To render an image is to use software to convert code into a two- or three-dimensional image so it can be displayed or printed. Rendering is used in a variety of applications including movies, simulators, video games, website development, design visualization, architectural designs, and more. The rendered image can be a stand-alone graphic element, or it can be integrated into a package of rendered images, in animation, or for larger modeling.
In addition to animation and video gaming, rendering can be used to develop and show visual concepts for projects such as architecture for a building. Previously, building a physical model would be required to see what a project would look like when completed. Because rendering files are digital, they can be easily shared with other users including clients.
There are two categories of rendering: pre-rendering and real-time rendering. In real-time rendering, the calculations and output needed to create the image are performed in real-time, often in response to user input. For real-time rendering applications such as video games, dedicated graphics hardware accelerators are required.
The other type of rendering is pre-rendering, in which all the visual calculations required to produce the rendered image are done before the image is displayed. This type of rendering is common for visual effects and animation. The quality of pre-rendered graphics is typically higher as there is no time constraint on developing the rendered image.
There are several features offered by rendering software. Users can use rendering for texture mapping, shading, shadowing, adding transparency, photorealistic morphing, changing the depth of field, and other features. Rendering is a time- and cost-effective way to complete the details needed to make an image as realistic as possible, allowing software developers and graphic designers to spend more time developing new images.
Some of the most popular rendering software include Autodesk Arnold, Renderman, Maya, Blender, and KeyShot. Rendering software can use a combination of different techniques to obtain a final rendered image. Some of the techniques used in rendering include scanline rendering, which uses objects in the scene for projection, and ray casting, in which the scene is observed from a point of view and all visual calculations are done according to that point of view.