Pray - Perl 6 Ray Tracing Engine
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README

ABOUT

This is Pray, a Perl 6 ray tracer. It is tested to work with recent builds of
Rakudo on the MoarVM backend, though it is likely to work on any modern Rakudo.
Image::PNG::Portable and JSON::Tiny are required.



INSTALLATION

The recommended way to install Pray is via panda, by running "panda install
App::Pray". Pray will also run just fine by simply cloning/extracting it
anywhere you like, though startup time will be increased if not precompiled
(e.g. by panda-build), and you will also have to ensure that the
Image::PNG::Portable and JSON::Tiny modules are installed.



USAGE

Input is a JSON scene file, described later. Output is a 24-bit PNG image file.

Pray is normally invoked as the "pray" script in the bin directory of the
module, which may also be copied/linked elsewhere like in your path if you
installed via panda. Two positional arguments are accepted. The first is the
name of the scene file to read, which defaults to "scene.json". The second is
the file name of the PNG image to write, and defaults to the file name of the
scene file (ignoring any directory prefix), with everything after the last
period replaced by "png". If the scene file name is "examples/scene-01.json"
for instance, then the image file name defaults to "scene-01.png" in the
current working directory.

--width
--height
The size of the output image in positive whole numbers. At least one of these
is required, and an omitted one will default to the value of the other. The
field of view will be expanded to fill non-square aspect ratios, as opposed to
being clipped.

--preview
Shows a preview of the in-progress render. On by default.

--verbose
Currently just prints the line number of the currently rendering line. Useful
if preview is disabled. May do more or something else entirely in the future.
Off by default.

--quiet
Disables the summary of the performance of the operation when complete. Also
disables preview, unless it is explicitly enabled. Off by default.



SCENES

[DISCLAIMER: As the scene files could be thought of as the main user interface,
an important note about them goes here: they're not done yet. The author feels
that they are verbose, cumbersome, rigid, and fail with cryptic error messages.
This will change, as will many other things about scene files. So don't expect
your scene files to work unaltered in future versions until Pray is a little
less alpha-ish.]

The scene files are JSON formatted. As such, numbers must always have a digit
before a decimal ("0.5", not ".5"), and single quotes ("'") and trailing commas
("[1,2,3,]") are illegal.

The outermost block of the scene file represents the scene itself, and is an
object with keys "camera", "objects", and "lights". See the included examples
for details. Wherever possible, sane defaults are used. The structure looks
roughly like this:

scene                       the top-level block of the file
    camera                  the view into the scene
        position            view point
        object              view direction (towards point)
        roll                rotation around axis of viewing direction
        fov                 field of view
        exposure            scale of color values
    lights                  list of lights in the scene
        position            light placement
        color               light color
        intensity           brightness
    objects                 list of objects in the scene
        geometry            the physical shape of the object
            primitive       cube, cylinder, cone, or sphere
            position        placement
            scale           size
            rotate          orientation
            csg             list of csg operations and geometries
        material            appearance of the object
            ambient         flat constant lighting
                color
                intensity
            diffuse         smooth shaded lighting per light
                color
                intensity
            specular        "shiny spot" per light
                color
                intensity
                sharpness   how sharp or soft the highlight is
            reflective      visible reflection of other objects
                color
                intensity
            transparent     light passing through the object
                color
                intensity   how transparent the object is (fades other colors)
                refraction  whether and how much this object bends light

The coordinate system uses Y for depth and Z for height, and is left-handed
(if +X is right and +Z is up, +Y is forward). Except for the camera, positions
and rotations default to 0, and scales default to 1. The camera defaults to an
off-axis position in the +X,-Y,+Z region, pointing towards the origin.

Colors and coordinates are specified as objects with r,g,b/x,y,z keys. Any
omitted elements default to 0, so to make blue for instance, you only have to
write '{ "b":1 }'.

Entirely omitted colors default to white, but omitted lightings are not used,
thus have effectively no color (white or otherwise).

The key "intensity" adjusts the brightness of lights and colors. In a
"transparent" lighting block, it will also adjust the opacity of the object as
a whole.

In most cases, "intensity" is intended to be a value between and inclusive of
0 and 1. However, for lights, intensity is not intended to have an upper bound.
Balancing light and material "color" and "intensity" (and "exposure" of your
camera) is up to you. Auto-exposure may make this simpler in the future.

At this point, it would only be fair to say the lighting model is "loosely
based" on physical reality. Until more realistic algorithms are implemented,
some restraint must be exercised if a realistic appearance is desired. For
example, setting several of the lighting options at a high intensity could
cause the material to appear far brighter than should be possible for the
amount of light falling on it. Caveat emptor, etc.

If you omit the whole material block, it will default to a white, fully
diffusive, slightly ambient material.

If you omit the "primitive" in a geometry block, that object will have no
physical manifestation unless you add geometry to it with CSG.

