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This question already has an answer here:

Is it possible to use an equirectangular sky texture as a world background in Blender Internal?

I'm used to doing this in Cycles, but don't know if there's a BI equivalent:

Equirectangular environment map in Cycles

I would like to avoid mapping the environment texture onto a UV sphere if there is a more elegant way. Thanks.

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marked as duplicate by Ray Mairlot, Gwen, Mr Zak, p2or, GiantCowFilms Dec 6 '15 at 16:39

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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To make equirectangular texture enhance your scene in Blender Internal, create a texture for World Background and add your map in there.

  1. Open World scroll, check Real Sky. Without this setting texture still will work but the view won't change if rotating camera. Then go to Textures tab to create a new texture for the world.

  2. In the new texture properties leave it on Image or Movie, open equirectangular map.

  3. In the Mapping scroll change coordinates to Equirectangular.

  4. In the Influence tab uncheck Blend and choose Horizon. It's rather handy to look at Preview World scroll while changing these, as it will change according to steps done.

    enter image description here

    Note that as mentioned by @Mentalist in order to see your equirectangular map in the render you should also set Alpha Mode to Sky instead of Transparent in Render > OpenGL Render Options (if it was changed before).

    enter image description here

  5. If you'd like to make the map affect the scene lighting, enable Environment Lighting and set it to Sky Texture.

    enter image description here

Also according to the post on BA, supporting of equirectangular maps in BI has been added rather long ago.

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  • $\begingroup$ Perfect, thanks! I noticed that when I load a .hdr image, while I can boost the Energy to shine more light on the objects in the scene, the sky image itself does not brighten. Do you happen to know if there is a setting to make an HDRi sky appear brighter? Also, I encountered one issue worth mentioning - my background was rendering as transparent at first, even after following all your steps. It was because in my startup .blend I have OpenGL renders set to use transparent backgrounds. This was fixed by going to the menu and choosing Render > OpenGL Render Options > Alpha Mode: Sky $\endgroup$ – Mentalist Dec 6 '15 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Mentalist I can't think of any useful ways to brighten hdri map only if not using some hacks like setting Horizon to 2 in texture properties (note that it seems to increase saturation, not brightness) or playing with colors in World tab. As to issue - I'll edit the answer and I'm surprised btw to see that it affects final render, not only OpenGL which I often use for previewing animations. $\endgroup$ – Mr Zak Dec 6 '15 at 13:57

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