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Man Pages

Manual Reference Pages  -  POVRAY36 (1)


povray - POV-Ray: The Persistence of Vision Ray Tracer


     Help options:
     Parsing options:
     Output options:
     Output options - display related:
     Output options - file related:
     Tracing options:
     Animation options:
     Redirecting options:
     X Window System options:
See Also


povray [+Ooutput_file] [+/-option ...] [input_file]

povray [+Iinput_file] [+Ooutput_file] [+/-option ...] [INI_file]


POV-Ray is a free, full-featured ray tracer, written and maintained by a team of volunteers on the Internet. On the UNIX platform POV-Ray can be compiled with support for preview capabilities using the X Window System. Under Linux, POV-Ray can optionally use the SVGA library to preview renderings.

This manual page only lists the basic POV-Ray and UNIX specific features and command-line options for this version of POV-Ray. For a complete description of the features of POV-Ray and its scene description language (a.k.a. POV-Ray SDL), or for a better explanation of the meaning of the command-line and INI file options, please consult the documentation that should accompany all versions of POV-Ray. The documentation is installed in PREFIX/share/doc/povray-3.6, where PREFIX is /usr/local by default, or a path specified when configuring the source package for compilation and installation.

Some of the UNIX-specific features are:
Support for X Window display automatically uses the best visual class and deepest depth available. For visuals that do not support 24 bits of color per pixel, Floyd-Steinberg error diffusion dithering is used, along with a dynamically allocated and optimized palette to produce the best display possible with the current visual, depth, and available colormap.
ICCCM compliance for the X Window version means that the preview window will behave like standard X Window programs, communicate properly with the window manager, and will accept the standard command-line options. See X(1) for more information.
Support for SVGAlib display automatically detects the available SVGA display modes to choose the size which best fits the rendered image. When rendering an image that is too large for the current display, the displayed image is scaled to fit on the screen. For displays that do not support true-color modes, Floyd-Steinberg dithering is used.
ASCII graphics in the text-mode version allow a basic view of the current rendering on text-only terminals.
An interrupt handler allows rendering to be interrupted in a safe way, so that any data not currently written to disk will be saved before exiting. Control-C or SIGINT will cause a user abort, and save the current rendering, before exiting. See kill(1) for more information.
Platform and architecture-independent rendering means that the same scene will render in the same way on all computers and operating systems (with the exception of the rendering speed, of course).


Options can be specified with either a leading ’+’ or a leading ’-’. Many options are switches, meaning a ’+’ turns the option on, and a ’-’ turns the option off. For other options, it doesn’t matter if a ’+’ or a ’-’ is used. Most options cannot have spaces in them so you should specify +FN rather than +F N, and combining options is not allowed, so +SC is very different from +S +C. Options are not case sensitive.

The command-line options are shown below with their corresponding INI file options. If the same option is specified multiple times, whether in INI files or on the command-line, the last such option overrides any previous ones, with the exception of the +L or Library_Path option, which is cumulative.

    Help options:

The help screen is divided into several parts. To access one part just enter the number of the screen after the -? option or the -help option. For instance, use -?5 or -help5 to see the help screen about the tracing options.
?[01234567] or help[01234567]
  Display help on command-line options for section 0 through 7. Note that most shells will treat the ? as a shell globbing character unless it is escaped. The available sections are:
Number Part
1 Parsing Options
2 Output Options
3 Output Options - display related
4 Output Options - file related
5 Tracing Options
6 Animation Options
7 Redirecting Options

    Parsing options:

I<input_file_name> or Input_File_Name=file
  Specifies the input file to use. If the input file name is ’-’, the scene description will be read from the standard input. The
HI<header_include_file_name> or Include_Header=file
  Specifies a file as the first include file of a scene file. This can be used to always include a specific set of default include files used by all your scenes.
L<library_path> or Library_Path=path
  Specifies a directory to search for input files, include files, fonts, and image maps, if the specified file is not in the current directory. This may be specified multiple times to increase the number of directories to search.
MVn.n or Version=float
  Treat scene files as if they were version n.n instead of the current version. This may be overridden from within the scene file.
SU or Split_Unions=bool
  Split bounded CSG unions if children are finite. This allows automatic bounding of CSG objects to take place.
UR or Remove_Bounds=bool
  Remove unnecessary bounding objects. This allows automatic bounding of older scene files to take place.

    Output options:

Hn or Height=integer
  The image should be n pixels high.
Wn or Width=integer
  The image should be n pixels wide.
SRn or Start_Row=integer
  Start the rendering at row n from the top of the screen.
SR0.n or Start_Row=float
  Start the rendering n percent from the top of the screen.
ERn or End_Row=integer
  End the rendering at row n from the top of the screen.
ER0.n or End_Row=float
  End the rendering at n percent from the top of the screen.
SCn or Start_Column=integer
  Start the rendering at column n from the left of the screen.
SC0.n or Start_Column=float
  Start the rendering at n percent from the left of the screen.
ECn or Start_Column=integer
  End the rendering at column n from the left of the screen.
EC0.n or Start_Column=float
  End the rendering at n percent from the left of the screen.
C or Continue_Trace=bool
  Continue a previously interrupted trace.
P or Pause_When_Done=bool
  If previewing, pause when the rendering is complete before closing the window.
V or Verbose=bool
  Output verbose status messages on the progress of the rendering.
WLn or Warning_Level=integer
  Set warning level to n.
X or Test_Abort=bool
  Enable the ’q’ and ’Q’ keys to interrupt a rendering in progress.
Xn or Test_Abort_Count=integer
  Only check every n pixels for a user abort.

