3D Glossary--Specular Reflection
Specular reflection is what we most commonly think of as highlights, the reflection of the light source off an object and back into the viewer's eye. Specular reflection is very important in 3-D graphics because it suggests curvature in 3-D space. The color of a specular reflection is typically that of the light source itself.
Specularity is controlled in both its degree (or intensity) and its spread (sometimes called "decay"). Very few natural objects have no specularity at all, and controlling the precise degree of specularity, in both parameters, is essential to creating the illusion of a wide range of realistic materials. Glossiness and shininess are attributes controlled by specularity.
Specularity is especially important in animation because a specular reflection necessarily changes as the object (or the camera viewpoint) moves, thus reinforcing the illusion of action in 3-D space.
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Created: June 16, 1997
Revised: June 16, 1997