1 - Ray Tracing Software
Subject 1.1 - POV-Ray
The Persistance of Vision Ray Tracer (POV-Ray) is an all-round
excellent package, but there are two things that particularly make it
stand out above the rest of the crowd. Firstly, it's free, and
secondly, the source is distributed so you can compile it on
virtually any platform. It's without doubt the most used package
among the comp.graphics.rendering.raytracing crowd and well worth
checking out if you haven't already.
POV-Ray is based on David Buck's original ray tracer, DKB-Trace and
has been (and still is) developed and supported by a whole crowd of
people on CompuServe's POV-Ray Forum (GO POVRAY).
After a drought of over two years, a new release of POV-Ray (version
3.0) is officially available. For those of you who participated in
the public beta testing, you can finally stop downloading new
versions as the beta binaries expire. Even better, the source code
is finally available, so all those people who want to start tinkering
and adding new features can do so.
The official distribution site for POV-Ray is Compuserve's GO POVRAY
forum, but on the Internet, the official FTP and WWW sites are:
However, at times the access to povray.org is erratic, and it can
also be very busy, so there are a number of unofficial mirror sites
(see 2 - FTP Sites, Web Sites, Mailing Lists).
The files that make up official 3.0 versions of POV-Ray are:
- povmsdos.zip MS-DOS 32-bit binary, scene files, and documentation
- povmsdos.zip MS-DOS source code
- povwin3.zip Windows 32-bit binaries, scene files, and documentation
- povlinux.tgz Linux for x86 ELF binaries, scene files, and documentation
- povsunos.tgz SunOS SPARC binaries, scene files, and documentation
- povuni_s.tgz Unix source files
- povuni_d.tgz Unix documentation, include, and sample scene files
- povmac68.sit.hqx Mac 680x0 with FPU binary, scene files, documentation
- povmacnf.sit.hqx Mac 680x0 witout FPU binary, scene files, documentation
- povpmac.sit.hqx Mac PowerPC binary, scene files, documentation
- povmacs.sit.hqx Mac source files
- povam020.lha Amiga 68020/68881 version
- povam040.lha Amiga 68040 version
- povam020.lha Amiga source files
There is also an official version of POV-Ray for Amiga available at:
If your system is not in this list, it is recommended that
you use the generic Unix sources for compiling POV-Ray. You can also
find the above archives packaged in different formats or binaries for
If you have access to several networked computers and a compiler,
it is possible to have POV-Ray render using multiple CPUs using
the PVM system of distributed computing. More information is at:
There is a large collection of software related to POV-Ray available
on the Raytrace! CD-ROM from Walnut Creek. This includes modellers,
viewers, utility programs, scene files, and rendered images. For
For your browsing pleasure, you can have a look at almost the whole
contents of the CD-ROM at http://www.aussie.org/products/
There will also be an updated version of the POV-Ray CD-ROM with the
new 3.0 version sometime in the future.
Subject 1.2 - Rayshade
Rayshade is a free ray tracing package originally developed in 1988
by Craig Kolb <cek at princeton.edu>, David Dobkin, and David Hoffman
for unix/X11, but it has since been ported to several platforms and
re-written and improved several times since. Several non-Unix ports
are available, including DOS, Amiga, Mac, and OS/2. This is the
program often used by universities for teaching ray tracing and as a
result, it is often also used for research on rendering and object
generation. Because of its extensibility, there are a large number
of user-contributed additions and modifications to the base renderer.
This means that many incredible images and ideas saw first "light"
under Rayshade. The image gallery at the Rayshade Homepage can bear
witness to this. The "official" ftp and WWW sites are located at:
There are (at least) two programs to distribute rayshade traces over
multiple systems. One is inetray, the other raynet, available at:
Subject 1.3 - Radiance and ADELINE
Radiance is a free Unix software package that adopts a radiosity-type
approach to lighting simluation. A MS-DOS version is now available
as part of the ADELINE 2.0 software package for a site license fee
from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Greg Ward <gjward at lbl.gov>, discusses Radiance here:
"I've spent the past ten or so years developing a ray tracing program
for lighting simulation and rendering called Radiance. Although it
doesn't use the typical finite-element/form-factor approach of
radiosity programs, it does compute what they compute plus some.
Specifically, Radiance computes diffuse, specular and directional-
diffuse reflection and transmission in arbitrarily complicated
Here is a short description:
Radiance is a suite of programs for the analysis and visualization of
lighting in design. Input files specify the scene geometry,
materials, luminaires, time, date and sky conditions (for daylight
calculations). Calculated values include spectral radiance (ie.
luminance & color), irradiance (illuminance & color) and glare
indices. Simulation results may be displayed as color images,
numerical values and contour plots.
The primary advantage of Radiance over simpler lighting calculation
and rendering tools is that there are no limitations on the geometry
or the materials that may be simulated. Radiance is used by
architects and engineers to predict illumination, visual quality and
appearance of innovative design spaces, and by researchers to
evaluate new lighting and daylighting technologies.
Radiance has been written up in many technical and non-technical
articles in various journals and magazines. Most recently, a
Radiance-generated image appeared on the cover of the 1992 Siggraph
There are hundreds of happy Radiance users world-wide, including
public and private research institutions as well as engineering and
I guess that's all I can think of to say about it at the moment..."