    Output options - display related:

D[0][GHT] or Display=bool Palette=char
  Display the rendering in progress, optionally specifying the palette. The only valid X Window palette option is G, which forces grayscale preview. The X Window palette is based on the visual used, whether selected automatically by POV-Ray or via the -visual option. SVGA options are T for 24-bit true-color, and H for 15-bit high-color display, in addition to the default 256-color palette. To specify the palette, you must first specify the display type (the second character, shown here as ’0’) for compatibility reasons, even though it is ignored in UNIX versions.
SPn or Preview_Start_Size=integer
  Start mosaic preview with blocks n pixels square.
EPn or Preview_End_Size=integer
  End mosaic preview with blocks n pixels square.
UD or Draw_Vistas=bool
  Draw vista rectangles before rendering.

    Output options - file related:

Bn or Buffer_Output=bool Buffer_Size=integer
  Use an output buffer n kilobytes in size.
F[CNPT][n] or Output_to_File=bool Output_File_Type=char
  Store the rendered image using one of the available formats, namely Compressed TGA, PNG, PPM, and TGA. PNG format supports the n option to specify the number of bits per color, where 5 <= n <= 16. The default is 8.
O<output_file> or Output_File_Name=file
  Write the output to the file named output_file, or the standard output if ’-’ is given as the output file name.
HT[CNPTX] or Histogram_Type=char
  Create a CPU utilization histogram image in format x. Available formats are Comma-separated values (CSV), PNG grayscale, PPM POV heightfield, uncompressed TGA POV heightfield, or X for no histogram generation.
HN<histogram_file_name> or Histogram_Name=file
  Output the histogram to the specified file.
HSx.y or Histogram_Grid_Size=float
  Divide the histogram into x columns and y rows of buckets.

    Tracing options:

MBn or Bounding=bool Bounding_Threshold=integer
  Use automatic bounding slabs if more than n objects are in the scene.
Qn or Quality=integer
  Render at quality n. Qualities range from 0 for rough images and 9 for complete ray-tracing and textures, and 10 and 11 add radiosity.
A0.n or Antialias=bool Antialias_Threshold=integer
  Do antialiasing on the pixels until the difference between adjacent pixels is less that 0.n, or the maximum recursion depth is reached.
AMn or Sampling_Method=integer
  Specify the method of antialiasing used, non-adaptive (n = 1), or adaptive antialiasing (n = 2).
Jn.n or Jitter=bool Jitter_Amount=float
  Specify maximum radius, in pixels, that antialiased samples should be jittered from their true centers.
Rn or Antialias_Depth=integer
  Set the maximum recursion depth for antialiased pixel sub-sampling.
UA or Output_Alpha=bool
  Use alpha channel for transparency mask.
UL or Light_Buffer=bool
  Use light buffer to speed up rendering.
UV or Vista_Buffer=bool
  Use vista buffer to speed up rendering.

    Animation options:

Kn.n or Clock=float
  Render a single frame of an animation with the clock value n.n.
KFIn or Initial_Frame=integer
  Specify the initial frame number for an animation.
KFFn or Final_Frame=integer
  Specify the final frame number for an animation. This must be set at a value other that 1 in order to render multiple frames at once.
KIn.n or Initial_Clock=float
  Specify the clock value for the initial frame of an animation.
KFn.n or Final_Clock=float
  Specify the clock value for the frame final of an animation.
SFn or Subset_Start_Frame=integer
  Render a subset of frames from an animation, starting at frame n.
SF0.n or Subset_Start_Frame=float
  Render a subset of frames from an animation, starting n percent into the animation.
EFn or Subset_End_Frame=integer
  Render a subset of frames from an animation, stopping at frame n.
EF0.n or Subset_End_Frame=float
  Render a subset of frames from an animation, stopping n percent into the animation.
KC or Cyclic_Animation=bool
  Generate clock values for a cyclic animation.
UF or Field_Render=bool
  Render alternate frames using odd/even fields, suitable for interlaced output.
UO or Odd_Field=bool
  Start a field rendered animation on the odd field, rather than the even field.

    Redirecting options:

GI<name> or Create_Ini=bool or Create_Ini=file
  Write all INI parameters to a file named after the input scene file, or one with the specified name.
G[ADFRSW]<name> or <Stream>_File=bool or <Stream>_File=file
  Write the stream to the console and/or the specified file. The streams are All_File (except status), Debug_File, Fatal_File, Render_File, Statistics_File, and the Warning_File.

