from the source point of the unquantized pyr to the receiver and,
in the case of a diffracted pyr,
ro = total travelling distance of all foregoing pyrs
from the original source to that source point
• a key built from the quantum numbers nr, n{), n"" n();, ni3

wavelengths are no longer small compared to the room di- the amplitudes of the diffracted field, receiver points must
mensions. Especially for noise immission prognosis in a free be specified, whereas sound particles are just emitted with-
field, the incorporation of diffraction into ray tracing would out knowing receiver points in advance. With an interaction
make decisive progress. model (Stephenson, 1992), the 'bending strength' of an edge
was introduced decreasing with increasing bypass distance.
In general, the problem is neither how to compute reflec-
This was derived, somewhat heuristically, from the concept
tions nor how to compute diffraction, but how to simulate
that the particle would 'see' a diffracting slit whose width is
any combination of reflection and diffraction events, at least
proportional to the bypass distance. Sound particles passing
approximately. The localization of both reflection points on
by were not split but bent according to an appropriate prob-
(plane) surfaces and of diffraction points on (straight) edges
ability distribution. This model did not depend explicitly on
is governed by the Fermat principle. Thus all extremal paths
the edge-source or edge-receiver distances.
from any source to any receiver point have to be found. This
is, as with the MIS technique, a crucial algorithmical prob- Another similar sound particle diffraction model could
lem, except for some simple cases of the first order. Com- later be derived analytically from the Fresnel-Kirchhoff the-
plicated visibility and clipping problems have to be solved. ory (Stephenson, 1993). Here, the problem of deriving di-
Obviously, this type of algorithm must be inefficient as it may rectivity functions for sound particles to be diffracted when
be assumed that only rays passing near the diffracting edges passing an edge at a distance d was solved by considering the
of an environment really have to be treated. Hence, it is not change of transmission over a semi-infinite screen between
advisable to extend the classical MIS method by diffraction. a source and a receiver point due to a vertical shift just of
Straight-forward methods like the sound particle method d. With this model the reciprocity principle could be satis-
have the advantage that sound propagation is simulated fied. Furthermore, even with less particles, it came to better
directly, and thus events of sound particles passing near agreement with the known results of semi-infinite screen
diffracting edges may easily be detected. However, known diffraction. However, with both models, a large number of
diffraction formulae assume that rays hit edges exactly, sound particles have to be shot near to the edge to yield
whereas sound particles never do that. Also, to compute a "correct" distribution. The postulate of indivisible sound
ACUSTICA . acta acustica
520 U. M. Stephenson: A Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing Vol. 82 (1996)

