Chrome Ball

At SIGGRAPH '98, Paul Debevec presented "Rendering Synthetic Objects into Real Scenes: Bridging Traditional and Image-Based Graphics with Global Illumination and High Dynamic Range Photography".In this paper he used his previous technique to photograph a shiny chrome ball to produce what he called a "light probe", essentially an HDR environment map. This light probe could then be used in the rendering of a synthetic scene. Unlike a normal environment map that simply provides something to show in reflections or refractions, the light probe also provided the light for the scene. In fact, it was the only light source. This added an unprecedented level of realism, supplying real-world lighting data to the whole lighting model.