What is POV-Ray™?
Before I describe my motivation and history in using POV-Ray, I want to explain what POV-Ray is. Therefore I borrowed a few lines from the official documentation of POV-Ray:
POV-Ray™ is short for the Persistence of Vision™ Raytracer, a tool for producing high-quality computer graphics. POV-Ray™ is copyrighted freeware, that is to say, we, the authors, retain all rights and copyright over the program, but that we permit you to use it for no charge, subject to the conditions stated in our license...
Without a doubt, POV-Ray is the world's most popular raytracer. From our website alone we see well over 100,000 downloads per year, and this of course doesn't count the copies that are obtained from our mirror sites, other internet sites, on CD-ROM, or from persons sharing their copies.
The fact that it is free helps a lot in this area, of course, but there's more to it than that. There are quite a few other free raytracers and renderers available. What makes this program different ?
The answers are too numerous to detail in full here. Suffice it to say that POV-Ray has the right balance of power and versatility to satisfy extremely experienced and competent users, while at the same time not being so intimidating as to completely scare new users off.
Of course, the most important factor is image quality, and in the right hands, POV-Ray has it. We, the developers, have seen images that were rendered using our software that we at first thought were photographs - they were that realistic. (Note that photo-realism is an advanced skill; one that takes some practice to develop).
My POV-Ray history
In 1992 I started my studies of Computer Science at the university. One year
later in 1993 it was time to buy my first PC. It was the fastest stuff you
could get at this time, an Intel 486DX2-66 with 8MB memory and 80MB harddisk.
It had been serving me very well for six years.
Of course, I was not the only one with a computer and therefore we spend long nights evaluating programs and playing games. Share- and freeware CDs and discs were a big thing at this time. The Internet was not born as it is know now. We searched the ftp servers of universities for good programs and tools. We knew all the IP addresses by heart.
Ok, let's get back to POV-Ray. Graphics was the most interesting topic and one day my friend called me: "I found a great program to create three-dimensional images.". It was my first contact with POV-Ray. We spend days rendering all the demo images of POV-Ray 1.0, and printed some of them. It was fascinating. Worlds appeared based on just a few words.
Finally I started my first scene. I cannot remember the scene content nor I have a backup of it, but it was probably one of the typical "Hello World" scenes. A sphere, a checkered ground, and a light source. Step by step I increased the complexity of my images.
I admire Pixar. After I saw the animation "Luxo Jr.", I wanted to do such things by my own. Therefore I started to create animations based on the FLI format. FLI and FLC were popular animation file formats at this time, MPEG and AVI were still unknown. One animation won a third place at an animation contest in a computer graphics magazin. A download will be provided soon.
This picture was created fall 1995. It is a good-bye picture, a kind of unique present. I do not want to explain the story here but we are still friends.
At this time Thomas Schmidt, friend and comrade at the university, discovered
his passion for POV-Ray. In 1995/96 we completed a practical training together.
Because of the long evenings and weekends far from home we decided to create
a very long animation. In this year Pixar finished "Toy Story" and we were
fascinated by the used technologies. Especially the renderfarm attracted our attention.
So we setup our own renderfarm at the university using Sun machines from the
student pool and our own PCs. Read more about it on this
We are very proud of the result. Our animation got a place for life on
first official IRTC CD.
Diamond Multimedia Systems, Inc. asked us for permission to use the animation at the Comdex. But due to problems with the MPEG encoder we used, our animation did not manage it on the flatscreens at Comdex. Bad luck!
In 1997 I started to build the Texture Library for POV-Ray. It contains a lot of textures from all over the world. Each texture is displayed in detail and sorted by its main criteria. See the latest version on texlib.povray.org. For years I have not had enough time to maintain it. Hopefully I will find more time to rebuild it sooner or later.
Between 1998 and 2001 I used POV-Ray not very often, I just had not enough time.
In Summer 2002 the POV-Ray team released version 3.5. The was a good time to get back to my old hobby. POV-Ray 3.5 offers a lot of new features. It is a lot of fun to use it. I will add new images to my gallery step by step.
You can check out some of my pictures in the Gallery.