An apparatus and method for real-time volume processing and universal three-dimensional rendering. The apparatus includes a plurality of three-dimensional (3D) memory units; at least one pixel bus for providing global horizontal communication; a plurality of rendering pipelines; at least one geometry bus; and a control unit. The apparatus includes a block processor having a circular ray integration pipeline for processing voxel data and ray data. Rays are generally processed in image order thus permitting great flexibility (e.g., perspective projection, global illumination). The block processor includes a splatting unit and a scattering unit. A method for casting shadows and performing global illumination in relation to light sources includes sweeping a two dimensional array of rays through the volume can also be implemented with the apparatus. A method for approximating a perspective projection includes using parallel projection.