Section 7.8
Global Settings

The global_settings statement is a catch-all statement that gathers together a number of global parameters. The statement may appear anywhere in a scene as long as its not inside any other statement. You may have multiple global_settings statements in a scene. Whatever values were specified in the last global_settings statement override any previous settings. Regardless of where you specify the statement, the feature applies to the entire scene.

Note that some items which were language directives in previous versions of POV-Ray have been moved inside the global_settings statement so that it is more obvious to the user that their effect is global. The old syntax is permitted but generates a warning.

global_settings { adc_bailout FLOAT ambient_light COLOR assumed_gamma FLOAT hf_gray_16 BOOLEAN irid_wavelength COLOR max_intersections INTEGER max_trace_level INTEGER number_of_waves INTEGER radiosity { RADIOSITY_ITEMS... } }

Each item is optional and may appear in and order. If an item is specified more than once, the last setting overrides previous values. Details on each item are given in the following sections.

Section 7.8.1

In scenes with many reflective and transparent surfaces, POV-Ray can get bogged down tracing multiple reflections and refractions that contribute very little to the color of a particular pixel. The program uses a system called Adaptive Depth Control (ADC) to stop computing additional reflected or refracted rays when their contribution is insignificant.

You may use the global setting adc_bailout keyword followed by float value to specify the point at which a ray's contribution is considered insignificant.

global_settings { adc_bailout FLOAT }

The default value is 1/255, or approximately 0.0039, since a change smaller than that could not be visible in a 24 bit image. Generally this setting is perfectly adequate and should be left alone. Setting adc_bailout to 0 will disable ADC, relying completely on max_trace_level to set an upper limit on the number of rays spawned.

See section "Max_Trace_Level" for details on how ADC and max_trace_level interact.

Section 7.8.2
Ambient Light

Ambient light is used to simulate the effect of inter-diffuse reflection that is responsible for lighting areas that partially or completely lie in shadow. POV-Ray provides an ambient light source to let you easily change the brightness of the ambient lighting without changing every ambient value in all finish statements. It also lets you create interesting effects by changing the color of the ambient light source. The syntax is:

global_settings { ambient_light COLOR }

The default is a white ambient light source set at rgb < 1,1,1>. The actual ambient used is:


See section "Ambient" for more information.

Section 7.8.3

Many people may have noticed at one time or another that some images are too bright or dim when displayed on their system. As a rule, Macintosh users find that images created on a PC are too bright, while PC users find that images created on a Macintosh are too dim.

The assumed_gamma global setting works in conjunction with the Display_Gamma INI setting (see section "Display Hardware Settings") to ensure that scene files render the same way across the wide variety of hardware platforms that POV-Ray is used on. The assumed gamma setting is used in a scene file by adding

global_settings { assumed_gamma FLOAT }

where the assumed gamma value is the correction factor to be applied before the pixels are displayed and/or saved to disk. For scenes created in older versions of POV-Ray, the assumed gamma value will be the same as the display gamma value of the system the scene was created on. For PC systems, the most common display gamma is 2.2, while for scenes created on Macintosh systems should use a scene gamma of 1.8. Another gamma value that sometimes occurs in scenes is 1.0.

Scenes that do not have an assumed_gamma global setting will not have any gamma correction performed on them, for compatibility reasons. If you are creating new scenes or rendering old scenes, it is strongly recommended that you put in an appropriate assumed_gamma global setting. For new scenes, you should use an assumed gamma value of 1.0 as this models how light appears in the real world more realistically.

The following sections explain more thoroughly what gamma is and why it is important.

Monitor Gamma

The differences in how images are displayed is a result of how a computer actually takes an image and displays it on the monitor. In the process of rendering an image and displaying it on the screen, several gamma values are important, including the POV scene file or image file gamma and the monitor gamma.

Most image files generated by POV-Ray store numbers in the range from 0 to 255 for each of the red, green and blue components of a pixel. These numbers represent the intensity of each color component, with 0 being black and 255 being the brightest color (either 100% red, 100% green or 100% blue). When an image is displayed, the graphics card converts each color component into a voltage which is sent to the monitor to light up the red, green and blue phosphors on the screen. The voltage is usually proportional to the value of each color component.

Gamma becomes important when displaying intensities that aren't the maximum or minimum possible values. For example, 127 should represent 50% of the maximum intensity for pixels stored as numbers between 0 and 255. On systems that don't do gamma correction, 127 will be converted to 50% of the maximum voltage, but because of the way the phosphors and the electron guns in a monitor work, this may be only 22% of the maximum color intensity on a monitor with a gamma of 2.2. To display a pixel which is 50% of the maximum intensity on this monitor, we would need a voltage of 73% of the maximum voltage, which translates to storing a pixel value of 186.

The relationship between the input pixel value and the displayed intensity can be approximated by an exponential function

obright = ibright ^ display_gamma

where obright is the output intensity and ibright is the input pixel intensity. Both values are in the range from 0 to 1 (0% to 100%). Most monitors have a fixed gamma value in the range from 1.8 to 2.6. Using the above formula with display_gamma values greater than 1 means that the output brightness will be less than the input brightness. In order to have the output and input brightness be equal an overall system gamma of 1 is needed. To do this, we need to gamma correct the input brightness in the same manner as above but with a gamma value of 1/display_gamma before it is sent to the monitor. To correct for a display gamma of 2.2, this pre-monitor gamma correction uses a gamma value of 1.0/2.2 or approximately 0.45.

How the pre-monitor gamma correction is done depends on what hardware and software is being used. On Macintosh systems, the operating system has taken it upon itself to insulate applications from the differences in display hardware. Through a gamma control panel the user may be able to set the actual monitor gamma and MacOS will then convert all pixel intensities so that the monitor will appear to have the specified gamma value. On Silicon Graphics machines, the display adapter has built-in gamma correction calibrated to the monitor which gives the desired overall gamma (the default is 1.7). Unfortunately, on PCs and most UNIX systems, it is up to the application to do any gamma correction needed.

Image File Gamma

Since most PC and UNIX applications and image file formats don't understand display gamma, they don't do anything to correct for it. As a result, users creating images on these systems adjust the image in such a way that it has the correct brightness when displayed. This means that the data values stored in the files are made brighter to compensate for the darkening effect of the monitor. In essence, the 0.45 gamma correction is built in to the image files created and stored on these systems. When these files are displayed on a Macintosh system, the gamma correction built in to the file, in addition to gamma correction built into MacOS, means that the image will be too bright. Similarly, files that look correct on Macintosh or SGI systems because of the built-in gamma correction will be too dark when displayed on a PC.

The new PNG format files generated by POV-Ray 3.0 overcome the problem of too much or not enough gamma correction by storing the image file gamma (which is 1.0/display_gamma) inside the PNG file when it is generated by POV-Ray. When the PNG file is later displayed by a program that has been set up correctly, it uses this gamma value as well as the current display gamma to correct for the potentially different display gamma used when originally creating the image.

Unfortunately, of all the image file formats POV-Ray supports, PNG is the only one that has any gamma correction features and is therefore preferred for images that will be displayed on a wide variety of platforms.

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