Making Photorealistic Images with Mental Ray

Mental Ray is a type of rendering software that produces very realistic images. One of the main features is that it uses the proper light simulation for each object, and these light factors can be programmed for each photo or image. This software is frequently used in movies, as it is one of the fastest rendering software available. It produces high quality results on even single processor machines.


The 3 dimensional rendering uses many different algorithms to create the architecture of the photo. It will rasterize to produce fast but high quality renders. This rasterizing has separate controls for visibility anti-aliasing and shading quality. There is also support for displacement mapping and motion blur. For even faster rendering, the software will use scanline rendering, which is best for low and medium complex images.

The photon mapping will simulate all the possible light paths that can occur and will compute indirect light bounces, as well as light patterns by refracted or reflected light. There are even light settings for light interactions, one example being light through a fog. The rendering has support for motion blur, order independent transparency, phenomena and Cg shading.


All of the color and shading is programmable, as the shading language uses C++ and C. There are shade trees that can be linked to graphs and other inputs. The insertion of the shade graphs into scenes have simple external parameters and an easy black box. Some of the different shader types include state shader, inheritance, geometry, contour, output, displacement, photon emitter, photon, environment, lens, atmosphere, shadow, volume, light, texture and material. There are also non geometric shader effects for smoke and fire.


The shadow maps can be used to trace light sources and rays. There are detailed shadow maps for transparent shadows, partial shadows and even hair shadowing which is quite difficult. Colored shadows can be applied for stained glass or phenomena. There are also area lights that use shadows to create light softness in a geometric shape.


This software can be used by itself or integrated with other software. Some of the other programs that can use Mental Ray include Dassault Systemes CATIA, SolidWorks, Side Effects Software’s Houdinin, Softimage XSI, Revit, AutoCAD, 3D Studio Max and Autodesk Maya. Basically, any mi file can be used with the software.

Realistic Photo

There are several different steps involved when creating a realistic photo render. As with anything, the entire scene must be set. The software works like a camera, so it is necessary to set the scene, set the lights, the camera, depth of field and change the quality. The main difference from a real photo and one from mental ray is that with the software everything occurs in the computer. As with any digital piece of work, the image is built from the skeleton and up.

Where Mental Ray surpasses all the others is in the lighting and shadow features. These are what create the most realistic images. It also allows for reflections and other light issues. Without items that can be considered “bad” light, an image will look too perfect, which does not look realistic. Flaws make the photo, as long as they are natural.