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Multi-Pass Rendering

The technique of rendering multiple passes comes from the world of film-based special effects, where elements of a live-action scene are filmed separately and assembled in a darkroom to create a composite image. This method has been adopted and expanded by digital media. Many 3D renders use a multitiered hierarchy of passes in which scenes are broken down and objects are rendered separately from one another and their environments. This process allows further adjustment to those elements independently of other objects in the scene.

To take this to the next level of quality, each of those passes can be further broken into elements. For instance, a single object in a scene might be composed of three or more passes: a diffuse pass, which contains color and shading; a specular pass, which has the object’s specular highlights; and a reflection pass, which has reflections that appear on the surface of the object. The result of rendering those passes is a level of control over the final image quality that would be extremely difficult to achieve otherwise.


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