particles was abandoned. Thus with each scattering event, are small compared with the room dimensions, incoherence
sound particles are split into several new ones. It had to be is presupposed and, as with sound particles, energies rather
recognized that staying with one particle and taking the di- than amplitudes are considered. Thus, pyrs are carriers of
rectional distribution as a probability distribution would not energies of different frequency bands (or sound powers with
save computational time as, to the same extent, more sound stationary radiating sources). In summary, a pyr is a tran-
particles had to be emitted from the source which costs even sient carrier of a certain amount of energy of diverging shape
higher computational effort. (transient, as each pyr is going to be split). A complete pyr
However, with higher orders of diffraction, splitting im- data structure is given in Table I.
plies a recursive algorithm, a tree structure of ray tracing,
which makes the computation time explode. Thus all the ad- At the same time, a pyr is equivalent to a MIS with a limited
vantages of the above-mentioned efficient algorithms and of range of radiation and visibility. In contrast to cones, which
the hybrid methods are again destroyed. Also, a simple trun- cause overlapping problems (Vian and v. Maercke, 1986), the
cating of the tree, e.g. above a fixed scattering order, would advantage of pyrs is that the whole solid angle can be densely
not be correct in any case (as the immitted energy rather than covered. At each mirroring at a wall, the wall's edges clip the
the order should be the truncation criterion; however, the pyr, the pyr is mirrored and split up into new ones (Figure I.)
immitted energy is not predictable in advance). In general, wherein the energy which is transported by the pyr is divided
against such an exponential increase of computation time into portions according to the ratio of the cross-sections. The
only a qualitatively new algorithm will help. sum of the solid angles of all the "children" of a MIS equals
the solid angle of the "mother" pyr (Kristiansen et aI., 1993).
The decisive point is, that, during the recursive mirroring,
more and more combinations are dropped, never visible MIS
2. Proposed solutions
(not visible from any receiver point) are never constructed,
2.1. Overcoming the tree structure hence, the tree does not grow exponentially, but only, by
physical reasons, with the reflection order L to the third
The basic idea behind the present work was the following. power. The degree of splitting decreases to I, and thus the
Within an enclosure where the total energy decreases with mirroring converges against the non-splitting beam tracing
time, it cannot make sense to follow an exponentially in- (Figure 2.). In contrast to that kind of pyr tracing, with the
creasing number of particles, particularly because details of classical MIS method, invisible MIS of the Lth order may
the sound field become less audible with decay time. (The have visible "children", MIS of the (L + l)th order, and,
diffusivity and hence the degree of splitting itself is even hence, for every receiver point, an exponentially growing
increasing with reflection order.) Why then is the radiosity number of MIS has to be tested. Thus pyr tracing is equivalent
method so efficient, although it handles diffuse reflections to the MIS method being its probably most efficient version
which can be considered to be a kind of diffraction? Energy (presumably equivalent to the method of Lee (Lee and Lee,
flows are not only split but also re-unified! The number of 1988), which, however is explained less clearly).
"rays" or paths of energy interchange remains KJ (if Ko is
the number of wall elements). To realize this procedure with However, the intersection of pyrs with polygons, and clip-
sound particles, the sound particles would have to be traced ping of the pyrs by "barring" walls of non-convex rooms is
in parallel and it has to be checked which sound particles are more complicated than with ray tracing. While with ray trac-
approximately at the same place and travel in approxiately the ing, at each reflection within a loop over all walls, a point-
same direction. However, a statistical analysis showed that in-polygon-test has to be performed, with pyr tracing the
the probability for that coincidence is extremely small, and two-dimensional problem of a polygon-polygon-intersection
the computation time would explode before recombinations has to be solved. The overlapping polygons each form a re-
occur. Hence, the sound particle model has to be abandoned! flected pyr, the remaining polygon is tested for intersection
A method to overcome the tedious searching for coincidence with another wall etc. (see the splitting of fans in the two-
is the "sorting" of energy into pre-defined quantized energy dimensional case of Figure I). This is continued until the pyr
carriers of standardized form. Thus not only should the room is entirely split (and possibly a remaining polygon is trans-
surface be quantized as with radiosity, and not only the di- mitted without reflection). Each pyr is recursively traced and
rectional space as with ray tracing, but both of them should split again etc. It can be shown that, with continued split-
be quantized! This lead to the idea of "pyrs". ting, the shape of the pyrs does not become more and more
"cleft", i.e. does not develop more edges. (The whole pyr
tracing algorithm is summarized in Table II.)
2.2. First step: The introduction of pyrs
A pyr is a beam of polygonal cross-section originating from a Detection, i.e. the computation of immission, is finally
source point being the top of an infinite pyramid. Hence, each handled in the same way as with every beam tracing or MIS
pyr is limited by a number of edge rays and the planes be- method. During pyr tracing, an energy per cross section (or
tween those rays. A pyr may also be truncated by a plane i.e. an intensity respectively) is detected from all receiver points
the wall at which it was last reflected. According to the typi- lying within a pyr beam and summed up corresponding to
cal room acoustical point of view, assuming that wavelengths the distance from the top of the pyr, the MIS.
ACUSTlCA· acta acustica
Vol. 82 (1996) U. M. Stephenson: A Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing 521

5124 not constructable


Figure I. Mirroring of pyrs (here, two-dimensional fans, such that i
solid angle ranges of visibility are simply replaced by angularranges. ..-j-
S: source points). An example that not all combinations are possible;
here Pyrl2 does not cover wall 4 and hence is not split into a Pyrl24
--- --- \.


with MIS Sl24 as a source point, thus the number of MIS does not
increase exponentially but only with L~ (see Figures 2 and 7). s
diffracted pyrs

Figure 3. Zones of reflected and diffracted pyrs at an inner wedge of a
room; a) (above) from the side; the diffracting edge is perpendicular
to the drawing plane, b) (below) from above. S: source, S': mirror
Image source.

