Rendering – Representations, Snapshots and Experiences

A fairytale 1400s rendering? The Camera Obscura Scene With Gawain in the movie – The Green Knight (2021).
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Oxford Languages defines rendering from the Old French or Latin – “reddere”.
It means to give back, to recite, to translate, hand over or to melt down.
Modern rendering and historical illustrations seem to mutually inform each other.
Similarly, each field intertwines and advances in a parallel manner.
Their detailed methods of computer generated representation, such as tone-mapping, real-time rendering and virtual-ray tracing is inherent in the drawings and illustrations of past ages.
We will summarize these elements of rendering in the discussion of representations, snapshots and experiences along with attached historical visual examples.

A rendering is like an artisan’s scene in an analogous sense.
In its modern context with rendering software (like V-Ray), is the process of generating an image from digital scenes or models with computer programs.
For instance, a scene file contains objects in a strictly defined language or data structure.
Renderings consist of camera techniques, geometry, lighting, shading, textures and their respective elements of a simulated scene. Therefore the output is a vector or raster graphics image file.

Renderings also converse with architecture, cinema, design concepts, training simulators and video games.
Each field uses variables containing geometric topographies and systems.
Rendering programs integrate into larger modelling and animation packages.
Some are stand-alone and some are free open-source projects.
Internally, a renderer is also based on a creative mixture of mathematics, lighting, physics and perceptual visualization.

3D graphics rendering is gradual in pre-rendering or in real time scenes.
Pre-rendering is an intensive process especially in the field of cinematics.
Similarly, real-time rendering in the field of 3D video games relies on the use of graphics cards with 3D hardware accelerators.

Fra Mauro’s Mappa Mundi – Is it perhaps a 15th century computer generated rendering?
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The GPU converts 2D to 3D representations and allocates this information to a scene file.
Additionally, the GPU assists a CPU in performing complex rendering calculations but if a scene is to look realistic under virtual lighting then the rendering software will process the rendering equation.
The rendering equation does not total all lighting phenomena and it is a standard lighting model for computer-generated imagery.

Rendering is essential to 3D computer graphics and appears permanently connected to similar fields.
Rendering expresses the process of calculating effects in a video editing file to produce a final cinematographic output.
In terms of graphics, it also provides the final appearance to the models and animation.
As a fine art, rendering has also developed uniquely since the origins of CG in the 1970s.

Consequently, the process of rendering includes the manual addition of bitmap textures or bump-mapping to a completed pre-image wireframe model.
The resultant completed image communicates the design intentions to the audience.
Equally important, multiple image frames combine to create animations in cinematic software.
Most 3D image editing programs are specific for such cinematic modifications.


A rendered image also consists of numerous visible features.
Rendering research and development attempts to find ways to simulate these features efficiently.
Some features relate directly to particular algorithms and techniques.

  • Shading – The colour and brightness of a surface varies relative with lighting.
  • Texture mapping – A technique of applying surface details.
  • Bump mapping – A way of simulating small scale geometric surface bumpiness.
  • Fogging – A method of light reduction in atmospheric or environmental air conditions.
  • Shadows – The effect of impeding light.
  • Soft shadows – Fluctuating darkness caused by partially masked light sources.
  • Reflection – Matt, mirror like, reflective or glossy reflection.
  • Transparency (optics vs. graphics) – Contrasting transmission of light through opaque objects.
  • Translucency – Highly scattered transmission of light through solid objects.
  • Refraction – Flexing of light associated with transparency.
  • Diffraction – The flexing or pivoting of light passing by an object or aperture diffracting the ray.
  • Indirect Illumination (Global illumination) – Surfaces lit by light reflected off other surfaces.
  • Caustics – Light absorption in transparent objects to produce highlights on adjacent objects.
  • Depth of field – Objects appear hazy when too far in front of, or behind the object in focus.
  • Motion blur – Objects appear fuzzy due to high speed motion, or camera movement.
  • Non-photorealistic rendering – Stylistic rendering that appears like a painting or drawing.


Various rendering algorithms work for various techniques to obtain a final image.
For example, tracing every particle of light in a scene is advancing.
Thus, the four modes of efficient light transport modelling techniques include:

  • Rasterization (including Scanline rendering) geometrically projects objects in the scene to an image plane without advanced optical effects.
  • Ray casting considers the scene as observed from a specific point-of-view and calculates the observed image based only on geometry. It also uses basic optical laws of reflection intensity and Monte Carlo techniques to reduce artefacts.
  • Ray tracing (similar to ray casting) uses more advanced optical simulation and usually uses Monte Carlo techniques to obtain more realistic results at a speed that is slower.
  • Radiosity is not a typical rendering technique. It calculates the passage of light as it leaves the light source and shines on relative surfaces.

