RTRACE(1) General Commands Manual RTRACE(1)
rtrace - trace rays in RADIANCE scene
rtrace [ options ] [ $EVAR ] [ @file ] octree
rtrace [ options ] -defaults
Rtrace traces rays from the standard input through the RADIANCE scene given by octree and sends the results to the standard output. (The
octree may be given as the output of a command enclosed in quotes and preceded by a `!'.) Input for each ray is:
xorg yorg zorg xdir ydir zdir
If the direction vector is (0,0,0), a bogus record is printed and the output is flushed if the -x value is unset or zero. (See the notes
on this option below.) This may be useful for programs that run rtrace as a separate process. In the second form, the default values for
the options (modified by those options present) are printed with a brief explanation.
Options may be given on the command line and/or read from the environment and/or read from a file. A command argument beginning with a
dollar sign ('$') is immediately replaced by the contents of the given environment variable. A command argument beginning with an at sign
('@') is immediately replaced by the contents of the given file. Most options are followed by one or more arguments, which must be sepa-
rated from the option and each other by white space. The exceptions to this rule are the boolean options. Normally, the appearance of a
boolean option causes a feature to be "toggled", that is switched from off to on or on to off depending on its previous state. Boolean
options may also be set explicitly by following them immediately with a '+' or '-', meaning on or off, respectively. Synonyms for '+' are
any of the characters "yYtT1", and synonyms for '-' are any of the characters "nNfF0". All other characters will generate an error.
-fio Format input according to the character i and output according to the character o. Rtrace understands the following input and
output formats: 'a' for ascii, 'f' for single-precision floating point, and 'd' for double-precision floating point. In addi-
tion to these three choices, the character 'c' may be used to denote 4-byte floating point (Radiance) color format for the output
of values only (-ov option, below). If the output character is missing, the input format is used.
Note that there is no space between this option and its argument.
-ospec Produce output fields according to spec. Characters are interpreted as follows:
o origin (input)
d direction (normalized)
v value (radiance)
V contribution (radiance)
W color coefficient
l effective length of ray
L first intersection distance
c local (u,v) coordinates
p point of intersection
n normal at intersection (perturbed)
N normal at intersection (unperturbed)
s surface name
m modifier name
M material name
~ tilde (end of trace marker)
If the letter 't' appears in spec, then the fields following will be printed for every ray traced, not just the final result. If
the capital letter 'T' is given instead of 't', then all rays will be reported, including shadow testing rays to light sources.
Spawned rays are indented one tab for each level. The tilde marker ('~') is a handy way of differentiating the final ray value
from daughter values in a traced ray tree, and usually appears right before the 't' or 'T' output flags. E.g., -ov~TmW will emit
a tilde followed by a tab at the end of each trace, which can be easily distinguished even in binary output.
Note that there is no space between this option and its argument.
-te mod Append mod to the trace exclude list, so that it will not be reported by the trace option (-o*t*). Any ray striking an object
having mod as its modifier will not be reported to the standard output with the rest of the rays being traced. This option has
no effect unless either the 't' or 'T' option has been given as part of the output specifier. Any number of excluded modifiers
may be given, but each must appear in a separate option.
-ti mod Add mod to the trace include list, so that it will be reported by the trace option. The program can use either an include list
or an exclude list, but not both.
-tE file Same as -te, except read modifiers to be excluded from file. The RAYPATH environment variable determines which directories are
searched for this file. The modifier names are separated by white space in the file.
-tI file Same as -ti, except read modifiers to be included from file.
-i Boolean switch to compute irradiance rather than radiance values. This only affects the final result, substituting a Lambertian
surface and multiplying the radiance by pi. Glass and other transparent surfaces are ignored during this stage. Light sources
still appear with their original radiance values, though the -dv option (below) may be used to override this. This option is
especially useful in conjunction with ximage(1) for computing illuminance at scene points.
-u Boolean switch to control uncorrelated random sampling. When "off", a low-discrepancy sequence is used, which reduces variance
but can result in a brushed appearance in specular highlights. When "on", pure Monte Carlo sampling is used in all calculations.
-I Boolean switch to compute irradiance rather than radiance, with the input origin and direction interpreted instead as measurement
point and orientation.
-h Boolean switch for information header on output.
-x res Set the x resolution to res. The output will be flushed after every res input rays if -y is set to zero. A value of one means
that every ray will be flushed, whatever the setting of -y. A value of zero means that no output flushing will take place.
-y res Set the y resolution to res. The program will exit after res scanlines have been processed, where a scanline is the number of
rays given by the -x option, or 1 if -x is zero. A value of zero means the program will not halt until the end of file is
If both -x and -y options are given, a resolution string is printed at the beginning of the output. This is mostly useful for
recovering image dimensions with pvalue(1), and for creating valid Radiance picture files using the color output format. (See
the -f option, above.)
-n nproc Execute in parallel on nproc local processes. This option is incompatible with the -P and -PP, options. Multiple processes also
do not work properly with ray tree output using any of the -o*t* options. There is no benefit from specifying more processes
than there are cores available on the system or the -x setting, which forces a wait at each flush.
