An octree is a tree in which every node is either a leaf or has 8 children. It's very similar to the BVH acceleration structure we implemented for model raycasting. Like the BVH, the octree is also an acceleration structure.

Unlike the BVH structure, Octree's are not usually sparse. That means we don't shake the tree. Every node has 8 children or no children. There are many octree variations out there, we are going to implement the simplest one.

There are schemes where an object belongs to multiple octre nodes, schemes where octree node boundries are fuzzy, and some really crazy implementations i can't follow. What makes our implementaiton simple is that each object will belong to exactly 1 octree node. This is not the most efficient octree implementation, but it's the basic one.

Acceleration structure

We're going to explore how the octree can be used as an acceleration structure to speed up raycasting into our scene. The idea is almost the same as the BVH we created earlyer.

We do a raycast, if the ray hits one of the octree nodes. If the ray hits a node, we raycast against all models inside the node. If any of those models where hit by the ray, we return the model. If not, we recursivley call raycast on all children nodes of the octree node.


We insert objects into the tree based on either the objects Bounding Box or the objects Bounding Sphere. Usually you want to use the bounding box, but if you do that there is additional logic required for rotated objects.

That is, whenever an object rotates, you have to re-calculate it's bounding box. I prefer saving that performance, and sacraficing a little bit of performance in the raycast accuracy instead. So our implementation will use the bounding sphere.


Whenever an object changes position (The "Is Dirty" flag is set) there is a chance that it migrated into a new node of the octree. Should this happen, we have to remove the object from the node it currently belongs to, and try to insert it into the parent of that node. If that insertion fails, we recursivley walk the tree and keep trying to insert into a new parent until we reach the top of the tree.

Other Uses

An octree is obviously not only used for raycasting. Normally, all scene collision operations go trough the octree. Most functions in the scene should never touch the object hierarchy directly, they should be operating on the octree.

We will see this in action in the next chapter, where we are going to utilize the octree to perform Frustum Culling. For now, let's get started and actually implement the octree.

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