The **light field** is a vector function that describes the amount of light flowing in every direction through every point in space. The space of all possible light rays is given by the five-dimensional **plenoptic function**, and the magnitude of each ray is given by the radiance. Michael Faraday was the first to propose (in an 1846 lecture entitled "Thoughts on Ray Vibrations"^{[1]}) that light should be interpreted as a field, much like the magnetic fields on which he had been working for several years. The phrase *light field* was coined by Andrey Gershun in a classic paper on the radiometric properties of light in three-dimensional space (1936).

If the concept is restricted to geometric optics—i.e., to incoherent light and to objects larger than the wavelength of light—then the fundamental carrier of light is a ray. The measure for the amount of light traveling along a ray is radiance, denoted by *L* and measured in watts *(W)* per steradian *(sr)* per meter squared *(m ^{2})*. The steradian is a measure of solid angle, and meters squared are used here as a measure of cross-sectional area, as shown at right.

The radiance along all such rays in a region of three-dimensional space illuminated by an unchanging arrangement of lights is called the plenoptic function (Adelson 1991). The plenoptic illumination function is an idealized function used in computer vision and computer graphics to express the image of a scene from any possible viewing position at any viewing angle at any point in time. It is never actually used in practice computationally, but is conceptually useful in understanding other concepts in vision and graphics (Wong 2002). Since rays in space can be parameterized by three coordinates, *x*, <

If the concept is restricted to geometric optics—i.e., to incoherent light and to objects larger than the wavelength of light—then the fundamental carrier of light is a ray. The measure for the amount of light traveling along a ray is radiance, denoted by *L* and measured in watts *(W)* per steradian *(sr)* per meter squared *(m ^{2})*. The steradian is a measure of solid angle, and meters squared are used here as a measure of cross-sectional area, as shown at right.

The radiance along all such rays in a region of three-dimensional space illuminated by an unchanging arrangement of lights is called the plenoptic function (Adelson 1991). The plenoptic illumination function is an idealized function used in computer vision and computer graphics to express the image of a scene from any possible viewing position at any viewing angle at any point in time. It is never actually used in practice computationally, but is conceptually useful in understanding other concepts in vision and graphics (Wong 2002). Since rays in space can be parameterized by three coordinates, *x*, *y*, and *z* and two angles *θ* and *ϕ*, as shown at left, it is a five-dimensional function, that is, a function over a five-dimensional manifold equivalent to the product of 3D Euclidean space and the 2-sphere.

Like Adelson, Gershun defined the light field at each point in space as a 5D function. However, he treated it as an infinite collection of vectors, one per direction impinging on the point, with lengths proportional to their radiances.

Integrating these vectors over any collection of lights, or over the entire sphere of directions, produces a single scalar value—the *total irradiance* at that point, and a resultant direction. The figure at right, reproduced from Gershun's paper, shows this calculation for the case of two light sources. In computer graphics, this vector-valued function of 3D space is called the *vector irradiance field* (Arvo, 1994). The vector direction at each point in the field can be interpreted as the

The radiance along all such rays in a region of three-dimensional space illuminated by an unchanging arrangement of lights is called the plenoptic function (Adelson 1991). The plenoptic illumination function is an idealized function used in computer vision and computer graphics to express the image of a scene from any possible viewing position at any viewing angle at any point in time. It is never actually used in practice computationally, but is conceptually useful in understanding other concepts in vision and graphics (Wong 2002). Since rays in space can be parameterized by three coordinates, *x*, *y*, and *z* and two angles *θ* and *ϕ*, as shown at left, it is a five-dimensional function, that is, a function over a five-dimensional manifold equivalent to the product of 3D Euclidean space and the 2-sphere.