The Unix version of the software is free, in source code, runs on
most Unix/X11 platforms, and is available in source form:
ftp://hobbes.lbl.gov/ [18.104.22.168] in California and
ftp://nestor.epfl.ch/ [22.214.171.124] in Switzerland.
The Radiance WWW home page can be found at:
A version of Radiance for MS-DOS is available as part of a software
package called ADELINE. ADELINE is being distributed by Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory. For detailed information and an online
order form, please see:
An FTP site with basic info and an ASCII order form is available at:
Subject 1.4 - Blue Moon Rendering Tools (BMRT)
The Blue Moon Rendering Tools (BMRT for short), are a set of
rendering programs and libraries, written by Larry Gritz
<lg at pixar.com> for his Ph.D. research work, which adhere to the
RenderMan(R) standard as set forth by Pixar. Pixar's implementation
of the Renderman standard is a program called Photorealistic
RenderMan (PRMan), which uses a method of rendering called REYES,
which is based in scan-line rendering methods.
BMRT, on the other hand, includes a simple wire-frame renderer, an
OpenGL renderer, and most importantly, a renderer which uses some of
the latest techniques of radiosity and ray tracing to produce near
photorealistic images. BMRT also supports RIB files directly, and
can compile Shading Language (.sl) shaders using the included Shading
Language Compiler (although the output is NOT compatible with the
.slo files used by PRMan).
BMRT is avaiable for most popular Unix platforms in binary form. The
BMRT licencing agreement allows unlimited free use for non-commercial
users, but it must be registered for use by or for commercial
applications. Larry asks that people only download BMRT from the
official web site:
Subject 1.5 - Polyray
! The program Polyray is a freeware rendering program for producing
scenes of 3D shapes and surfaces. The means of description range
from standard primitives like box, sphere, etc. to 3 variable
polynomial expression, and finally (and slowest of all) surfaces
containing transcendental functions like sin, cos, log. Polyray
supports rendering in a number of different modes: Raytracing,
Zbuffered polygon rendering (fully textures or Gourad shaded),
wireframe and hidden line, and raw triangles (as ASCII output, one
tri per line).
The texturing in Polyray is not limited to a few predefined styles -
you can use mathematical expressions to modify any part of the
The main site for Polyray (including source code) is:
The extended DOS version of Polyray is available at:
Unix versions are available at:
(binaries for: HP-UX, Linux, FreeBSD, Sun OS 4&5, SGI/IRIX 4&5)
Subject 1.6 - Vivid (including BOB)
Vivid is a shareware ray tracer for IBM PC's by Stephen Coy
<scoy at microsoft.com>. Version 2, the current publicly available
version, is available from several FTP sites as vivid2.zip.
Version 3 is expected soon (I expect it is already available [AED]).
Compared to POV-Ray, Vivid doesn't have as many features, but in many
cases it can run faster. Source code isn't available, so the package
is limited to systems which can run DOS executables.
Stephen Coy, Christopher Watkins and Mark Finlay co-authored a book
on Ray Tracing called "Photorealism and Ray Tracing in C".
Distributed free with the book was an example ray tracer called BOB.
This was actually a cut down version of Vivid which did include
source. (see also 5 - Further Information and Resources).
Subject 1.7 - Others
There are many other ray tracing packages available; ART, DKBtrace,
RTrace, RAY4, MTV, QRT, and DBW for instance, and some for parallel
tracing: XDART, RRLib, prt, and VM_pRAY. Eric Haines' <erich at eye.com>
Ray Tracing News (see 5 - Further Information and Resources), or the
FAQ for more info.
Subject 1.8 - Non-Ray Tracing Software
* Pixar's Photo-Realistic Renderman
Because of the excellent and sophisticated techniques used in
PRMan, many people think that it is a ray tracer, when in fact
PRMan is a REYES based software package (REYES is based in scanline
methods). PRMan is the grand-daddy of all high-end rendering
packages, and was the source of many of the techniques used in
rendering software today. Pixar showcased their skills in short
animations such as Tin Toy and Red's Dream. PRMan was used to
render the Walt-Disney feature film Toy Story.
There is a newsgroup comp.graphics.rendering.renderman devoted
to the discussion of all implementations of the Renderman language.
* 3D Studio
Autodesk's 3d Studio is an interactive 3d modelling, rendering and
animation package for the IBM PC platform. It employs scanline
rendering to achieve photo-realistic effects rather than
ray tracing. Because of this, it cannot do true shadows,
reflections or refractions, but can, in many cases, simulate them
accurately enough for most purposes. The package costs several
thousand dollars, even with an educational discount. There is a
newsgroup for discussions on this package.
The newsgroup for this software is comp.graphics.apps.alias
The newsgroup for this software is comp.graphics.apps.lightwave
Note that there is also a group comp.graphics.rendering.misc
for the discussion of general rendering issues.
Parent document is "Ray Tracing FAQ"
Previous document is "What is Ray Tracing?"
Next document is "2 - FTP Sites, Web Sites, Mailing Lists"