The power of mental ray was f irst acknowledged by Hol lywood in 2003 with an Academy award presented to its creator, mental images. Earl ier versions of mental ray found its way into visual effect studio pipel ines where it was customized and tai lored to the various studios’ needs. Autodesk saw the potential mental ray had as an alternative to scanl ine and radiosity, and as a render engine that could compete with new technology l ike Brazi l , Final Render, and V-Ray. Now, with better documentation and a streamlined workf low, mental ray has found a home in many Autodesk products. The mental ray renderer offers powerful tools to create the most demanding visual izations and continues to become more accessible with each release. For many users, switching to a new rendering engine presents its chal lenges but understanding the basics goes a long way to f latten out the learning curve. We’re going to introduce some core concepts in this chapter that wil l prevent some pitfal ls further down the road and get you up and running with mental ray so you can create stunning visual izations in very l itt le t ime.