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There are many areas to good shading. This topic is on how do we make a realistic material, or what I would prefer to use is the term a believable material. Because even if you're doing a completely CG movie like big_buck_bunny, when you look at this image you obviously know it's not photorealistic but it's believable. You're brought into the image and you're emotionally engaged. That's the whole purpose of realistic and good shading. So Shading is a combination of light that's in use.
Here we have an image that the light is coming in through the window in the back, and providing a lot of very strong backlighting, but there isn't a lot of ambient lighting going on, and there is a lot of reflections and almost washouts. But this is a believable image, even though it's what I would consider to be poorly lit. Then we get into sunsets and sunrises, there has been less than ideal lighting, where we have the sun in back of the mountains providing you just a beautiful spectrum of light and shading, but the cloud itself is really just gray, but it's also being influenced by the color and the light in the atmosphere etcetera going on, as we saw in the sunlamp video.
The other thing I'll go into that makes a scene believable is clutter. In a lot of CG you're tempted just to do one or two or three objects. But you know in a realistic object, this is the whole bunch of clutter in the background. Things that have accumulated later in our houses over time. Also, then there comes the texture of the material and whatever is being shown. Here the sky is a perfect flat shading and nice blend of blue, but the water itself here is all rippled, and the sand as you can see is of full of footprints and little pockmarks.
Next is then, what is the object made of? Here is my car, my little weekend toy, and it's made of fiberglass, but it's a very smooth and very reflective surface. So the rubber is very flat, and the concrete is even flatter, but it's also a scuffed up and scratched up. The brick here is a wholly different texture, and the wood is yet another texture. And then these plants, these plants around are of different textures as well.
So everything has a texture to it, even though a roof has a different speckling approach, and that goes into making a believable material as well. You couldn't tell if this car was CG or real, if it blends into and uses textures and surface shading that is appropriate and what you would expect to see with this kind of vehicle or with this kind of object. The good news is even though there are many, many things to consider, Blender does offer a full set of controls for rendering realistic and computer generated believable materials.
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