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This shader simulates light scattered by a thin, uniform atmosphere. It produces shafts of light and volumetric shadows cast from geometric objects. It works with point, spot, and area lights, but not with distant or skylights. This is a scene-wide volume shader (or an atmosphere shader in Arnold's terms).  

  • atmosphere_volume used to be called volumetric_scattering and should not be confused with volume rendering of fluid type objects.
  • atmosphere_volume only works with 'local' lights that have a precise location and size and inverse-square decay. It does not support lights at an infinite distance, such as the Skydome light or directional light.
  • Currently, atmosphere_volume does not compose well against volumes. This is because atmospheres return a single flat result that is opacity mapped on top of whatever is in the background of the pixel.

    atmosphere_volume cannot 'penetrate' through the cloud volume

atmosphere_volume should be composited using an 'additive' mode such as 'screen' because volumetric scattering is the light that cannot be represented in the alpha channel.

enable_matte enabled for standard_surface shader assigned to wall geometry (left). atmosphere_volume render composited using 'screen' (right). Rollover images.

The example below demonstrates the effect of atmosphere_volume through a medium. It consists of a polygon plane with a circular ramp texture connected to the opacity of a standard_surface shader. The spotlight is pointing at the plane and atmosphere_volume is enabled.  

 Polygon plane with circular ramp texture -> opacity of a standard_surface shader


The parameters are divided into two groups and are described in more detail in the pages below:

Atmospheric Volume shader

  • To use, in the Render Setup dialog, in the Scene Atmosphere button select No Mat and choose an Atmospheric Volume shader. Drag the Atmospheric Volume shader onto the Slate Material Editor and increase its Density to see the effect. (Alternatively, you can create an Atmospheric Volume shader in the Slate Material Editor and drag it onto the button.)

Atmospheric Volume shader connected to Scene Atmosphere

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