This page provides information on the Irradiance Map rollout in the Render Settings.


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This rollout is accessible when Irradiance map is selected as the Engine for Primary bounces in the GI rollout. See the Irradiance Map GI topic for information on how this approach works.

You can also use the Irradiance Map Viewer, a standalone tool that allows you to navigate through a 3D projected version of a scene to view were GI samples were taken. 

Irradiance Map GI is not supported with V-Ray GPU engine.


UI Path


||Render Settings window|| > GI tab > Irradiance map rollout  
(When Irradiance map is selected as primary bounces engine) 



Dragging and dropping a .vrmap file into the active viewport sets the primary GI engine to Irradiance Map and the Mode to "From file". 

Built-In Presets

Presets  – This dropdown list allows you to choose from several presets for some of the irradiance map parameters. You can use these to quickly set the color, normal and distance thresholds, as well as the min/max rates. The following presets are available:

Custom – This selection makes all basic parameters available.
Very low – This preset is only useful for preview purposes to show the general lighting in the scene.
Low – A low-quality preset for preview purposes
Medium – A medium quality preset; works fine in many situations in scenes which don't have small details.
Medium animation – A medium quality preset targeted at reducing flickering in animations - the Distance threshold is higher.
High – A high-quality preset that works in most situations, even for scenes with small details as well as for most animations.
High animation – A high-quality preset that can be used if the High preset produces flickering in animations; the Dist thresh is higher.
Very high – A very high quality preset; can be used for scenes with extremely small and intricate details. 

Note that the presets are targeted for a typical 640x480 image. Larger images usually can do with lower Min/Max rates than those specified in the presets.


Basic Parameters

Some parameters are available only when Custom is selected as the Preset.

Min rate – Determines the resolution for the first GI pass. A value of 0 means the resolution will be the same as the resolution of the final rendered image, which will make the irradiance map similar to the direct computation (Brute Force) method. A value of -1 means the resolution will be half that of the final image, and so on. It is recommended that you set this value as a negative number so that GI is quickly computed for large and flat regions in the image. 

Max rate – Determines the resolution of the last GI pass. 

Subdivs – Controls the quality of individual GI samples. Smaller values make things faster, but may produce blotchy result. Higher values produce smoother images. This is similar to the Subdivs parameter for the Brute Force method. Note that this is not the actual number of rays that will be traced. The actual number of rays is proportional to the square of this value and also depends on the settings in the DMC sampler rollout.

Interp. samples – The number of GI samples that will be used to interpolate the indirect illumination at a given point. Larger values tend to blur the detail in GI although the result will be smoother. Smaller values produce results with more detail, but might produce blotchiness if the Subdivs value is low. 

Interp. frames – The number of frames that will be used to interpolate GI when Mode is set to Animation (rendering). In this mode, V-Ray interpolates the irradiance from the maps of several adjacent frames to help smooth out any flickering. Note that the actual number of frames used is 2*(interp. frames)+1. For example, the default value of 2 means that a total of 5 irradiance maps will be interpolated. Higher values slow down the rendering and might cause light to appear to lag behind its actual location when the animation is viewed. Lower values render faster but might increase flickering. 

Color thresh – Color threshold. This parameter controls how sensitive the irradiance map algorithm is to changes in indirect lighting. Larger values mean less sensitivity; smaller values make the irradiance map more sensitive to light changes (thus producing higher quality images). 

Normal thresh – Normal threshold. This parameter controls how sensitive the irradiance map is to changes in surface normals and small surface details. Larger values mean less sensitivity; smaller values make the irradiance map more sensitive to surface curvature and small details.

Dist thresh – Distance threshold. This parameter controls how sensitive the irradiance map is to distance between surfaces. A value of 0.0 means the irradiance map will not depend on object proximity at all; higher values place more samples in places where objects are close to each other.

