POV-Ray: the 3D solid geometry & rendering sandbox


Mac Alert: If you use a Macintosh computer, you'll need both POV-Ray and the MegaPOV helper application. First download and install POV-Ray, but DON'T run the program. Next download and install MegaPOV from http://megapov.inetart.net/. THE FIRST TIME YOU RUN MegaPOV, a configuration screen will appear. The only essential configuration is to specify where the POV-Ray include files are located (use select button on bottom of config screen).

POV-Ray generates geometric images from a text file that describes the scene in terms of its geometric primitives. In the example above, the size and location of spheres, cylinders, cones, and a plane were specified to create the snowman. POV-Ray's rendering engine provides the realistic lighting, textures, shadows, and skies. Here's an example of how you would specify a white sphere of radius 2 units whose center is at the origin:

				sphere { <0, 0, 0>, 2
					texture { pigment { color White } } }

POV-Ray is NOT an intuitive system. It's scene description language uses a symbol system like math or music. To begin to learn the system, follow the examples in the POV-Ray "mini-manual" here (in pdf format). Below are simple "ready-to-run" scene description files that you can download and render with POV-ray. You can use them to see how the components of a scence are specified and how some special effects like reflections (chrome) and transparency (glass) are produced.

Note that the location of every object must be specified with respect to 3-axis coordinates (x, y, and z). While this system may appear outmoded or cumbersome, it actually is an opportunity for students to work in a geometry microworld in which they must think in mathematical terms (because that's the only language POV-Ray understands).

The BEST resource to explore POV-Ray for a school environment is the POV-Ray page of a German high school developed by Freidrich Lohmueller at: http://www.f-lohmueller.de/pov_tut/pov__eng.htm. The extensive site contains examples and lessons for at least a year of mathematical, artistic, and programming instruction. The site has been developed over more than five years and is a testimonial to the educational application of POV-Ray.

snowman rendering
A two-period 6th grade activity with POV-Ray ~srg

Click here to view/copy/download the "snowman.pov" text file that generates the snowman above. If the system seems confusing but interesting, check out the tutorial links at right.

Example of elaboration of 6th grade activity above ~srg

Since POV-Ray 3D images are described by a scene description language, there are ways to reuse object descriptions that you have defined. In the example above, only one snowman was described, but he was drawn several times according to an algorithm that drew him, moved him away from the origin, and then rotated him around the origin. Similar techniques could be used to draw him at different scales to generate a family of snowman adults and children. It is a very powerful system when (if) you get used to it. Click here to view/copy/download the "snowman_group.pov" text file that generates the snowman cirle dance above. The "while" loop that generates the repetitive image is easy to find in the file.

POV-Ray Animation

The tutorials to the right also will show you how to create vivid, photorealistic animations such as the ten-second swimming manta rays below. As with still 3-D images, expect a significant learning curve with a significant reward at the end!

Manta ray, First Place POV-Ray 512 byte ~posted by murgel77

Here's a short video that demonstrates how to create a 3D spinning logo. The process and code are clearly explained so the beginnner can follow along with successs. (9.5 minutes)

Making 3D Logo (Tutorial) ~RustyTube


We're confronted by insurmountable opportunity!
-- Pogo (Walt Kelly)

About this page

Of all the subjects, more students have difficulty in relating to mathematics than to any other. One reason is that beyond simple arithmetic, students rarely apply mathematics outside of the math classroom. POV-Ray provides a three-dimensional "sandbox" where students explore geometric and algorithmic concepts in a structural and artistic way. They build 3D scenes in which they apply lighting, colors, textures, and transformations in a creative, yet demanding, context. After students gain a comfort level with POV-Ray, traditional geometry and physics may make more sense. POV-Ray has evolved over 20 years to become one of the most intriguing math applications available. One of the more recent bursts of interest in POV-Ray involves using creating animations one scene at a time in an automated script. The Web links on the right can lead you to amazing images and animations. POV-Ray is used by teachers and students from middle school through university as an immersive way to learn 3D geometry. There is a vibrant artistic and enthusiast POV-Ray community who keep improving the software and sharing examples and help. POV-Ray YouTube videos can lead to hours of entertainment and education.

About POV-Ray

This free software for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux was designed over 20 years ago. It uses a feature-rich scene description language to create scenes and a high-precision ray-tracing engine to render the scene in a photo-realistic manner. The name POV-Ray stands for Persistence of Vision Ray Tracer and is distributed as an open source project for all to use at no cost.

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