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So when light is bounced around and reflected and radiated and all that, a phenomenon called Ambient Occlusion can be used to simulate the darkening that happens in corners, cracks, and crevices. Mainly that ambient light is blocked. So in this file, I've set up a very simple AO scene setting that will demonstrate the different kinds of Ambient Occlusion that Blender has and we can teach you how to use each of them. First of all, the Ambient Occlusion needs to be enabled. It's not enabled by default, because it does take a quite a bit of time to calculate. The amount of time it takes to calculate depends on the quality that you want, and the highest quality you can render in is 32 samples.
But you can knock this all the way down to 10 samples, if you want. It just results in a faster, but lower quality image. For your final render, you can always crank it back up again and then let it run overnight, if you need to. So here we have a test scene, and as you can see the Ambient Occlusion has darkened everything in the corners and underneath the globe and like that. To simulate what would happen when the ambient light color, which is over here in your Ambient Red, Green, and Blue slider settings, is occluded from lighting up the rest of the area in a very perfect uniform manner.
Now there are two approaches to Ambient Occlusion. There is this Raytrace method, which takes quite a bit of time and then there is an approximate method, which is much faster, but not quite as physically accurate. As you can see, it gives much different results, but much higher quality results, as well with a very few number of passes. These settings down here allow you to just only add Ambient Occlusion color to the scene. Now as you can see this gives a very soft feeling or if you just enable Sub to subtract, then as you press J here, you can jump between the Add and the Sub.
So the Sub takes away the color, the Add adds color to it and both of them together then provide a much more dramatic color. Now when you click Plain here, plain is this plain ambient color. If you have a blend of colors in the sky or even an Angular sky map, then by clicking the Sky Color, the Ambient Occlusion shader tries to use the color of the sky to be the colors that are added and/or subtracted. So now you can see that now the sky color blue has been added and subtracted into this image to make it a shaded and tinted blue.
Now the amount that this object is affected by the ambient light is set in the individual objects Shader settings. Right here it's ambient is 0.5. That's a pretty large the setting on average. I like to use 0.1. Then use an actual color that I think this environment has. So if we come over here and back to our Shader settings, notice I'm using a fairly bright white yellowish kind of color to be an outdoor kind of scene. The other way you can do that is if you leave that default at 0.5, then you can just set this to a pretty dark medium shade of gray and everything comes out about the same.
Lastly, the Energy control affects the overall impact. It's sort of like a multiplier, if you will. So if everything is getting too affected by the ambient light and you don't want to change the ambient light color. You can just crank the Energy down or if you want to amplify the effect of AO, then put it above 1 just say something like 2. As a final note, I'd like to say that some people love Ambient Occlusions. Other people call it a cop-out for compensating for really bad lighting.
I like to say that Ambient Occlusion is an aid toward making photorealistic renderings with Blender.
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