}f Another approach mainly aims at an exact modelling of the
directivity of diffraction, assuming edges rather than surfaces
as the basic elements of diffraction. For that purpose, some
Figure 2. Tree of recursive pyr tracing: the degree of splitting de-
pyrs of the above-mentioned type may be emitted either from
creases with higher mirroring order to I.
some edge zones on the surfaces near edges, or from points
on the edges themselves. A more accurate, and at the same
time more efficient, model replaces the source points of pyrs
2.3. Second step; The introduction of diffraction
by source edges of finite length, (thus creating a type of
In the context of pyr tracing, different approaches to diffrac- pyr which no longer actually possesses a pyramidal shape).
tion are possible. With a typical room acoustical approach, The edge source of such a pyr is the diffracting edge or that
diffraction is considered as a special case of scattering caused fraction of an edge which was within an incident pyr. The
by "rough" surfaces (Stephenson, 1985; Naylor, 1992; Heinz, position of the previous source point of that pyr must also
1993). For that purpose, another type of pyr may be created be saved as a parameter of diffraction. In addition to the
whose source points, according to Huygens's principle, sit reflected pyr and the transmitted rest pyr, at least 3 new pyrs
on the scattering surfaces themselves instead of being be- are emitted from the diffracting edge (Figure 3a): into the
hind them. The usual 1/r2 distance law is now valid from shadow zone, into the visible zone and into the reflection
that secondary source point, to which a certain energy (or zone. All these pyrs have 4 edges, 2 from each end point of
power) was assigned according to the overlap of the scatter- the part of the diffracting edge being hit by the incident pyr.
ing surface with the incident pyr. With another, even more From Fermat's principle of shortest deviation, all the edge
simple model for the case of rough surfaces, a geometri- diffracted rays must lie on cones (Keller, 1962). Therefore,
cally constructed MIS (the pyr's source point) is randomly the 4 edge rays of these pyrs lie at the same time on cones
shifted in the outer space causing, equivalent to the model whose apertures are determined from the aperture of the
of diffuse ray reflection, a shift of the beam's direction. The incident pyr (Figure 3b), and on two planes with the same
total distance travelled from the original source to the pyr's diffraction angles. (Diffraction angles are measured around
source point ro must be saved. An appropriate number, q, of the edge relative to the plane of the incident pyr built by the
secondary pyrs is emitted. source point with the edge.)
ACUSTICA· acta acustica
522 U. M. Stephenson: A Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing Vol. 82 (1996)