CSG is an even-length array of "operation, geometry" values. The array
implements a FIFO pipeline - in effect, the listed operations will be chained.
In addition to chaining, CSG operations can also be nested, by simply adding
CSG to a geometry block within an outer CSG array.

Currently recognized CSG operations are add/union/or, subtract/not/andnot,
intersect/intersection/and, and deintersect/difference/xor. CSG geometry is
defined in the space of the object it is being applied to. In other words,
position/scale/rotate applies to the whole object including CSG sub-geometries.



HACKING

There is much which could be added, improved, or simplified. So jump in! I'm
looking forward to seeing what others do with Pray.

This is my first Perl 6 project, thus much of the code probably looks a lot
like Perl 5. As a self-education project, I have been and continue to be
learning and re-learning Perl 6 over the course of development, small parts at
a time. The numerous iterations over all of the major components still show
through in some spots, and in some others it's just clear that my understanding
is still incomplete. Even the situational use of bracketing and indenting is
inconsistent; I do at least stick to 4-column tab indents, though. Patches and
suggestions are welcome and appreciated for style and structure as much as
functionality.

The class hierarchy is a little troubling in some ways, but should be generally
simple to navigate and understand. More thought needs to go into the API in
several ways before using Pray from your own scripts is advisable; that is why
there is no direct support for loading scenes from anything other than a file:
the tools are there to make it happen in a line or two of code, but it's a can
of worms once people start trying to actually *use* all the classes in
unforeseen ways, on top of dealing with the mess which seems to naturally arise
from my creative rampages. Some of the classes should probably be roles, some
of the separate classes might be combined into a single class with one or two
extra properties or roles, and the story goes on. In short, this project is
just too young to think about a "stable public API" just yet. After some
polishing, this will be revisited.

If you want to add primitives, the convention so far is to define them as 1
unit in radius/apothem/whatever applies on all three axii. All of the
transformations and CSG are handled by the Pray::Geometry::Object superclass,
so a primitive is defined by only 2 methods: _ray_intersection and
_contains_point, which take a single Pray::Geometry::Ray or
Pray::Geometry::Vector3D, respectively, and returns results as checked against
the unit primitive. As always, read the existing code for details.

The use of vectors vs matrices is also inconsistent: Pray originally had no
matrix class. When the transformations were implemented, the pile of vector ops
became too heavy, so the matrix class was created to allow the transformation
pipeline to be flattened into a single matrix. There are more places where this
approach would save cycles, but other than to keep it "usable" on my aging
hardware, no attempt to profile or optimize has yet been made.

Rewriting much of the whole program as a single large matrix pipeline even
occurred to me. Of course, with Rakudo JVM supporting concurrency,
mutlithreading is one of the obvious low-hanging fruits in terms of
performance. It is near the top of my list. Many other things could also be
done to decrease runtime: many operations are needlessly creating and
destroying objects instead of mutating them in place; there are several places
where adding conditionals or rearranging the arithmetic should speed things up
on average. Once we profile Pray, we'll have a better idea where to start with
optimization. I'm open to radical changes in structure, just not if the only
purpose is to shave 3% off of the execution time.

Generally, solidifying the structure in terms of "shaders" and "pipelines" and
the traditional 3D graphics processing methods would likely provide many
benefits, and is an overarching direction I plan to move everything towards.

Use of types and type constraints is spotty. All sorts of input validation and
error checking is missing.



LIMITATIONS/BUGS/TODO

In no particular order: There is currently no internal reflection, subsurface
scattering, volumetric lighting, global illumination, caustics, depth of field,
anti-aliasing, or concurrency. Primitive choices are few (missing 4 of 5
platonic solids, among other things), and only the most basic transformations
exist, and they are applied as a whole in only one fixed order.  There is no
support for non-solid objects such as planes, polygons, or hollow surfaces, nor
meshes whether open or closed. No procedural surfaces, textures of any kind,
bump maps, or things which might be considered "effects" like motion blur or
particle systems. There's no support for fractals in any way shape or form,
which is sad. Scene files feel crufty and fragile, and there is no way to
re-use data in multiple places, forcing the same color to be applied for each
material lighting type, for instance. Scene files have to be created by hand in
a text editor. The API is not yet suitable for external use. Various naming and
calling conventions all over the place are questionable. Performance is almost
certainly much less than it could be, even given the present state of Rakudo.
Repeating from above, all sorts of input validation and error checking is
missing. Documentation is lacking. The web page and whole site are uninspiring
and a bit internally neglected, considering I advertise myself as a web
developer.



CONTACT

http://cyberuniverses.com/pray/
http://github.com/raydiak/pray
raydiak@cyberuniverses.com



CREDITS

Perl 6 and its implementations are the tireless effort of many wonderful people
around the world.
http://perl6.org/
http://rakudo.org/

The scene loading code is forked from http://github.com/tadzik/JSON-Unmarshal

Parts of the matrix code are or were forked from or inspired by
http://github.com/colomon/Math-Vector