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:
  ftp://ftp.povray.org/ []
  http://www.povray.org/ []

  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
  other platforms.

  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
  architecture firms.

  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/ [] in California and
  ftp://nestor.epfl.ch/ [] 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.

  * Alias
    The newsgroup for this software is comp.graphics.apps.alias

  * Lightwave
    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"
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