Abstract : The calculation of detailed shadows remains one of the most difficult challenges in computer graphics, especially in the case of extended (linear or area) light sources. This paper introduces a new tool for the calculation of shadows cast by extended light sources. Exact shadows are computed in some constrained configurations by using a convolution technique, yielding a fast and accurate solution. Approximate shadows can be computed for general configurations by applying the convolution to a representative “ideal” configuration. We analyze the various sources of approximation in the process and derive a hierarchical, error driven algorithm for fast shadow calculation in arbitrary configurations using a hierarchy of object clusters. The convolution is performed on images rendered in an offscreen buffer and produces a shadow map used as a texture to modulate the unoccluded illumination. Light sources can have any 3D shape as well as arbitrary emission characteristics, while shadow maps can be applied to groups of objects at once. The method can be employed in a hierarchical radiosity system, or directly as a shadowing technique. We demonstrate results for various scenes, showing that soft shadows can be generated at interactive rates for dynamics environments.