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Now the Omni Lamp is what's known as a point source and the light came from that one point. The Area Lamp is different and that in studio lighting, you usually use a light box or a diffuser in front of a light globe, to diffuse the light and make the light come from a broader surface area. The Area Lamp is what we have in Blender that allows you to simulate that. Because the light is coming from a broader area, shadows are by nature a lot softer and the lighting is a lot more even across a broader area.
For the area lamp we have this additional control over here in the Lamp panel tat allows us to change and choose between a square lamp which we have here, which is ten units wide, a broad light area. It simulates almost like a light coming from a whole room sized, diffused set of lamps, to a rectangular area, to where we can now simulate almost the light coming from, say, a fluorescent bulb. So if we position this over him and rotate it around, now if we do the render, it looks like he's being lit by literally one fluorescent bulb over his head.
This lamp is directional and that it casts light out into a certain direction. That's why I had to rotate it. If I rotated it this way and rotated the other one away, if the lamp isn't casting any light directly on to the object, all the object gets is some ambient light, some background scatter. The area light you can also Gamma correct, right off the bat, to make the light appear a little more realistic, as if it was captured on film or by a camera. In addition to the normal ray tracing shadows, Adaptive QMC, for example, if we press Enter, now we have this one layer shining right on front of him.
I should note too that the area lamp, when it's very small, can give a very piercing, very intense hot light. Now the shadow here is being calculated one way, we can also do a kind of a jittered method which is where the lamp is jittered around a little bit and that compensates for some of the hardness that an area lamp can give. Now a sample set at 7, the lamp has been jittered around 7 units around up here and so the shadow that it casts is an average of all of those and so it's a much more diffused shadow.
Umbra simulates using an umbrella in the back of the lamp, to further scatter the light around and Dither and Noise are different sampling methods you can use to fine-tune the appearance of the shadow. So the area lamp is a specialty lamp that you want to use when you're trying to simulate lamp coming from a non-point source, like from a fluorescent bulb or a very broad high array, say, like in a gymnasium where there is a lot of lamps up there. They are very powerful but they are very far away, so the net effect is a very broad and pretty even area lighting.
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