Design for a Stage Set with Figure of Jupiter on Pedestal in a Rotunda.
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A Snapshot

A rendering is like a snapshot in the future that’s heavily modified and reiterated in the present designer’s moment.
Likewise, a designer considers a rendering and the idea of finding pioneering methods to represent ideas.
Moreover, rendering software aims to design products and scenes using materials, textures and lighting.
They are critical elements in ritual product use or space in an artificial or real-time environment.

Geometric optics

Rendering also affects particle aspects of light physics known as geometric optics.

Therefore, treating light as particles moving around is accurate to explain complex lighting methods or its details which are often negligible in most scenes.
Therefore, notable wave aspect phenomena also includes diffraction (like CD or DVD colours) and polarization (like LCDs monitors).

Visual perception

In fact, an understanding of human visual perception is valuable in the field of rendering because of how an image displays and the range of human perception.
Further, a renderer can simulate an infinite range of light brightness and colour.
Besides, current displays cannot hold much information and electronic information must refresh or delete.

Tone Mapping

Forms of tone mapping long precede digital photography.
Likewise, tone mapping is a graphics technique in the limits of the range of human perception.
The hidden mathematics used in tone mapping includes Calculus, Linear Algebra, Monte Carlo methods, numerical mathematics and signal processing and in some cases, tone mapping produces visually appealing images, while other applications emphasize reproducing as many image details as possible, or maximizing the image contrast.
Examples of common tone mapping methods are contrast reduction and colour inversion.

Advanced Features

A core advanced feature of most commercial rendering software such as V-Ray, includes rendering for animations. This Cloud rendering method occurs on a network of tightly connected computers known as a render farm. Proprietary rendering software (V-Ray) is capable of advanced features such as texture filtering, texture caching, geometry caching, high-end geometry types like hair, high quality shadow mapping, NURBS surfaces with tessellation-on-demand, speed or patent-free operations and subdivision or raytracing with geometry caching. Other important features include IPR (interactive rendering engine) and hardware rendering or shading.


V-Ray is an example of a proprietary commercial rendering plug-in software often coupled with BIM 3D modelling software such as 3DS Max, Revit and Sketchup. The V-Ray rendering engine also includes global illumination, path tracing, photon mapping and irradiance maps. Advanced features of V-Ray include reflection, depth of field and the aperture shape. Truly, V-Ray provides professional design and architectural rendering visualizations especially for marketing scenarios. Blender and similar software packages like V-Ray works in the same rendering process and output.

Real-time rendering

Real-time rendering is the process of rendering images at rapid pace with instant updating in the same time as in real-time. The real-time rendering pipeline consists of three conceptual stages: the application stage, the geometry stage and the rasterizing stage. Consequently, the shift to real-time rendering technologies in visual effects is ongoing and photorealism is a key factor in this transformation. The potential of real-time rendering is also opening up and dependent on the rate of recent technological change. It reduces hesitation about the future role of real-time technologies and game engines.

Machine Learning

The power of machine learning algorithms resides in the ability of the algorithm to improve its performance through continuous data sampling. Machine learning also works in a wide variety of fields with a foothold in digital visual content creation. Rotoscoping is an example where a monotonous process in visual effects applies machine learning for efficient processing.  

Our natural ability to identify and isolate objects in 2D footage is an extremely difficult challenge for computers. As much as a machine learning algorithm analyzes footage of humans the more it is able to accurately identify humans in footage and rotoscope them. Current applications are too crude and inaccurate to replace roto artists.

These algorithms are also responsible for the proliferation of online services that can enlarge low-resolution photos to x2, x4, x8 times their original size. It is a version of automated matte painting. Whether they will finally replace matte painters remains questionable however machine learning will help in creating photorealistic content by assisting the artists with many of the time-consuming tasks – analyzing footage for lighting, collecting and researching relevant imagery, colour-matching in compositing or depth sorting 2D material in a matte painting workflow.


Drawing and painting always served a much broader function than just pure art. Photography emerged as a better alternative in daily rituals in the form of advertisements, family portraits, entertainment, historical documentation, journalism and scientific research. Artists lost interest in recreating reality and instead searched for new avenues of expression. Will photorealism also become obsolete in this progression?

Similarly photorealism serves a range of practical purposes from visualizations to games. It is a functional necessity for immersive experiences. Photorealism is merely an artificial emulation of photography, nothing more than 2D images on screens. Will we ever move into a new sense of artificial reality or one that a 3D environment that involves the simulation of touch and smell?

Consequently, this change will overtake photorealism in entertainment and games in the same way photography replaced painting in the late 19th century. Will we also replicate experiences or have we done so naturally all this time without knowing it and are we only now merely automating its machinations?

A potential example of a Rendered Experience of the future? Ettore Sottsass’s Elements for Landscape Home c.1971.
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