You can render participating media only with the mental ray for Maya renderer.
Participating media is a form of indirect illumination where light interacts with particles that occupy a space, rather than
with a surface. In Maya, photons interact with volumetric effects that participate in the transport of light by absorbing
some of the light.
Example of participating media are shafts of light in a dusty barn or the glow around beam of light from a car headlight.
Participating media works similarly to the way global illumination works on surfaces, except that volume shaders and volume
photon shaders are required.
Participating media can disperse volumetric caustics too.
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