Metappearance: Meta-Learning for Visual Appearance Reproduction

SIGGRAPH Asia 2022, Journal Track

Michael Fischer, Tobias Ritschel
University College London


Our work has been featured in the ACM Showcase.


We use meta-learning to encode visual appearance. Metappearance can be trained in less than a second, while providing similar quality to conventionally trained networks that train orders of magnitude longer. We show results on a wide variety of applications and analyze important properties, such as convergence & efficiency.


There currently exist two main approaches to reproducing visual appearance using Machine Learning (ML): The first is training models that generalize over different instances of a problem, e.g., different images of a dataset. As one-shot approaches, these offer fast inference, but often fall short in quality. The second approach does not train models that generalize across tasks, but rather over-fit a single instance of a problem, e.g., a flash image of a material. These methods offer high quality, but take long to train. We suggest to combine both techniques end-to-end using meta-learning: We over-fit onto a single problem instance in an inner loop, while also learning how to do so efficiently in an outer-loop across many exemplars. To this end, we derive the required formalism that allows applying meta-learning to a wide range of visual appearance reproduction problems: textures, Bi-directional Reflectance Distribution Functions (BRDFs), spatially-varying BRDFs (svBRDFs), illumination or the entire light transport of a scene. The effects of meta-learning parameters on several different aspects of visual appearance are analyzed in our framework, and specific guidance for different tasks is provided. Metapperance enables visual quality that is similar to over-fit approaches in only a fraction of their runtime while keeping the adaptivity of general models.

Exemplary Results
Metappearance learns a model initialization (leftmost column) and a per-parameter learning rate that allows quick over-fitting onto new, unseen tasks in only a few gradient steps. We report wall-clock time for approx. 25%, 50% and 75% (columns 2-5) of the gradient descent steps used for inference. Note how after less than a second of optimization, Metappearance achieves quality that is very close to the reference across all applications (from top to bottom: textures, BRDFs, stationary svBRDFs, nonstationary svBRDFs, envmap illumination, light transport).
Equal-time comparisons on unseen test data for each application (top to bottom row: Texture, BRDF, svBRDF, svBRDFnonstat, Illumination, Transport). Overfit and Finetune are ran with the same amount of gradient steps Meta uses, i.e., the same wall-clock time. Metappearance encodes the reference best across all applications.

If you find our work useful and use parts or ideas of our paper or code, please cite:

  title={Metappearance: Meta-Learning for Visual Appearance Reproduction},
  author={Fischer, Michael and Ritschel, Tobias},
  journal={ACM Trans Graph (Proc. SIGGRAPH Asia)},

We thank the reviewers for their constructive comments. We also thank Philipp Henzler, Alejandro Sztrajman, Valentin Deschaintre and Gilles Rainer for open-sourcing their code and insightful discussions. Lastly, we thank Meta Reality Labs for supporting this work.