These diffracted "pyrs" may be traced in the same way

as the reflected type of real pyramids, but they carry an-
other distance and angle law for the case of detection by
receiver points obeying the principles of edge diffraction (no
longer the simple point source law). That is, amplitudes de-
pend not only on the edge-receiver distance but also on the
source-edge distance, and the diffraction angle. For this pur-
pose, the "Geometrical Theory of Diffraction" (GTD) (Keller,
1962) may be applied, as an asymptotic high frequency so-
lution for hard or soft wedges. As an improvement which
yields, furthermore, the required smooth transitions at the
shadow and reflection boundaries (Figure 3a) a "Uniform
Theory of Diffraction" (UTD) was developed (Kouyoumjian
and Pathak, 1974). (All these approaches are described in
(Schroth and Stein, 1985).) As the GTD or the UTD yield am-
plitude functions including interference effects, these func-
tions are typically made for single frequencies and, hence,
are strongly frequency dependent, which is not very suitable
for the present purpose. Within the energy model of pyr trac-
ing made for relatively wide frequency bands, appropriate
averaged energy functions for each frequency band and for Figure 4. Quantization of pyrs with respect to position and direction:
the different zones of interference will have to be found. To grid of MIS cells around the original room. S: source, R: receiver.
account for the 'correction' due to diffraction, this implies
negative energies e.g. for the pyr diffracted into the visible
zone. This is one problem of the method. generalization of the radiosity method would not be suffi-
Another problem is how to handle double or multiple cient. Also, a (KoJo)2-matrix, in general, would burst any
diffraction. However, with pyr tracing, this is no longer an computer memory (consider Ko = Jo = 1000). On the
algorithmical problem, but only a question of approxima- other hand, if one considers the MIS model, the number of
tion. It will be reasonable to assume independent subsequent mirror image sources increases drastically, too, namely pro-
diffractions, or more accurately, edge diffraction for incident portionally to their order to the third power. However, with
spherical waves for edges which are more than a few wave- increasing distance, it becomes less important exactly where
lengths apart from each other. A similar approach based on the MIS are. Hence the quantization of the "sky of the mirror
pyramidal beams handling reflections and diffractions has image sources" (Figure 4) suggests itself.
already been published (Jaroch et ai., 1990). Each cell of the MIS space is thus described by 3 quantum
Thus another decisive advantage of the pyr concept be- numbers according to the spherical co-ordinates r, 1J, <p (i.e.
comes obvious. The possibly recursive splitting procedure r, 1J, <p are discretized). r is counted best from a receiver
due to diffraction does not differ qualitatively from the split- point in the original room rather than from the source, such
ting by specular reflection at edges. However, the above- that r is proportional to the total time delay of a reflection
mentioned efficiency of pyr tracing (diminishing splitting as noticed by the receiver. (With many receivers this is not
factors) vanishes: the number of pyrs again would explode exactly achievable for all of them at the same time; this,
(see Figure 7.) however, causes only some inefficiency, see the remark at
the beginning of section 3. In any case, pyrs are constructed
only once, not repeatedly for each receiver.) Now, any pyr's
2.4. Third step: Quantization of pyrs source point, after splitting and mirroring (see Figure I) falls
into such a MIS cell and is shifted ("rectified") to the middle
So far, the special power of the pyr concept with respect to of the cell (see Figure 4). This is the spatial quantization (or
re-unification has not yet been exploited. Therefore, a quan- discretization). However, for later sorting, and in order to
tization is needed. Having the appropriate capability of the avoid an adding of the quantization errors, an unquantized
radiosity method in mind, one might intend to introduce an value of r is retained. To achieve a finite number of MIS
additional quantization of the half space in front of each sur- cells, one might propose to quantize the radial parameter r
face patch into Jo directions, and to replace Lambert's law such that not Llr but Ll(I/r) is constant. This, however, is
by a reference to a scattering matrix in order to account also not necessary as a dynamical storage is planned. Hence, Llr
for partly geometrical reflections. However, to preserve the may be constant. Since also Ll1J and LlO = sin 1JLl1JLl<p
correct distance law, the information about the path lengths should be approximately constant, the volume of the MIS
must not be lost and the energies of "rays" having travelled cells is proportional to r2 or to the reflection order L2, hence
different distances from the source must not be mixed to- their number per reflection order is constant.
gether, but stored in different memory places. In general, a In a second step of quantization, the energy of the pyr is
time dependent solution is needed. Therefore, such a simple distributed over several new pyrs of quantized solid angle
ACUSTICA· acta acustica
Vol. 82 (1996) U. M. Stephenson: A Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing 523

_ visible MIS
construc- ,..." no. 01 pyrs
table MIS , _ L'3
: _ KoL
-- re-unification

/ pyr tracing
pyr -~--------- Mo

ray tracing method

filling with
energy according
to the fraction
of overlap

L = order of reflection or scattering

Figure 5. Geometry for the directional quantization of pyrs (here two- Figure 7. Comparison of different numerical methods with respect
dimensional fans); quantized pyrs of pre-defined shape are filled with to the growth of the number of energy carriers Ko= number of
sound energy according to the directional overlap with the former walls (polygons), q= splitting factor with scattering, No= number of
unquantized pyr. emitted sound particles, Mo= max. and opt. number of pyrs.

