What is Baking for

I hear of Baking from time to time and was wondering what it really used for…Is it for a scene that has many objects with high poly count like I just did. Is it possible to permentaly assign all my textures and materials in cycle so they do not have to render them from the start (do not know if I asking this right)…I have a scene in cycles that has a lot of objects, and it is taking a little longer to render, even though I have 24 gig of RAM using windows 7 XP. 64 bit.

Baking is used in Blender Internal, but by baking AO and vertex paint, you can achieve very good texture maps to use in Cycles. As of right now, Cycles doesn’t support baking but that is on the roadmap. Lots of people are looking forward to being able to bake the results from Cycles to image textures so they can use that nice GI look in the game engine, or build their textures directly from the materials built in Cycles.

Baking actually refers to a few different things in Blender, but I guess you could say it’s a way of pre-calculating things so that you don’t have use the processing power to recalculate things over and over…

For instance when using particles you can bake the physics, meaning that it calculates the motion of all the particles and writes it to the hard drive, so that you can play it back more smoothly.

Another use is when you make a dense polygon mesh through the sculpting tools and then want to transfer the detail onto a mesh with fewer polygons. The baking creates a 2D topographical image that you can wrap around the low poly mesh so that the renderer can fake the detail (see retopology for more info). This speeds up the render significantly and it goes without saying that if you have a character with his back turned on the other side of a room, you wouldn’t want the renderer to calculate the light that bounces in his nostrils…

Then there the example Mr Jones gave above, where you bake all the shadows in advance so that it doesn’t have to be recalculated at render time or used in the Game Engine where real-time lighting is something complex and difficult to do.

If you look at the dynamics or particle tab you’ll see the baking option under the Cache shelf. Whereas the baking to images is under the Render tab (in the Blender Render or Blender Game modes).