Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Degree Program

Electrical Engineering, PhD

Committee Chair

Farag, Aly A.

Committee Member

Starr, Thomas L.

Committee Member

Graham, James H.

Committee Member

Cohn, Robert W.

Committee Member

Abd El Munim, Hossam Eldin H.

Author's Keywords

Computer vision; shape reconstruction; computer graphics; frequency space representation; illumination modeling


Computer vision; Pattern recognition systems; Image processing--Digital techniques


Various vision tasks are usually confronted by appearance variations due to changes of illumination. For instance, in a recognition system, it has been shown that the variability in human face appearance is owed to changes to lighting conditions rather than person's identity. Theoretically, due to the arbitrariness of the lighting function, the space of all possible images of a fixed-pose object under all possible illumination conditions is infinite dimensional. Nonetheless, it has been proven that the set of images of a convex Lambertian surface under distant illumination lies near a low dimensional linear subspace. This result was also extended to include non-Lambertian objects with non-convex geometry. As such, vision applications, concerned with the recovery of illumination, reflectance or surface geometry from images, would benefit from a low-dimensional generative model which captures appearance variations w.r.t. illumination conditions and surface reflectance properties. This enables the formulation of such inverse problems as parameter estimation. Typically, subspace construction boils to performing a dimensionality reduction scheme, e.g. Principal Component Analysis (PCA), on a large set of (real/synthesized) images of object(s) of interest with fixed pose but different illumination conditions. However, this approach has two major problems. First, the acquired/rendered image ensemble should be statistically significant vis-a-vis capturing the full behavior of the sources of variations that is of interest, in particular illumination and reflectance. Second, the curse of dimensionality hinders numerical methods such as Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) which becomes intractable especially with large number of large-sized realizations in the image ensemble. One way to bypass the need of large image ensemble is to construct appearance subspaces using phenomenological models which capture appearance variations through mathematical abstraction of the reflection process. In particular, the harmonic expansion of the image irradiance equation can be used to derive an analytic subspace to represent images under fixed pose but different illumination conditions where the image irradiance equation has been formulated in a convolution framework. Due to their low-frequency nature, irradiance signals can be represented using low-order basis functions, where Spherical Harmonics (SH) has been extensively adopted. Typically, an ideal solution to the image irradiance (appearance) modeling problem should be able to incorporate complex illumination, cast shadows as well as realistic surface reflectance properties, while moving away from the simplifying assumptions of Lambertian reflectance and single-source distant illumination. By handling arbitrary complex illumination and non-Lambertian reflectance, the appearance model proposed in this dissertation moves the state of the art closer to the ideal solution. This work primarily addresses the geometrical compliance of the hemispherical basis for representing surface reflectance while presenting a compact, yet accurate representation for arbitrary materials. To maintain the plausibility of the resulting appearance, the proposed basis is constructed in a manner that satisfies the Helmholtz reciprocity property while avoiding high computational complexity. It is believed that having the illumination and surface reflectance represented in the spherical and hemispherical domains respectively, while complying with the physical properties of the surface reflectance would provide better approximation accuracy of image irradiance when compared to the representation in the spherical domain. Discounting subsurface scattering and surface emittance, this work proposes a surface reflectance basis, based on hemispherical harmonics (HSH), defined on the Cartesian product of the incoming and outgoing local hemispheres (i.e. w.r.t. surface points). This basis obeys physical properties of surface reflectance involving reciprocity and energy conservation. The basis functions are validated using analytical reflectance models as well as scattered reflectance measurements which might violate the Helmholtz reciprocity property (this can be filtered out through the process of projecting them on the subspace spanned by the proposed basis, where the reciprocity property is preserved in the least-squares sense). The image formation process of isotropic surfaces under arbitrary distant illumination is also formulated in the frequency space where the orthogonality relation between illumination and reflectance bases is encoded in what is termed as irradiance harmonics. Such harmonics decouple the effect of illumination and reflectance from the underlying pose and geometry. Further, a bilinear approach to analytically construct irradiance subspace is proposed in order to tackle the inherent problem of small-sample-size and curse of dimensionality. The process of finding the analytic subspace is posed as establishing a relation between its principal components and that of the irradiance harmonics basis functions. It is also shown how to incorporate prior information about natural illumination and real-world surface reflectance characteristics in order to capture the full behavior of complex illumination and non-Lambertian reflectance. The use of the presented theoretical framework to develop practical algorithms for shape recovery is further presented where the hitherto assumed Lambertian assumption is relaxed. With a single image of unknown general illumination, the underlying geometrical structure can be recovered while accounting explicitly for object reflectance characteristics (e.g. human skin types for facial images and teeth reflectance for human jaw reconstruction) as well as complex illumination conditions. Experiments on synthetic and real images illustrate the robustness of the proposed appearance model vis-a-vis illumination variation. Keywords: computer vision, computer graphics, shading, illumination modeling, reflectance representation, image irradiance, frequency space representations, {hemi)spherical harmonics, analytic bilinear PCA, model-based bilinear PCA, 3D shape reconstruction, statistical shape from shading.