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3-D graphics

The field of computer graphics concerned with generating and displaying three-dimensional objects in a two-dimensional space (e.g., the display screen). Whereas pixels in a 2-dimensional graphic have the properties of position, color, and brightness, a 3-D pixels adds a depth property that indicates where the point lies on an imaginary Z-axis. When many 3-D pixels are combined, each with its own depth value, the result is a three-dimensional surface, called a texture. In addition to textures, 3-D graphics also supports multiple objects interacting with one another. For example, a solid object may partially hide an object behind it. Finally, sophisticated 3-D graphics use techniques such as ray tracing to apply realistic shadows to an image.

Converting information about 3-D objects into a bit map that can be displayed is known as rendering, and requires considerable memory and processing power. In the past, 3-D graphics was available only on powerful workstations, but now 3-D graphics accelerator are commonly found in personal computer. The graphics accelerator contains memory and a specialized microprocessor to handle many of the 3-D rendering operations.

Also see Understanding Video and Graphics Adapters  in Webopedia's "Did You Know...?" section.

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