Like Adelson, Gershun defined the light field at each point in space as a 5D function. However, he treated it as an infinite collection of vectors, one per direction impinging on the point, with lengths proportional to their radiances.
### Higher dimensionality

## The 4D light field

Integrating these vectors over any collection of lights, or over the entire sphere of directions, produces a single scalar value—the *total irradiance* at that point, and a resultant direction. The figure at right, reproduced from Gershun's paper, shows this calculation for the case of two light sources. In computer graphics, this vector-valued function of 3D space is called the *vector irradiance field* (Arvo, 1994). The vector direction at each point in the field can be interpreted as the orientation one would face a flat surface placed at that point to most brightly illuminate it.

One can

Integrating these vectors over any collection of lights, or over the entire sphere of directions, produces a single scalar value—the *total irradiance* at that point, and a resultant direction. The figure at right, reproduced from Gershun's paper, shows this calculation for the case of two light sources. In computer graphics, this vector-valued function of 3D space is called the *vector irradiance field* (Arvo, 1994). The vector direction at each point in the field can be interpreted as the orientation one would face a flat surface placed at that point to most brightly illuminate it.

One can consider time, wavelength, and polarization angle as additional variables, yielding higher-dimensional functions.

In a plenoptic function, if the region of interest contains a concave object (think of a cupped hand), then light leaving one point on the object may travel only a short distance before being blocked by another point on the object. No practical device could measure the function in such a region.
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*## Ways to create light fields

## Notes

However, if we restrict ourselves to locations outside the convex hull (think shrink-wrap) of the object, i.e. in free space, then we can measure the plenoptic function by taking many photos using a digital camera. Moreover, in this case the function contains redundant information, because the radiance along a ray remains constant from point to point along its length, as shown at left. In fact, the redundant information is exactly one dimension, leaving us with a four-dimensional function (that is, a function of points in a particular four-dimensional manifold). Parry Moon dubbed this function the *photic fieldHowever, if we restrict ourselves to locations outside the convex hull (think shrink-wrap) of the object, i.e. in free space, then we can measure the plenoptic function by taking many photos using a digital camera. Moreover, in this case the function contains redundant information, because the radiance along a ray remains constant from point to point along its length, as shown at left. In fact, the redundant information is exactly one dimension, leaving us with a four-dimensional function (that is, a function of points in a particular four-dimensional manifold). Parry Moon dubbed this function the photic field (1981), while researchers in computer graphics call it the 4D light field (Levoy 1996) or Lumigraph (Gortler 1996). Formally, the 4D light field is defined as radiance along rays in empty space.
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*The set of rays in a light field can be parameterized in a variety of ways, a few of which are shown below. Of these, the most common is the two-plane parameterization shown at right (below). While this parameterization cannot represent all rays, for example rays parallel to the two planes if the planes are parallel to each other, it has the advantage of relating closely to the analytic geometry of perspective imaging. Indeed, a simple way to think about a two-plane light field is as a collection of perspective images of the st plane (and any objects that may lie astride or beyond it), each taken from an observer position on the uv plane. A light field parameterized this way is sometimes called a light slab.
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*The analog of the 4D light field for sound is the sound field or wave field, as in wave field synthesis, and the corresponding parametrization is the Kirchhoff-Helmholtz integral, which states that, in the absence of obstacles, a sound field over time is given by the pressure on a plane. Thus this is two dimensions of information at any point in time, and over time a 3D field.
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*This two-dimensionality, compared with the apparent four-dimensionality of light, is because light travels in rays (0D at a point in time, 1D over time), while by Huygens–Fresnel principle, a sound wave front can be modeled as spherical waves (2D at a point in time, 3D over time): light moves in a single direction (2D of information), while sound simply expands in every direction. However, light travelling in non-vacuous media may scatter in a similar fashion, and the irreversibility or information lost in the scattering is discernible in the apparent loss of a system dimension.
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**^**Faraday, Michael (30 April 2009). "LIV. Thoughts on ray-vibrations".*Philosophical Magazine*. Series 3.**28**(188): 345–350. doi:10.1080/14786444608645431. Archived from the original on 2013-02-18.