|Microsoft DirectX 9.0|
In nature, when light is emitted from a source, it is reflected off of hundreds, if not thousands or millions of objects before reaching the user's eye. Each time it is reflected, some light is absorbed by a surface, some is scattered in random directions, and the rest goes on to another surface or to the user's eye. This process continues until the light is reduced to nothing or a user perceives the light.
Obviously, the calculations required to perfectly simulate the natural behavior of light are too time-consuming to use for real-time 3-D graphics. Therefore, with speed in mind, the Microsoft?Direct3D?light model approximates the way light works in the natural world. Direct3D describes light in terms of red, green, and blue components that combine to create a final color.
In Direct3D, when light reflects off a surface, the light color interacts mathematically with the surface itself to create the color eventually displayed on the screen. For specific information about the algorithms Direct3D uses, see Mathematics of Lighting.
The Direct3D light model generalizes light into two types: ambient light and direct light. Each has different attributes, and each interacts with the material of a surface in different ways. Ambient light is light that has been scattered so much that its direction and source are indeterminate: it maintains a low level of intensity everywhere. The indirect lighting used by photographers is a good example of ambient light. Ambient light in Direct3D, as in nature, has no real direction or source, only a color and intensity. In fact, the ambient light level is completely independent of any objects in a scene that generate light. Ambient light does not contribute to specular reflection.
Direct light is the light generated by a source within a scene; it always has color and intensity, and it travels in a specified direction. Direct light interacts with the material of a surface to create specular highlights, and its direction is used as a factor in shading algorithms, including Gouraud shading. When direct light is reflected, it does not contribute to the ambient light level in a scene. The sources in a scene that generate direct light have different characteristics that affect how they illuminate a scene. For more information, see Lights and Materials.
Additionally, a polygon's material has properties that affect how that polygon reflects the light it receives. You set a single reflectance trait that describes how the material reflects ambient light, and you set individual traits to determine the material's specular and diffuse reflectance. For more information, see Materials.