    X Window System options:

In addition to the standard command-line options, POV-Ray recognizes additional command-line switches related to the X Window System. See X(1) for a complete description of these options.
-display <display_name>
  Display preview on display_name rather than the default display. This is meant to be used to change the display to a remote host. The normal dispay option +d is still valid.
  Render the image with WIDTH and HEIGHT as the dimensions, and locate the window XOFF from the left edge, and YOFF from the top edge of the screen (or if negative the right and bottom edges respectively). The WIDTH and HEIGHT, if given, override any previous Wn and Hn settings.
-help Display the X Window System-specific options. Use -H by itself on the command-line to output the general POV-Ray options.
-icon Start the preview window as an icon.
-title <window_title>
  Override the default preview window title with window_title.
-visual <visual_type>
  Use the deepest visual of visual_type, if available, instead of the automatically selected visual. Valid visuals are StaticGray, GrayScale, StaticColor, PseudoColor, TrueColor, or DirectColor.


Currently no X resource or app-default files are supported for the X Window options.


POV-Ray for UNIX allows a povray.ini file in the current directory to override the individual setting in $HOME/.povray/3.6/povray.ini. POV-Ray looks for initial configuration information, like the Library_Path settings, which gives the location for the standard include files, first in the environment variable $POVINI, then in ./povray.ini, then in $HOME/.povray/3.6/povray.ini, then in PREFIX/etc/povray/3.6/povray.ini. The PREFIX directory can be changed at compile-time using the --prefix option of the configure script. For backward compatibility with POV-Ray version 3.5 and earlier, the $HOME/.povrayrc and $PREFIX/etc/povray.ini files are also searched for when none of the above files were found.

Since version 3.5 POV-Ray features an I/O Restriction mechanism. I/O Restrictions attempt to at least partially protect a machine running POV-Ray from having files read or written outside of a given set of directories. The settings are defined in two configuration files, a system-level PREFIX/etc/povray/3.6/povray.conf file and an user-level $HOME/.povray/3.6/povray.conf file with more restrictive settings. In POV-Ray 3.6 the format of these configuration files has changed, and no backward compatibility is retained with the configuration files in POV-Ray 3.5. See the documentation for further details and examples of I/O Restriction settings.

povlegal.doc should accompany all installations of POV-Ray, and outlines specific conditions and restrictions on the POV-Ray software. A condition of povlegal.doc requires that documentation, INI and scene files be available to all users of POV-Ray. Scene and INI files are typically installed in PREFIX/share/povray-3.6, and documentation in PREFIX/share/doc/povray-3.6, but these may be in other locations on some systems.

The most recent version of POV-Ray and its documentation can always be retrieved via anonymous FTP at or via HTTP at, as well as many other locations.


X(1), kill(1), The POV-Ray Manual


Persistence of Vision Ray Tracer (POV-Ray)
Copyright 1991 - 2003 Persistence of Vision Team
Copyright 2003 - 2004 Persistence of Vision Raytracer Pty. Ltd.

For further information see the file povlegal.doc coming with this program.

The X Window System is
Copyright 1984 - 1991 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Copyright 1992 - 1996 the X Consortium, Inc.
Copyright 1998 the Open Group, L.L.C.
Copyright 1999 - 2004 the X.Org Foundation, L.L.C.


The terms Persistence of Vision Raytracer and POV-Ray are trademarks of Persistence of Vision Raytracer Pty. Ltd.

UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group in the US and other countries.


The SVGA version does not currently generate an optimized grayscale palette for grayscale preview, so displays using the G palette option will use very few gray levels, and a few non-gray colors.

Before reporting a bug to the authors, you should make sure you have the latest version of the software, in case the bug has already been fixed. There are a large number of POV-Ray users on the POV-Ray newsserver (a list of available groups can be found on Try to find help and assistance in there before contacting the authors.

If you have a repeatable bug in the most recent version, try to isolate the bug in the smallest scene file possible. The POV-Ray Team Co-ordinator is Chris Cason, and can be reached at Do not send large binary or uuencoded files to Chris without first asking permission to do so.


Primary POV-Ray 3.5/3.6 Developers: (Alphabetically)

Chris Cason
Thorsten Froehlich
Nathan Kopp
Ron Parker

Contributing Authors: (Alphabetically)

Steve Anger Eric Barish Dieter Bayer
Steve A. Bennett David K. Buck Nicolas Calimet
Aaron A. Collins Chris Dailey Steve Demlow
Andreas Dilger Alexander Enzmann Dan Farmer
Mark Gordon Christoph Hormann Mike Hough
Chris Huff Kari Kivisalo Lutz Kretzschmar
Jochen Lippert Pascal Massimino Jim McElhiney
Douglas Muir Juha Nieminen Bill Pulver
Tim Rowley Eduard Schwan Wlodzimierz Skiba
Robert Skinner Yvo Smellenbergh Zsolt Szalavari
Scott Taylor Massimo Valentini Timothy Wegner
Drew Wells Chris Young

Other contributors are listed in the documentation.


POV-Ray is based on DKBTrace 2.12 by David K. Buck and Aaron A. Collins.
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POV-Team POV-RAY (1) May 2004

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