-dj frac Set the direct jittering to frac. A value of zero samples each source at specific sample points (see the -ds option below), giv-
ing a smoother but somewhat less accurate rendering. A positive value causes rays to be distributed over each source sample
according to its size, resulting in more accurate penumbras. This option should never be greater than 1, and may even cause
problems (such as speckle) when the value is smaller. A warning about aiming failure will issued if frac is too large.
-ds frac Set the direct sampling ratio to frac. A light source will be subdivided until the width of each sample area divided by the dis-
tance to the illuminated point is below this ratio. This assures accuracy in regions close to large area sources at a slight
computational expense. A value of zero turns source subdivision off, sending at most one shadow ray to each light source.
-dt frac Set the direct threshold to frac. Shadow testing will stop when the potential contribution of at least the next and at most all
remaining light sources is less than this fraction of the accumulated value. (See the -dc option below.) The remaining light
source contributions are approximated statistically. A value of zero means that all light sources will be tested for shadow.
-dc frac Set the direct certainty to frac. A value of one guarantees that the absolute accuracy of the direct calculation will be equal
to or better than that given in the -dt specification. A value of zero only insures that all shadow lines resulting in a con-
trast change greater than the -dt specification will be calculated.
-dr N Set the number of relays for secondary sources to N. A value of 0 means that secondary sources will be ignored. A value of 1
means that sources will be made into first generation secondary sources; a value of 2 means that first generation secondary
sources will also be made into second generation secondary sources, and so on.
-dp D Set the secondary source presampling density to D. This is the number of samples per steradian that will be used to determine
ahead of time whether or not it is worth following shadow rays through all the reflections and/or transmissions associated with a
secondary source path. A value of 0 means that the full secondary source path will always be tested for shadows if it is tested
-dv Boolean switch for light source visibility. With this switch off, sources will be black when viewed directly although they will
still participate in the direct calculation. This option is mostly for the program mkillum(1) to avoid inappropriate counting of
light sources, but it may also be desirable in conjunction with the -i option.
-ss samp Set the specular sampling to samp. For values less than 1, this is the degree to which the highlights are sampled for rough
specular materials. A value greater than one causes multiple ray samples to be sent to reduce noise at a commmesurate cost. A
value of zero means that no jittering will take place, and all reflections will appear sharp even when they should be diffuse.
-st frac Set the specular sampling threshold to frac. This is the minimum fraction of reflection or transmission, under which no specular
sampling is performed. A value of zero means that highlights will always be sampled by tracing reflected or transmitted rays. A
value of one means that specular sampling is never used. Highlights from light sources will always be correct, but reflections
from other surfaces will be approximated using an ambient value. A sampling threshold between zero and one offers a compromise
between image accuracy and rendering time.
-bv Boolean switch for back face visibility. With this switch off, back faces of opaque objects will be invisible to all rays. This
is dangerous unless the model was constructed such that all surface normals on opaque objects face outward. Although turning off
back face visibility does not save much computation time under most circumstances, it may be useful as a tool for scene debug-
ging, or for seeing through one-sided walls from the outside. This option has no effect on transparent or translucent materials.
-av red grn blu
Set the ambient value to a radiance of red grn blu . This is the final value used in place of an indirect light calculation. If
the number of ambient bounces is one or greater and the ambient value weight is non-zero (see -aw and -ab below), this value may
be modified by the computed indirect values to improve overall accuracy.
-aw N Set the relative weight of the ambient value given with the -av option to N. As new indirect irradiances are computed, they will
modify the default ambient value in a moving average, with the specified weight assigned to the initial value given on the com-
mand and all other weights set to 1. If a value of 0 is given with this option, then the initial ambient value is never modi-
fied. This is the safest value for scenes with large differences in indirect contributions, such as when both indoor and outdoor
(daylight) areas are visible.
-ab N Set the number of ambient bounces to N. This is the maximum number of diffuse bounces computed by the indirect calculation. A
value of zero implies no indirect calculation.
-ar res Set the ambient resolution to res. This number will determine the maximum density of ambient values used in interpolation.
Error will start to increase on surfaces spaced closer than the scene size divided by the ambient resolution. The maximum ambi-
ent value density is the scene size times the ambient accuracy (see the -aa option below) divided by the ambient resolution. The
scene size can be determined using getinfo(1) with the -d option on the input octree.
-aa acc Set the ambient accuracy to acc. This value will approximately equal the error from indirect illuminance interpolation. A value
of zero implies no interpolation.
-ad N Set the number of ambient divisions to N. The error in the Monte Carlo calculation of indirect illuminance will be inversely
proportional to the square root of this number. A value of zero implies no indirect calculation.
-as N Set the number of ambient super-samples to N. Super-samples are applied only to the ambient divisions which show a significant
-af fname Set the ambient file to fname. This is where indirect illuminance will be stored and retrieved. Normally, indirect illuminance
values are kept in memory and lost when the program finishes or dies. By using a file, different invocations can share illumi-
nance values, saving time in the computation. The ambient file is in a machine-independent binary format which can be examined
The ambient file may also be used as a means of communication and data sharing between simultaneously executing processes. The
same file may be used by multiple processes, possibly running on different machines and accessing the file via the network (ie.
nfs(4)). The network lock manager lockd(8) is used to insure that this information is used consistently.
