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Rendering with Radiance:   The Art and Science of Lighting Visualization
by Greg Ward Larson and Rob A. Shakespeare
Illustrated. 664 pp.
Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. US$80.00
ISBN-10: 1439228752 (softcover) / ISBN-10: 0974538108 (hardcover)

Rendering with Radiance: The Art and Science of Lighting Visualization, by Greg Ward Larson and Rob A. Shakespeare, is the definitive manual for the Radiance software suite. Radiance is a group of programs that enables lighting designers to create complex and accurate renderings of light designs. Radiance was released with an OpenSource License Agreement by the University of California Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and is a low-cost alternative to more expensive rendering software. This book will be an asset to lighting designers who seriously hope to use the in-depth features of Radiance software.

Rendering with Radiance is divided into three parts with individual chapters written by different contributors. The first section, “Tutorials,” includes two lessons written by Shakespeare and a chapter on scripting techniques by Ward Larson. Ward Larson worked at LBNL where he conceived and initiated the development of Radiance, so his expertise on the subject is unsurpassed. Shakespeare is a professor and director of the Theatre Computer Visualization Center at Indiana University and is a lighting designer with an emphasis on dramatic lighting. His background in theater lighting adds an invaluable dimension to his tutorials.

The second part is entitled “Applications” and was written by additional experts. A chapter by long-time Radiance contributor Charles Ehrlich provides an in-depth overview of lighting analysis methods. This chapter begins with a description of Radiance’s features and compares them to similar software packages to determine if Radiance is the appropriate application. Then, there is a detailed explanation of lighting analysis such as data collection, luminaire modeling, computation, and visualization techniques. Ehrlich does well in explaining the complicated topics and detailed mathematical models.

The other chapters in “Applications” focus on particular lighting situations, such as simulations in daylight and roadway lighting. “Dramatic Lighting” by Shakespeare covers stage lighting topics including photometry, dimming and shaping the beam of light, and more. Peter Apian-Bennewitz’s chapter on animation rounds out this section and, like the rest of the chapters in Rendering with Radiance, covers the topic in organized detail. Both the technical and mathematical underpinnings of the topics are covered in great depth, making this an invaluable tool for any serious student of lighting design, architectural modeling or courtroom re-creations.

The final part of the book is “Calculation Methods” and consists of six chapters detailing the formulas and algorithms behind Radiance’s local and global illumination models. All the chapters are written by Ward Larson, who also developed most of the algorithms himself. They are recommended for researchers studying sophisticated lighting algorithms and users looking to make use of Radiance’s most advanced features.

This second edition, now published by Space and Light in Davis, California, has reduced its printing costs by publishing the color illustrations in black-and-white and by eliminating the CD. The color images and software downloads are available on the Internet. The publisher is further increasing the book's accessibility with a $60 softcover edition, to be available in the first quarter of 2009.

If you plan to use Radiance, whether as a beginner or as an advanced researcher, you will want Rendering with Radiance close to your keyboard.

Will Mahoney-Watson, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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