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According to the documentation, the new "squared samples" feature in the render settings can "make tweaking easier from an artists point of view," but it's not clear what this settings does, or how it would make tweaking easier.

In short, what does the squared samples setting do, and how do I exploit its powers?

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All it does is square the specified number of samples. So 10 samples becomes 100 samples.

From the commit log:

Cycles / Sampling UI:

Add a "Squared Samples" option to the UI, to use squared values for ease of use. This can make it easier from an artist point of view, to weak settings.

With this enabled, all Sample values will be squared. So 10 Samples become 100 Samples. For the Non-Progressive Branched Path integrator: 4 AA Samples * 5 Diffuse Samples would become 16 AA Samples * 25 Diffuse = 400 in total.

Also see this related post and this thread on the bf-cycles mailing list

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  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't seem worth it... $\endgroup$ – Matt Jan 10 '14 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Matt ikr.. IIRC the rational was that "artists will see a larger difference by adjust a smaller value" or something like that. I'll see what I can find out. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Jan 10 '14 at 1:21
  • $\begingroup$ huh... I suppose that makes sense. It may also be attempting to take into account that as more samples are taken, an increasing amount of additional samples are needed before an appreciable change is apparent. $\endgroup$ – Matt Jan 10 '14 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ The reason here would be that, assuming square pixels, to double the sample resolution of the image, you'd have to quadruple the number of samples because each 1-by-1 pixel holds n samples thus having sqrt(n) pixels per side (on average). $\endgroup$ – wchargin Jan 10 '14 at 5:21
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    $\begingroup$ Think of the option as choosing between fine or course control. You may also notice that the totals are displayed at the bottom of the panel, (more useful with Branched Path Tracing) which also shows how increasing one value will increase related samples. $\endgroup$ – sambler Jan 10 '14 at 8:41

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