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Lighting Design Glossary

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Radiosity Method
Radiant Flux Transfer Method

(Term of computer graphics)

A computer graphics method to calculate diffuse light distribution and reflection in three dimensional environments (the "global illumination model").

In contrast to raytracing, all variants of the radiosity method have in common, that they seperate the process of shading surfaces and the visible-surface determination. They first compute the interaction of light (radiant flux) with all surfaces in a scene, and then determine visibility of the allready shaded surfaces from different viewpoints.

Radiosity is very efficient to compute scenes up to a certain complexity with large numbers of light sources. Its special strength is in providing the illumination data for many different viewpoints (animation) of a scene. Computing very large and complex scenes with radiosity methods requires extreme amounts of memory (RAM). Specular effects like metallic reflections are very difficult to simulate this way.

Recently, the term radiosity is increasingly used to describe the general problem class of solving the global illumination model, and especially the complementary method of distributed raytracing. This misattribution causes a lot of confusion even among computer graphics specialists.


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