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Chapter 12. Lighting Basics > The Three Components of Light

The Three Components of Light

Early in our primary education, we learned that when we “see” something, our brains are calculating the effect of light as it bounces off the surface of an object. While the object absorbs a portion of the color spectrum, the remainder is reflected and diffused into the surrounding environment. The light that is reflected gives us information about the object's color and texture. Compare a well-used “alley ball” from your local bowling alley to a new and recently polished counterpart. They're both spheres of the same size and weight, yet the new ball will look sleeker and harder, while the alley ball will give the impression of being slower and heavier.

Light is broken down into three distinct components, known as diffuse, ambient, and specular light. Although the parameters of these components are primarily determined in the Material Editor, it's the lights in your scene that bring them to life. Figure 12.5 shows two standard 3ds max teapots, with slightly different materials applied, which emphasize these components. The file Light Components.max is available on the DVD if you would like to follow along.


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