Note, that (in contrast to (Naylor, 1992) and (Lewers,

quantization with respect to source position and radiation angles
1993» specular and diffuse reflections may occur in any
-------------------- order; therefore, specular reflections (at large and smooth
walls) may also happen again after diffuse ones. This, how-
mirroring ever, will seldom be the case, as with increasing distance from
scattering the source reflections will become more and more diffuse,
until, within the reverberation tail, energy is interchanged
almost exclusively by diffuse reflections.
unquantized The decisive moments are now those where a pyr's top
and falls into a MIS cell already occupied by a pyr of the same
directional range. These are the events of the desired re-
unification of pyrs to truncate the useless increase of energy
carriers and the storage need (Figures 6 and 7).
Figure 6. Above a certain reflection order, pyrs are sorted into quan-
Furthermore, re-unification will happen more frequently
tized standard beams (here symbolically columns) thus avoiding a
further exponential increase. with increasing reflection order, L, as the number of MIS
increases, as L2, whereas the number of MIS cells of same
order remains constant. However, to make use of this, an
ranges directed towards the original room (Figure 4). (The almost parallel pyr tracing is required.
term 'quantization' denotes here the crucial quantization or
discretization of solid angles rather than of energies as in
quantum physics; the' content' of a pyr, its energy, may have 3. The algorithm of quantized pyramidal beam tracing
any value.) However, the solid angles need not be computed
in most cases, as the energy per solid angle remains con- With each mirroring, the top of a pyr drifts outwards in the
stant except for the pyrs at the side where these values are MIS space. (Actually, this is only the case for image sources
interpolated according to the degree of directional overlap visible from that receiver point which is the origin of the
(Figure 5). These quantized pyrs should cover almost a con- MIS space. As an exception, the "child" of a MIS might also
stant solid angle and may be of any convenient form, e.g. come nearer to the origin but, due to the causality principle, it
triangular (subdividing the triangle surfaces of an icosahe- must be invisible from there and hence irrelevant. However,
dron (Lewers, 1993», or quadratic (subdividing a cube). Of with several receiver points, it might be visible from another
course, quantization errors such as the violation of the vis- receiver point.) Thus during parallel pyr tracing, a "cloud" of
ibility conditions for MIS must be taken into account. The occupied MIS cells drifts outwards. Its radial range is limited
same, except for the spatial quantization, is also valid for to twice the room diagonal. This makes it possible to release
the diffracted pyrs. Each pyr is completely described by the the computer storage for inner cells and use it again for newly
parameters listed in Table I. created pyrs in outer cells. This means a dynamical pyr data
ACUSTICA· acta acustica
524 U. M. Stephenson: A Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing Vol. 82 (1996)

Table II. Rough outline of the algorithm of QPBT.

in initial state:
take the original source
find the "oldest" pyr
loop over all walls (polygons) (:::splitting procedure)
for each wall (at least partly visible from the source):
if direct sound:
built a pyr from the source and the wall
test whether pyr intersects wall at least partly
if yes
project the pyr onto the wall
compute the common cross section (polygon-polygon intersection)
mirror the pyr (the rest is automatically handled)
loop over all receiver points
if point is within pyr
compute immission (if diffracted according diffraction laws)
if age rtot is greater than quantization boundary
quantize (rectify) the pyr's top position
loop over predefined quantized pyrs
find pyrs with directional overlap
sort initial pyr into quantized pyrs (inherit energy)
until age rtot exceeds given limit or pyr energy is negligible