If any calculation parameters are changed or the scene is modified, the old ambient file should be removed so that the calcula-
tion can start over from scratch. For convenience, the original ambient parameters are listed in the header of the ambient file.
Getinfo(1) may be used to print out this information.
-ae mod Append mod to the ambient exclude list, so that it will not be considered during the indirect calculation. This is a hack for
speeding the indirect computation by ignoring certain objects. Any object having mod as its modifier will get the default ambi-
ent level rather than a calculated value. Any number of excluded modifiers may be given, but each must appear in a separate
-ai mod Add mod to the ambient include list, so that it will be considered during the indirect calculation. The program can use either
an include list or an exclude list, but not both.
-aE file Same as -ae, except read modifiers to be excluded from file. The RAYPATH environment variable determines which directories are
searched for this file. The modifier names are separated by white space in the file.
-aI file Same as -ai, except read modifiers to be included from file.
-me rext gext bext
Set the global medium extinction coefficient to the indicated color, in units of 1/distance (distance in world coordinates).
Light will be scattered or absorbed over distance according to this value. The ratio of scattering to total scattering plus
absorption is set by the albedo parameter, described below.
-ma ralb galb balb
Set the global medium albedo to the given value between 0 0 0 and 1 1 1. A zero value means that all light not transmitted by
the medium is absorbed. A unitary value means that all light not transmitted by the medium is scattered in some new direction.
The isotropy of scattering is determined by the Heyney-Greenstein parameter, described below.
-mg gecc Set the medium Heyney-Greenstein eccentricity parameter to gecc. This parameter determines how strongly scattering favors the
forward direction. A value of 0 indicates perfectly isotropic scattering. As this parameter approaches 1, scattering tends to
prefer the forward direction.
Set the medium sampling distance to sampdist, in world coordinate units. During source scattering, this will be the average dis-
tance between adjacent samples. A value of 0 means that only one sample will be taken per light source within a given scattering
-lr N Limit reflections to a maximum of N, if N is a positive integer. If N is zero or negative, then Russian roulette is used for ray
termination, and the -lw setting (below) must be positive. If N is a negative integer, then this sets the upper limit of reflec-
tions past which Russian roulette will be used. In scenes with dielectrics and total internal reflection, a setting of 0 (no
limit) may cause a stack overflow.
-lw frac Limit the weight of each ray to a minimum of frac. During ray-tracing, a record is kept of the estimated contribution (weight) a
ray would have in the image. If this weight is less than the specified minimum and the -lr setting (above) is positive, the ray
is not traced. Otherwise, Russian roulette is used to continue rays with a probability equal to the ray weight divided by the
-ld Boolean switch to limit ray distance. If this option is set, then rays will only be traced as far as the magnitude of each
direction vector. Otherwise, vector magnitude is ignored and rays are traced to infinity.
-e efile Send error messages and progress reports to efile instead of the standard error.
-w Boolean switch to suppress warning messages.
-P pfile Execute in a persistent mode, using pfile as the control file. Persistent execution means that after reaching end-of-file on its
input, rtrace will fork a child process that will wait for another rtrace command with the same -P option to attach to it. (Note
that since the rest of the command line options will be those of the original invocation, it is not necessary to give any argu-
ments besides -P for subsequent calls.) Killing the process is achieved with the kill(1) command. (The process ID in the first
line of pfile may be used to identify the waiting rtrace process.) This option may be used with the -fr option of pinterp(1) to
avoid the cost of starting up rtrace many times.
-PP pfile Execute in continuous-forking persistent mode, using pfile as the control file. The difference between this option and the -P
option described above is the creation of multiple duplicate processes to handle any number of attaches. This provides a simple
and reliable mechanism of memory sharing on most multiprocessing platforms, since the fork(2) system call will share memory on a
To compute radiance values for the rays listed in samples.inp:
rtrace -ov scene.oct < samples.inp > radiance.out
To compute illuminance values at locations selected with the 't' command of ximage(1):
ximage scene.hdr | rtrace -h -x 1 -i scene.oct | rcalc -e '$1=47.4*$1+120*$2+11.6*$3'
To record the object identifier corresponding to each pixel in an image:
vwrays -fd scene.hdr | rtrace -fda `vwrays -d scene.hdr` -os scene.oct
To compute an image with an unusual view mapping:
cnt 480 640 | rcalc -e 'xr:640;yr:480' -f unusual_view.cal | rtrace -x 640 -y 480 -fac scene.oct > unusual.hdr
RAYPATH the directories to check for auxiliary files.
/tmp/rtXXXXXX common header information for picture sequence
If the program terminates from an input related error, the exit status will be 1. A system related error results in an exit status of 2.
If the program receives a signal that is caught, it will exit with a status of 3. In each case, an error message will be printed to the
standard error, or to the file designated by the -e option.
getinfo(1), lookamb(1), oconv(1), pfilt(1), pinterp(1), pvalue(1), rpict(1), rtcontrib(1), rvu(1), vwrays(1), ximage(1)