Use camera path – When this option is enabled, V-Ray will calculate the irradiance map samples for the entire camera path instead of just the current view. This is useful for:

  • Calculating irradiance maps for short fly-through animations in one go. Instead of using the Incremental add to current map mode and rendering the animation every Nth frame, you can turn the Use camera path option on, and render just one single frame - this will produce information for the entire camera path.
  • Using irradiance maps for animations with moving objects where the camera also moves, either in Single frame or Animation (prepass) mode. In this case, enabling the Use camera path option will help to further reduce any flickering, as the GI sample positions on static geometry will not change.

If you use this option, you should not use interpolated glossy reflections/refractions in VRayMtl as they will not render accurately.



Mode – This group of controls selects the way the irradiance map is (re)used.

Single frame – The default mode; a single irradiance map is computed for the whole image, and a new irradiance map is computed for each frame. During distributed rendering, each render server will compute its own full-image irradiance map. This is the mode to use when rendering animations of moving objects. In doing so one must make sure that the irradiance map is of sufficiently high quality to avoid flickering.
Multiframe incremental – This mode is useful when rendering a sequence of frames (not necessarily consecutive) where only the camera moves around (such as a fly-through animation). V-Ray will compute a new full-image irradiance map for the first rendered frame; for all other frames, V-Ray will try to reuse and refine the irradiance map that has been computed so far. If the irradiance map is of sufficiently high quality as to avoid flickering, this mode can also be used in network rendering; each rendering server will compute and refine its own local irradiance map.
From file – In this mode, V-Ray will simply load the irradiance map from the supplied file at the start of the rendering sequence and will use this map for all the frames in the animation. No new irradiance map will be computed. This mode can be used for fly-through animations, and will work well in network rendering mode.
Add to current map – In this mode, V-Ray will compute a completely new irradiance map and will add it to the map that is already in memory. This mode is useful when compiling an irradiance map to render multiple views of a static scene. Note that this mode is not supported for distributed rendering.
Incremental add to current map – In this mode, V-Ray will use the irradiance map that is already in memory and will only refine it in places that don't have enough detail. This mode is useful when compiling an irradiance map to render multiple views of a static scene or a fly-through animation.
Bucket mode – In this mode, a separate irradiance map is used for each rendered region ("bucket"). This is especially useful since it allows the irradiance map computations to be effectively distributed among several computers when using distributed rendering. Bucket mode can be slower than Single frame mode since an additional border must be computed around each region in order to reduce edge artifacts between neighboring regions. Even so, there may be such artifacts. They can be further reduced by using higher settings for the irradiance map (the High preset, more Subdivs and/or smaller Noise threshold for the DMC sampler).
Animation (prepass) – In this mode, V-Ray calculates irradiance maps to be used later on for final rendering with the Animation (rendering) mode. One irradiance map is created for each frame and written into a separate file. Note that in this mode you have to render one map for each frame (i.e. you cannot render every Nth frame). V-Ray automatically disables rendering of the final image in this mode - only irradiance map prepasses are calculated.
Animation (rendering) – In this mode, V-Ray renders a final animation using irradiance maps created with the Animation (prepass) mode. Irradiance maps from several adjacent frames are loaded together and blended so as to reduce flickering. The number of irradiance maps that are interpolated is determined by the Interp. frames parameter.

The choice of irradiance map mode depends on the particular rendering task - a static scene, a static scene rendered from multiple views, a fly-through animation or an animation with moving objects. Refer to the Tutorials section for more information.

Browse – Selects the irradiance map file which will be loaded if the From file mode is selected. Alternatively, the user can enter the path and name of the file directly in the edit box. 

Save – Saves the irradiance map that is currently in memory. Note that the Don't delete option in the On render end section must be turned on in order to save the irradiance map. Otherwise V-Ray will automatically delete the irradiance map at the end of the rendering process.

Reset – Removes the current irradiance map from memory.

Open map with Irradiance Map Viewer – Opens the currently loaded map in the Irradiance Map Viewer tool.


