Media Types

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There are three types of particle interaction in media: absorbing, emitting, and scattering. All three activities may occur in a single media. Each of these three specifications requires a color. Only the red, green, and blue components of the color are used. The filter and transmit values are ignored. For this reason it is permissible to use one float value to specify an intensity of white color. For example, the following two lines are legal and produce the same results:

emission 0.75
emission rgb <0.75,0.75,0.75>


The absorption keyword specifies a color of light which is absorbed when looking through the media. For example, absorption rgb<0,1,0> blocks the green light but permits red and blue to get through. Therefore a white object behind the media will appear magenta. The default value is rgb<0,0,0> which means no light is absorbed, meaning all light passes through normally.


The emission keyword specifies the color of the light emitted from the particles. Particles which emit light are visible without requiring additional illumination. However, they will only illuminate other objects if radiosity is used with media on. This is similar to an object with high ambient values. The default value is rgb<0,0,0> which means no light is emitted.


The syntax of a scattering statement is:

  scattering { 
    Type, COLOR [ eccentricity Value ] [ extinction Value ] 

The first float value specifies the type of scattering. This is followed by the color of the scattered light. The default value if no scattering statement is given is rgb <0,0,0> which means no scattering occurs.

The scattering effect is only visible when light is shining on the media from a light source. This is similar to diffuse reflection off of an object. In addition to reflecting light, scattering media also absorbs light like an absorption media. The balance between how much absorption occurs for a given amount of scattering is controlled by the optional extinction keyword and a single float value. The default value of 1.0 gives an extinction effect that matches the scattering. Values such as extinction 0.25 give 25% the normal amount. Using extinction 0.0 turns it off completely. Any value other than the 1.0 default is contrary to the real physical model but decreasing extinction can give you more artistic flexibility.

The integer value Type specifies one of five different scattering phase functions representing the different models: isotropic, Mie (haze and murky atmosphere), Rayleigh, and Henyey-Greenstein.

Type 1, isotropic scattering is the simplest form of scattering because it is independent of direction. The amount of light scattered by particles in the atmosphere does not depend on the angle between the viewing direction and the incoming light.

Types 2 and 3 are Mie haze and Mie murky scattering which are used for relatively small particles such as minuscule water droplets of fog, cloud particles, and particles responsible for the polluted sky. In this model the scattering is extremely directional in the forward direction, i.e. the amount of scattered light is largest when the incident light is anti-parallel to the viewing direction (the light goes directly to the viewer). It is smallest when the incident light is parallel to the viewing direction. The haze and murky atmosphere models differ in their scattering characteristics. The murky model is much more directional than the haze model.


The Mie haze scattering function


The Mie murky scattering function

Type 4 Rayleigh scattering models the scattering for extremely small particles such as molecules of the air. The amount of scattered light depends on the incident light angle. It is largest when the incident light is parallel or anti-parallel to the viewing direction and smallest when the incident light is perpendicular to the viewing direction. You should note that the Rayleigh model used in POV-Ray does not take the dependency of scattering on the wavelength into account.


The Rayleigh scattering function

Type 5 is the Henyey-Greenstein scattering model. It is based on an analytical function and can be used to model a large variety of different scattering types. The function models an ellipse with a given eccentricity e. This eccentricity is specified by the optional keyword eccentricity which is only used for scattering type five. The default eccentricity value of zero defines isotropic scattering while positive values lead to scattering in the direction of the light and negative values lead to scattering in the opposite direction of the light. Larger values of e (or smaller values in the negative case) increase the directional property of the scattering.


The Henyey-Greenstein scattering function for different eccentricity values

Note: See the section on Light Groups for additional information when using scattering media in a light group.

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