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Packages - Radiance

Purpose and General Description

"Radiance is a suite of programs for the analysis and visualization of lighting in design." "Radiance is used by architects and engineers to predict illumination, visual quality and appearance of innovative design spaces, and by researchers to evaluate new lighting and daylighting technologies." "Radiance includes many of the features of popular computer graphics rendering programs with the physical accuracy of an advanced lighting simulation." Radiance is used by the ECADAP project in the UK, who have some Radiance images online.

Input Formats Accepted

"Input files specify the scene geometry, materials, luminaires, time, date and sky conditions (for daylight calculations)." These files are Radiance's own format. Translators to Radiance from the "IES standard luminaire data format and AutoCAD's DXF format (version 10) are included with the distribution." Translators to Radiance from other CAD formats and some image formats are also available.

Output Formats Generated

The resulting output is an image. The reference manual mentions an AED 512 graphics terminal and an X-window server. Translators to other image formats are available.

QuickTime VR movies and objects have also been generated with Radiance on a Macintosh.


Radiance is available on Unix systems and requires an 8 bit colour display. The rendering programs are very compute intensive.

Several useful Macintosh applications have been written by Paul Bourke and his associates at Auckland University in New Zealand, including a 3-dimensional editor that produces Radiance scene descriptions as an export option."

"A few of the programs rely on interprocess communication or the presence of the C-shell interpreter, but the majority will run unmodified on non-UNIX systems, and have even been ported to a DOS (386) environment"


The package includes programs for modeling and translating scene geometry, luminaire data and material properties. The lighting simulation itself uses ray tracing techniques to compute radiance values. Reflections can include specular and diffuse components. The package can use low resolution output images for speed or high resolution for accuracy.

Supplier and Cost

Radiance is available from the main ftp distribution site. It is free but not public domain - there are conditions in the README file.

Information last updated on 2 December 1997

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