On Render End

This group of controls instructs V-Ray what to do with the irradiance map at the end of the rendering process.

Don't delete – When this option is enabled, V-Ray keeps the irradiance map in memory until the next rendering, meaning the irradiance map can be saved with the Save option for later use. If this option is disabled, V-Ray deletes the irradiance map when rendering is complete.  

Auto save – If this option is enabled, V-Ray automatically saves the irradiance map to the specified file at the end of the rendering. This mode is particularly useful if you want to send the irradiance map to a different machine for network rendering.


Detail Enhancement




Detail enhancement is a method for bringing additional detail to the irradiance map in the case where there are small details in the image. Due to its limited resolution, the irradiance map typically blurs the GI in these areas or produces splotchy and flickering results. The detail enhancement option is a way to calculate those smaller details with a high-precision brute-force sampling method. This is similar to how an ambient occlusion pass works, but is more precise as it takes into account bounced light.

Enhance details – Turns on detail enhancement for the irradiance map. Note that an irradiance map calculated in this mode should not be used without the detail option. When detail enhancement is On, you can use lower irradiance map settings and higher Interp. samples. This is because the irradiance map is only used to capture the general far-off lighting, while direct sampling is used for the closer detail areas.

Detail scale – Determines the units for the Detail radius setting:

Screen – The radius is expressed as image pixels.
World – The radius is expressed in world units.

Detail radius – Determines the radius for the detail enhancement effect. A smaller radius means that smaller parts around the details in the image are sampled with higher precision, which is faster but might be less precise. A larger radius means that more of the scene will use the higher precision sampling and might be slower, but more precise. This value is similar to a radius parameter for an ambient occlusion pass.

Details subdivs mult. – Determines the number of samples taken for high-precision sampling as a percentage of the irradiance map subdivs. A value of 1.0 means that the same number of subdivs will be used as for the regular irradiance map samples. Lower values will make the detail-enhanced areas more noisy, but faster to render.



Show samples – When enabled, V-Ray will visually show the samples in the irradiance map as small dots in the scene.

Show calc phase – When enabled, V-Ray will show the irradiance map passes as the irradiance map is calculated. This will give you a rough idea of the indirect illumination even before the final rendering is complete. Note that turning this on slows the calculations a little bit, especially for large images. This option is ignored when rendering to fields - in that case, the calculation phase is never displayed.

Show direct light – Only available when Show calc phase is enabled. When enabled, V-Ray shows direct lighting for primary diffuse bounces in addition to indirect lighting while the irradiance map is being calculated. Note that V-Ray does not really need to compute this. This option is only for convenience. This does not mean that direct lighting is not calculated at all - it is, but only for secondary diffuse bounces (for GI purposes). 

Interpolation type – Used during rendering. It selects the method for interpolating the GI value from the samples in the irradiance map.

Weighted average – This method will do a simple blend between the GI samples in the irradiance map based on the distance to the point of interpolation and the difference in the normals. While simple and fast, this method tends to produce a blochiness in the result.
Lease squares fit – The default method; it will try to compute a GI value that best fits in among the samples from the irradiance map. Produces smoother results than the weighted average method, but is slower. Also, ringing artifacts may appear in places where both the contrast and density of the irradiance map samples change over a small area.
Delone triangulation – All other methods of interpolation are blurry methods; that is, they will tend to blur the details in indirect illumination. Blurry methods are prone to density bias (see below for a description).Conversely, the Delone triangulation method is a non-blurry method and will preserve the detail while avoiding density bias. Since it is non-blurry, the result might look more noisy (blurring tends to hide noise). More samples will be needed to get a sufficiently smooth result. This can be done by increasing the Subdivs of the irradiance map samples.
Lease squares with Voronoi weights – This is a modification of the least squares fit method aimed at avoiding the ringing at sharp boundaries by taking in consideration the density of the samples in the irradiance map. The method is quite slow and its effectiveness is currently somewhat questionable. For more information, see the Interpolation Methods example below. 

