3D Basics

Computer graphics creates images via rendering. The inputs to computer graphics are lights, objects (3D shapes), the materials those objects are made of, and a camera (which defines our view of the scene.)

What we see is determined by the light that enters into our eyes. That light is emitted from various sources like the sun or light bulbs. The light then interacts (bounces around) in our environment whose arrangement is defined by the shape of the objects in it. The way that light interacts with each object is defined by its materials. Rubber, wood, glass, etc. appear differently as a result of how light interacts with each of those materials.

We define all of these things, lights, objects, materials and cameras, in the computer and then we simulate the light bouncing around and collecting in the camera (the simulation of light is called “rendering"). This is 3D computer graphics.


Rendering is the act of using computer graphics technologies to create an image. It can either be a single image, such as a virtual photograph, it can be a sequence of images, such as an animation video, or it can be done in an interactive live fashion, such as interactive 3D.

Rendered Image

A single image created via rendering.

Rendered Video

A rendered video is a collection of pre-rendered images. Our software can create rendered videos.

Interactive 3D

Interactive 3D occurs when software renders a new image 30 times or more per second in response to user feedback. This occurs when we create an interactive 3D product display in a web page, or when using an AR or VR experience. These types of displays are responsive and interactive.


An animation is a sequence of movements of either models, lights, or cameras over time. Animations can be used in real-time in response to user triggers, can be preset, or can be rendered as a series of images and then turned into a video clip. Our software supports the creation of animations. Examples of animations could be a product explode, a car door opening, a camera movement.


A light in computer graphics is an entity that has a location and emits light energy into the virtual world. This light energy then interacts with the materials on models in the scene and eventually makes its way to the camera where it is captured.


A light measuring device modeled on physical real-world cameras. Our virtual cameras have position, orientation as well as other properties like film size, aperture, and focal length. We can simulate any real world camera effect accurately.


This term is tricky. A material in computer graphics refers to the properties on the surface of a model that determine how it interacts with light. It does not refer to the shape of the model. Birch wood, or brushed aluminum, or red glazed ceramic are examples of materials in computer graphics.

Material Parameters

In order to define how light interacts with materials, there are a series of material parameters that need to be specified. These are often specified by 3D artists that understand how to quantify physical materials into these parameters. It is relatively technical. Example parameters are roughness, metalness, albedo, clear coat, transparency, sheen, normal map.


A digital representation of a shape. Models consist of faces, vertices and edges. Often these are realized as polygon meshes.


In the context of computer graphics, a face is often realized as a single polygon. A polygon mesh is composed of a series of faces. For example, cube is composed of 6 faces, one for each side. A face is usually flat, but not always.


The corner of a polygon. In order to mathematically define a polygon, you first have to define the positions of its corners, its vertices. Thus a polygon mesh has a list of vertices that are the corners of all of its constituent polygons.


The side of a polygon. An edge connects two vertices. An edge is also the border between two adjacent polygons.

Polygon Mesh

Often abbreviated to just polymesh or mesh. A polymesh is a surface created by a series of connected polygons. These shapes are hollow on the inside like a balloon. Poly meshes are a form of model.


A polygon is a realization of a face. A polygon is a closed flat plane with 3 or more sides. A single polygon is referred to as a face. A polygon is always flat and never curved.


A stage is the background, lighting, and camera placement of a scene behind the product or focus of the scene. The creation of a professional looking stage is key to creating great results. It takes a photographer’s eye to create the best stages that make a product look amazing.

Scene Graph

The scene graph refers to the arrangement of the models, lights, and camera in the scene. These components are conceptually organized into a hierarchy that sort of mimics how things are arranged in reality. For example a desk model is placed on the floor. And then a vase model is placed on the desk. This arrangement of placement is the scene graph.

Share this