Scene File Gamma

The image file gamma problem itself is just a result of how scenes themselves are generated in POV-Ray. When you start out with a new scene and are placing light sources and adjusting surface textures and colors, you generally make several attempts before the lighting is how you like it. How you choose these settings depends upon the preview image or the image file stored to disk, which in turn is dependent upon the overall gamma of the display hardware being used.

This means that as the artist you are doing gamma correction in the POV-Ray scene file for your particular hardware. This scene file will generate an image file that is also gamma corrected for your hardware and will display correctly on systems similar to your own. However, when this scene is rendered on another platform, it may be too bright or too dim, regardless of the output file format used. Rather than have you change all the scene files to have a single fixed gamma value (heaven forbid!), POV-Ray 3.0 allows you to specify in the scene file the display gamma of the system that the scene was created on.

The assumed_gamma global setting, in conjunction with the Display_Gamma INI setting lets POV-Ray know how to do gamma correction on a given scene so that the preview and output image files will appear the correct brightness on any system. Since the gamma correction is done internally to POV-Ray, it will produce output image files that are the correct brightness for the current display, regardless of what output format is used. As well, since the gamma correction is performed in the high-precision data format that POV-Ray uses internally, it produces better results than gamma correction done after the file is written to disk.

Although you may not notice any difference in the output on your system with and without an assumed_gamma setting, the assumed gamma is important if the scene is ever rendered on another platform.

Section 7.8.4

The hf_gray_16 setting is useful when using POV-Ray to generate heightfields for use in other POV-Ray scenes. The syntax is...

global_settings { hf_gray_16 BOOLEAN }

The boolean value turns the option on or off. If the keyword is specified without the boolean value then the option is turned on. If hf_gray_16 is not specified in any global_settings statement in the entire scene then the default is off.

When hf_gray_16 is on, the output file will be in the form of a heightfield, with the height at any point being dependent on the brightness of the pixel. The brightness of a pixel is calculated in the same way that color images are converted to grayscale images:

  height = 0.3 * red + 0.59 * green + 0.11 * blue

Setting the hf_gray_16 option will cause the preview display, if used, to be grayscale rather than color. This is to allow you to see how the heightfield will look because some file formats store heightfields in a way that is difficult to understand afterwards. See section "Height Field" for a description of how POV-Ray heightfields are stored for each file type.

Section 7.8.5

Iridescence calculations depend upon the dominant wavelengths of the primary colors of red, green and blue light. You may adjust the values using the global setting irid_wavelength as follows... global_settings { irid_wavelength COLOR }

The default value is rgb <0.25,0.18,0.14> and any filter or transmit values are ignored. These values are proportional to the wavelength of light but they represent no real world units.

In general, the default values should prove adequate but we provide this option as a means to experiment with other values.

Section 7.8.6

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 global setting max_trace_level defines the maximum number of recursive levels that POV-Ray will trace a ray.

global_settings { max_trace_level INTEGER }

This is used when a ray is reflected or is passing through a transparent object and when shadow rays are cast. When a ray hits a reflective surface, it spawns another ray to see what that point reflects. That is trace level one. If it hits another reflective surface another ray is spawned and it goes to trace level two. The maximum level by default is five.

One speed enhancement added to POV-Ray in version 3.0 is Adaptive Depth Control (ADC). Each time a new ray is spawned as a result of reflection or refraction its contribution to the overall color of the pixel is reduced by the amount of reflection or the filter value of the refractive surface. At some point this contribution can be considered to be insignificant and there is no point in tracing any more rays. Adaptive depth control is what tracks this contribution and makes the decision of when to bail out. On scenes that use a lot of partially reflective or refractive surfaces this can result in a considerable reduction in the number of rays fired and makes it safer to use much higher max_trace_level values.

This reduction in color contribution is a result of scaling by the reflection amount and/or the filter values of each surface, so a perfect mirror or perfectly clear surface will not be optimizable by ADC. You can see the results of ADC by watching the Rays Saved and Highest Trace Level displays on the statistics screen.

The point at which a ray's contribution is considered insignificant is controlled by the adc_bailout value. The default 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.

If max_trace_level is reached before a non-reflecting surface is found and if ADC hasn't allowed an early exit from the ray tree the color is returned as black. Raise max_trace_level if you see black areas in a reflective surface where there should be a color.

The other symptom you could see is with transparent objects. For instance, try making a union of concentric spheres with a clear texture on them. Make ten of them in the union with radius's from 1 to 10 and render the scene. The image will show the first few spheres correctly, then black. This is because a new level is used every time you pass through a transparent surface. Raise max_trace_level to fix this problem.

Note that raising max_trace_level will use more memory and time and it could cause the program to crash with a stack overflow error, although ADC will alleviate this to a large extent. Values for max_trace_level are not restricted, so it can be set to any number as long as you have the time and memory. However, increasing its setting does not necessarily equate to increased image quality unless such depths are really needed by the scene.

Section 7.8.7

POV-Ray uses a set of internal stacks to collect ray/object intersection points. The usual maximum number of entries in these I-Stacks is 64. Complex scenes may cause these stacks to overflow. POV-Ray doesn't stop but it may incorrectly render your scene. When POV-Ray finishes rendering, a number of statistics are displayed. If you see I-Stack Overflows reported in the statistics you should increase the stack size. Add a global setting to your scene as follows:

global_settings { max_intersections INTEGER }

If the I-Stack Overflows remain increase this value until they stop.

Section 7.8.8

The wave and ripples pattern are generated by summing a series of waves, each with a slightly different center and size. By default, ten waves are summed but this amount can be globally controlled by changing the number_of_waves setting.

global_settings { number_of_waves INTEGER }

Changing this value affects both waves and ripples alike on all patterns in the scene.

Section 7.8.9

Important notice: The radiosity feature in POV-Ray 3.0 are somewhat experimental. There is a high probability that the design and implementation of these features will be changed in future versions. We cannot guarantee that scenes using these features in 3.0 will render identically in future releases or that full backwards compatibility of language syntax can be maintained.

Radiosity is an extra calculation that more realistically computes the diffuse interreflection of light. This diffuse interreflection can be seen if you place a white chair in a room full of blue carpet, blue walls and blue curtains. The chair will pick up a blue tint from light reflecting off of other parts of the room. Also notice that the shadowed areas of your surroundings are not totally dark even if no light source shines directly on the surface. Diffuse light reflecting off of other objects fills in the shadows. Typically ray-tracing uses a trick called ambient light to simulate such effects but it is not very accurate.

Radiosity is more accurate than simplistic ambient light but it takes much longer to compute. For this reason, POV-Ray does not use radiosity by default. Radiosity is turned on using the Radiosity INI file option or the +QR command line switch.

The following sections describes how radiosity works, how to control it with various global settings and tips on trading quality vs. speed.

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