Although all interpolation types have their uses, it probably makes most sense to use either Least squares fit or Delone triangulation. Being a blurry method, Least squares fit  will hide noise and will produce a smooth result. It is perfect for scenes with large smooth surfaces.  Delone triangulation  is a more exact method, which usually requires more subdivs and high Max irradiance map rate (and therefore more rendering time), but produces accurate results without blurring. This is especially obvious in scenes where there are a lot of small details.

  Sample lookup – Used during rendering. It selects the method of choosing suitable points from the irradiance map to be used as basis for the interpolation. For more information, see the Sample Look-up example below.

Nearest – This method chooses those samples from the irradiance map which are closest to the point of interpolation. (How many points will be chosen is determined by the value of the Interp. samples parameter.) This is the fastest lookup method and was the only one available in early versions of V-Ray. A drawback of this method is that in places where the density of the samples in the irradiance map changes, it will pick more samples from the area with higher density. When a blurry interpolation method is used, this leads to the so called density bias which may lead to incorrect interpolation and artifacts in such places (mostly GI shadow boundaries).

Nearest quad-balanced – This is an extension of the nearest lookup method aimed at avoiding density bias. It divides the space about the interpolated point in four areas and tries to find an equal number of samples in all of them (hence the name quad-balanced). The method is a little slower than the simple Nearest lookup, but in general performs very well. A drawback is that sometimes, in its attempt to find samples, it may pick samples that are far away and not relevant to the interpolated point.
Precalculated overlapping – This method was introduced in an attempt to avoid the drawbacks of the two previous ones. It requires a preprocessing step of the samples in the irradiance map during which a radius of influence is computed for each sample. This radius is larger for samples in places of low density, and smaller for places of higher density. When interpolating the irradiance at a point, the method will choose every sample that contains that point within its radius of influence. An advantage of this method is that when used with a blurry interpolation method it produces a continuous (smooth) function. Even though the method requires a preprocessing step, it is often faster than the other two. These two properties make it ideal for high-quality results. A drawback of this method is that sometimes lonely samples that are far away can influence the wrong part of the scene. Also, it tends to blur the GI solution more than the other methods.
Density-based – The default method; it combines the Nearest and the Precalculated overlapping methods and is very effective in reducing ringing artifacts and artifacts due to low sampling rates. This method also requires a preprocessing step in order to compute sample density, but it performs a nearest neighbor lookup to choose the most suitable samples while taking sample density in account.

Check sample visibility – When enabled, V-Ray will use only those samples from the irradiance map that are directly visible from the interpolated point during rendering. This may be useful for preventing "light leaks" through thin walls with very different illumination on both sides. However it will also slow the rendering, since V-Ray will trace additional rays to determine sample visibility. For more information, see the Check Sample Visibility example below.

Multipass – This is used during irradiance map calculation. When enabled, this causes V-Ray to use all irradiance map samples computed so far. Disabling it allows V-Ray to use only samples collected during previous passes, but not those computed earlier during the current pass. Keeping this enabled usually causes V-Ray to take less samples (and therefore compute the irradiance map faster). That means that on multiprocessor machines, several threads will be modifying the irradiance map at the same time. Because of the asynchronous nature of this process, there is no guarantee that rendering the same image twice will produce the same irradiance map. Normally this is not a problem at all and it is recommended to keep this option checked.

Randomize samples – This setting is used during irradiance map calculation. When this option is enabled, the image samples will be randomly jittered. Unchecking it will produce samples that are aligned in a grid on the screen. In general, this option should be kept checked in order to avoid artifacts caused by regular sampling. 

Calc. interp samples – This value is used during irradiance map calculation. It represents the number of already computed samples that will be used to guide the sampling algorithm. Useful values range between 10 and 25. Low values might speed up the calculation pass, but might not provide sufficient information. Higher values will be slower and will cause additional sampling. In general, this parameter should be left at the default value of 15.



