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Raytracing and POV-Ray - an introduction for newbies

This page is intended as an introduction for readers who are new to computer graphics or to computers in general to help understanding how the images on my website are created.

the basics about digital images

Most of the pictures you can see on my web site are synthetical, generated through calculations performed by a computer program. Some of them might look similar to photographs that were scanned or taken with a digital camera but this similarity is restricted to the appearance of the result and does not extend to the way they are generated.

Like digital photographs these images are represented as grids of colored points ('pixels') inside the computer. In photography the color of these points is determined by the image sensor in the camera that replaces the photographic film of a conventional camera.

raster image illustration

Apart from taking a photo you can also produce a digital image in other ways. It is possible to paint the individual points of the image - this is usually done with a paint program through a graphical user interface that allows to draw with the mouse or with other input devices. Of course it would be quite inefficient to paint all pixels individually, therefore such programs usually also offer functions to fill larger areas with brushes etc.

paint program illustration

It is of course also possible to have the computer perform such drawing operations itself. Based on rules how to do this the computer can generate even large images very fast. The program you use for displaying this page for example paints an image and displays it on the screen. The letters of the text are drawn this way as well as the various design elements.

virtual photographs

Generating my images essentially works the same way, the computer colors the pixels of the image based on the data describing the scene and a set of rules.

How this is done is described in more detail in the advanced introduction.

links to further information:

These links lead to external resources. I am not responsible for their content, they are just meant to show things I found interesting.

Digital Images

Raster graphics    by Wikipedia
  Wikipedia entry about raster graphics

Graphics/fileformats FAQ    by James D. Murray
  Usenet FAQ about image file formats

Understanding Computer Images    by NC State University College of Education
  Technical introduction into computer images

Digital Photography

Digital Photography    by Wikipedia
  Wikipedia entry about digital photography

Digital Photography Basics    by University of Washington
  Online course about digital photography

Scanner Faq's    by Ovation Data Services, Inc.
  Information about scanning images

Paint Programs

Image Editing Software    by Open Directory Project
  Large link collection for image manipulation programs

The GIMP    by Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball
  A free and powerful image manipulation program

Adobe Photoshop    by Adobe Systems Inc.
  A widely used (but expensive) imaging program

Paint Shop Pro    by Jasc Software
  Another imaging program (only for Windows)