Originally Published: Sunday, 9 April 2000 Author: Jan-Erik Mouzakis Gagnum
Published to: enhance_articles_multimedia/Images Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

3D Graphics and Linux

This is for those of you who want to start making 3D graphics and animations on your Linux systems but don't know where to start.

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First you will need to select the type of software that you would like to use. 3d graphics software consists of two basic parts. The modeler is used to to build the objects that are going to be in your imaginary world. The renderer on the other hand is what transforms your 3D scenes into photo-realistic images. Different renderers use different rendering methods. With Ray tracing - a type of rendering method - the renderer has to calculate millions of points, as it models the light rays bouncing off the objects in the scene. This rendering process can take anywhere from minutes to days to complete. Ray tracing is unfortunately a rather slow process. A second render method to consider is Scanline rendering. It allows for faster render times, and can produce the same photo-realistic image quality as ray tracing. Scanline rendering methods on the other hand cannot produce true shadow reflections and refractions, but can simulate them rather well.

Now that you know more about different types of rendering methods, lets name some renderers. First there is the Persistance of Vision Ray Tracer (POV-Ray). This is an excellent renderer. Better yet it doesn't cost anything, and its source code is freely available so you can compile it on any system. It is possible to have POV-Ray 2.2 render using multiple processors by utilizing the PVM system of distributed computing. For more information visit www.povray.org

Rayshade is yet another Ray trace renderer. It is most often used in universities and schools for teaching. Because it is so flexible the base renderer has undergone many user-contributed additions. Check out Rayshade at www-graphics.stanford.edu/~cek/rayshade/rayshade.html

For those of you who are more interested in the visualization of lighting in design, Radiance is the renderer for you. 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, appearance of innovative design spaces, and by researchers to evaluate new lighting and daylighting technologies. For more information visit radsite.lbl.gov/radiance/

Blue Moon Rendering Tools (BMRT) BMRT 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 photo-realistic images. Visit www.seas.gwu.edu/student/gritz/bmrt.html for more information.

There are a number of modelers that can be used with any one of the renderers mentioned above. You can find them at almost any linuxberg server (linuxberg.com) and most are readily available of downloading.

Some of many 3D modeling applications are:

3dPM (rupert.informatik.uni-stuttgart.de/~kraftts/)
A modeler for Povray, based on Troll Tech's Qt. Features include construction based on primitives, point-light-source, camera with position, look-at-point and view-parameters; group-management with a hierarchy-tree, cut and copy, select, unselect, multi-select, scale, rotate, translate, colored wireframe-3D-preview, texture-management, popup menus and full 3-button mouse support.

AC3D (condor.stcloudstate.edu/~hebl9901/g3d/)
A very simple 3D graphics modeler. Advanced features such a NURBS and animation are not included.

mg^2 (www.op.net/~finklesk/3d.html)
A simple 3D modeler that outputs POV-ray.

There are also some software packages such as Moonlight3D (http://moonlight3d.org/) and Blender (http://www.blender.nl) that include a renderer, together with a modeler. These software packages are often easier to use since they have an assortment of tools included in one program.

These are only a few of the 3D graphics tools available for Linux. I hope this has helped...and good luck with your future 3D graphics and animations.

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