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Up and Right Vectors

The primary purpose of the up and right vectors is to tell POV-Ray the relative height and width of the view screen. The default values are:

 right 4/3*x

 up y

In the default perspective camera, these two vectors also define the initial plane of the view screen before moving it with the look_at or rotate vectors. The length of the right vector (together with the direction vector) may also be used to control the (horizontal) field of view with some types of projection. The look_at modifier changes both up and right so you should always specify them before look_at. Also the angle calculation depends on the right vector so right should precede it.

Most camera types treat the up and right vectors the same as the perspective type. However several make special use of them. In the orthographic projection: The lengths of the up and right vectors set the size of the viewing window regardless of the direction vector length, which is not used by the orthographic camera.

When using cylindrical projection: types 1 and 3, the axis of the cylinder lies along the up vector and the width is determined by the length of right vector or it may be overridden with the angle vector. In type 3 the up vector determines how many units high the image is. For example if you have up 4*y on a camera at the origin. Only points from y=2 to y=-2 are visible. All viewing rays are perpendicular to the y-axis. For type 2 and 4, the cylinder lies along the right vector. Viewing rays for type 4 are perpendicular to the right vector.

Note that the up, right, and direction vectors should always remain perpendicular to each other or the image will be distorted. If this is not the case a warning message will be printed. The vista buffer will not work for non-perpendicular camera vectors. If you specify the 3 vectors as initially perpendicular and do not explicitly re-specify the after any look_at or rotate vectors, the everything will work fine.

Aspect Ratio

Together the up and right vectors define the aspect ratio (height to width ratio) of the resulting image. The default values up<0,1,0> and right<1.33,0,0> result in an aspect ratio of 4 to 3. This is the aspect ratio of a typical computer monitor. If you wanted a tall skinny image or a short wide panoramic image or a perfectly square image you should adjust the up and right vectors to the appropriate proportions.

Most computer video modes and graphics printers use perfectly square pixels. For example Macintosh displays and IBM SVGA modes 640x480, 800x600 and 1024x768 all use square pixels. When your intended viewing method uses square pixels then the width and height you set with the Width and Height options or +W or +H switches should also have the same ratio as the up and right vectors. Note that 640/480 = 4/3 so the ratio is proper for this square pixel mode.

Not all display modes use square pixels however. For example IBM VGA mode 320x200 and Amiga 320x400 modes do not use square pixels. These two modes still produce a 4/3 aspect ratio image. Therefore images intended to be viewed on such hardware should still use 4/3 ratio on their up and right vectors but the pixel settings will not be 4/3.

For example:

 camera {

  location <3,5,-10>

  up    <0,1,0>

  right  <1,0,0>

  look_at <0,2,1>


This specifies a perfectly square image. On a square pixel display like SVGA you would use pixel settings such as +W480 +H480 or +W600 +H600. However on the non-square pixel Amiga 320x400 mode you would want to use values of +W240 +H400 to render a square image.

The bottom line issue is this: the up and right vectors should specify the artist's intended aspect ratio for the image and the pixel settings should be adjusted to that same ratio for square pixels and to an adjusted pixel resolution for non-square pixels. The up and right vectors should not be adjusted based on non-square pixels.


The right vector also describes the direction to the right of the camera. It tells POV-Ray where the right side of your screen is. The sign of the right vector can be used to determine the handedness of the coordinate system in use. The default value is: right<1.33,0,0>. This means that the +x-direction is to the right. It is called a left-handed system because you can use your left hand to keep track of the axes. Hold out your left hand with your palm facing to your right. Stick your thumb up. Point straight ahead with your index finger. Point your other fingers to the right. Your bent fingers are pointing to the +x-direction. Your thumb now points into +y-direction. Your index finger points into the +z-direction.

To use a right-handed coordinate system, as is popular in some CAD programs and other ray-tracers, make the same shape using your right hand. Your thumb still points up in the +y-direction and your index finger still points forward in the +z-direction but your other fingers now say the +x-direction is to the left. That means that the right side of your screen is now in the -x-direction. To tell POV-Ray to act like this you can use a negative x value in the right vector such as: right<-1.33,0,0>. Since having x values increasing to the left doesn't make much sense on a 2D screen you now rotate the whole thing 180 degrees around by using a positive z value in your camera's location. You end up with something like this.

 camera {

  location <0,0,10>

  up    <0,1,0>

  right  <-1.33,0,0>

  look_at <0,0,0>


Now when you do your ray-tracer's aerobics, as explained in the section "Understanding POV-Ray's Coordinate System", you use your right hand to determine the direction of rotations.

In a two dimensional grid, x is always to the right and y is up. The two versions of handedness arise from the question of whether z points into the screen or out of it and which axis in your computer model relates to up in the real world.

Architectural CAD systems, like AutoCAD, tend to use the God's Eye orientation that the z-axis is the elevation and is the model's up direction. This approach makes sense if you're an architect looking at a building blueprint on a computer screen. z means up, and it increases towards you, with x and y still across and up the screen. This is the basic right handed system.

Stand alone rendering systems, like POV-Ray, tend to consider you as a participant. You're looking at the screen as if you were a photographer standing in the scene. The up direction in the model is now y, the same as up in the real world and x is still to the right, so z must be depth, which increases away from you into the screen. This is the basic left handed system.

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