Example: Interpolation Methods


The following examples show the main differences between a blurry interpolation method (Least squares fit) and a non-blurry one (Delone triangulation). Notice how the images in the first column are more blurry, while the images in the second column are sharper.



Blurry method (Least squares fit)

Non-blurry method (Delone triangulation)
The scene is a simple cube on a sphere as seen from above, lit by a HDRI map. Low hemispheric subdivs and low irradiance map rates were used intentionally so that the difference is more obvious. Both images were rendered with exactly the same irradiance map.

This scene shows the ability of the Delone triangulation method to preserve detail. Notice that the shadows in the right image are sharper. Both images used the same irradiance map.

A close-up of the previous scene. The irradiance map is exactly the same as for the two previous images (it was saved and then loaded from disk).



Example: Sample Look-up


The following examples show the differences between the three sample lookup methods and more specifically, their behavior in areas with changing sample density.

This is the test scene, the left image shows the final image and the right image shows the samples in the irradiance map (the image was rendered with the Show samples option enabled). The scene itself is a sphere on a plane, lit by a V-Ray area light and a small degree of skylight. The area light had the Store with irradiance map option enabled.



Test scene


The samples in the irradiance map




As one can notice, the density of the samples is quite different in the uniformly lit areas and in the shadow transition area.

The following three images used exactly the same irradiance map with the Least squares fit interpolation method.



Nearest lookup method


Quad-balanced lookup method




Overlapping method


Density-based method




You can see the ringing artifacts (the white halo around the shadow) caused by the different sample density in the first two images. The third image, rendered with the Precalculated overlapping method is free from those artifacts. It also rendered faster than the previous two images. The last image was rendered using the Density-based method. This method yields the best result but is slower than the Overlapping method.


As a comparison, here is the same image rendered with the Delone triangulation interpolation method.



Nearest lookup method


Quad-balanced lookup method




Overlapping method


Density-based method




The images are nearly identical. This is because the Delone triangulation method, being a non-blurry method, is less sensitive to the samples that are being looked up, so long as the delone trianglulation can be performed successfully from them.


Being the fastest of the three methods, Nearest look-up may be used for preview purposes. Nearest quad-balanced performs fairly well in the majority of cases. Pre-calculated overlapping is fast and in many cases performs very well, but may tend to blur the GI solution. The Density-based method produces very good results in the majority of cases and is the default method.

Note that the lookup method is mostly important when using a blurry interpolation method. When using Delone triangulation, the sample lookup method does not influence the result very much.



Example: Check Sample Visibility


The following examples demonstrate the effect of the Check sample visibility parameter. The scene is a thin wall lit on the two sides by two V-Ray area lights with different colors. Both lights had the Store with irradiance map option checked. The two images are rendered with the  Medium irradiance map preset.



Check sample visibility is off


Check sample visibility is on




Notice the light leak in the first image. This happens because near the thin wall, V-Ray will use samples from both sides. When the Check sample visibility option is turned on, V-Ray will discard the samples from the wrong side.

As a comparison, here is the same image rendered with the High irradiance map preset and Check sample visibility turned off.



High irradiance map preset, Least squares fit


High irradiance map preset, Delone triangulation




The light leak effect is negligible in the left image, and completely absent in the right one. This is because the High irradiance map preset will cause V-Ray to take additional samples at the base of the thin wall, thus decreasing the leaking effect. Using a non-blurry interpolation method (Delone triangulation) further limits this effect.

The conclusion is that turning on Check sample visibility is only useful for low irradiance map settings. Also note that this option may not work very well for curved objects.




  • You can view, merge and save irradiance maps with the Irradiance Map Viewer tool.
  • For animated irradiance maps, GI samples on different objects are not shared; this may lead to small objects to appear black in the final renders. To solve this issue, group those objects together - this will work as GI samples are shared for objects which are part of the same group.
  • Irradiance Map is not an available option when using the GPU renderer.