processing but also requires parallel processing. To minimize 4. An interpretation of quantized pyramidal beam
the computational effort and to make use of the radiallimita- tracing
tion, the "oldest", i.e. most inner pyr should always be treated
first, i.e. mirrored, rectified and quantized. Then it "dies" and The secret of QPBT can be seen as a direct analogy to popu-
leaves its energy to "new born" or already "living" pyrs (the lation development. Although everybody has a tree of gener-
latter case is an event of reunification of pyr energies). The ations in the past ("parents") and a tree of generations in the
principle "oldest first" means a continuous overtaking pro- future ("children") the whole population does not necessarily
cess rather than a parallel process. In spite ofthat continuous grow exponentially. The simple reason: man must die. Disre-
"inheritance" of energy, the total number of "living", i.e. oc- garding absorption, the total heritage of the "society ofpyrs",
cupied pyrs does not exceed a given maximum (optimized i.e. the total energy, remains constant. Energy is distributed,
according to the computer memory) but only approaches it, in the beginning more regularly, with increasing reflection
varying statistically (Figure 7). order and time with increasing diffusion (entropy).
For repetition, the process of immission, i.e. computing
energy densities, echogrammes etc. with QPBT, is the same 5. Remaining problems and conclusion
as with the well known MIS method and need not be ex-
plained. The tops of the pyrs, whether quantized or not, may QPBT is an algorithm well adapted to specular reflection,
be handled as MIS, and the receivers gain energy, if lying diffraction and diffusion of sound in rooms. Although more
within the pyr. The directivity of the sources as well as of details of the algorithm have been developed than are de-
the listeners may be introduced. Room acoustical parameters scribed here, some problems of dynamical storage and ac-
may be computed in the approved way. Obviously, aural- cess of pyr data still have to be solved such as rapid access
ization is possible, too. (The time interval of pyr quantiza- according to two different keys (distance r and quantum num-
tion has nothing to do with the sampling rate.) Moreover, bers), the three-dimensional overlap of pyrs, approximations
echogrammes may be computed at the same time for differ- of multiple diffraction, the quantization of diffracted pyrs,
ent frequency bands with different degrees of diffusivity - etc .. The total algorithm is yet to be tested. With the archi-
another advantage of QPBT. Impulse responses may be de- tecture of this algorithm, problems of multiple reflection and
rived from echogrammes in the known manner, e.g. as in the diffraction of sound propagation mainly in the free field,
(Heinz, 1993). The total recursive algorithm is outlined in which have been unsolved for a long time, may possibly be
Table II. solved in reasonable computation times.
ACUSTICA· acta aeustiea
Vol. 82 (1996) U. M. Stephenson: A Quantized Pyramidal Beam Tracing 525

Acknowledgement Krokstad, A., Strom, P., and Sorsdahl, P. (1968). Calculating the
acoustical room response by the use of the ray tracing technique.
J. Sound Vib. 8, 118-125.
The idea of QPBT was developed at the Institute for Telecom-
Kuttruff, K. H. (1994). Sound decay in enclosures with non-diffuse
munications, Acoustics Group, of the Norwegian Institute of sound fields. Proc. WC.Sabine Centennial Symposium, Cam-
Technology (NTH), Trondheim in 1992. The author grate- bridge, Mass. (USA), 1pAAa3.
fully acknowledges funding from the Norwegian Research Lee, H. and Lee, B.-H. (1988). An efficient algorithm for the image
Council for this study. The author is indebted for support and model technique. Appl. Acoustics 24,87-115.
Lewers, T. (1993). A combined beam tracing and radiant exchange
many fruitful discussions to Professor U. R. Kristiansen and computer model of room acoustics. Appl. Acoustics 38, 161-178.
Professor A. Krokstad (NTH), to K. NaBhan (IBP) and, last Naylor, G. (1992). Treatment of early and late reflections in a hybrid
but not least, Professor H. Kuttruff (Institute for Technical computer model for room acoustics. Proc. of 124th ASA" New
Acoustics, Aachen) - at whose institute the author's work on Orleans, 3aAAZ.
Schroth, A. and Stein, V. (1985). Moderne numerische Verfahren
sound particles began 15 years ago (Stephenson, 1985). zur Losung von Antennen- und Streuproblemen. Oldenburg,
Stephenson, U. M. (1985). Eine Schallteilchen-Computer-
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