The Materials and Geometry Format

Version 1.0, May 1995

Greg Ward, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, GJWard@Lbl.Gov


What makes MGF special?

What does MGF look like?

MGF's place in the world of standards

MGF Basics

Entities and Contexts

Hierarchical Contexts and Transformations

As mentioned in the last subsection, there are two hierarchical contexts in MGF, the current object and the current transformation. We will start by discussing the current object, since it is the simpler of the two.


There is no particular need in lighting simulation or rendering to name objects, but it may help the user to know what object a particular surface is associated with. The o entity provides a convenient mechanism for associating names with surfaces. The basic use of this entity is as follows:

o object_name
	[object entities...]
	o subobject_name
		[subobject entities...]
	[more object entities and subobjects...]
The o keyword by itself marks the end of an object context. Any number of hierarchical context levels are supported, and there are no rules governing the choice of object names except that they begin with a letter and be made up of printing, non-white ASCII characters. Indentation is not necessary of course, but it does improve readability.


MGF supports only rigid-body (i.e. non-distorting) transformations with uniform scaling. Unlike the other contexts, transformations have no associated name, only arguments. Thus, there is no way to reestablish a previous transformation other than to give the same arguments over again. Since the arguments are concise and self-explanatory, this was thought sufficient. The following transformation flags and parameters are defined:
	-t dx dy dz	translate objects along the given vector
	-rx degrees	rotate objects about the X-axis
	-ry degrees	rotate objects about the Y-axis
	-rz degrees	rotate objects about the Z-axis
	-s scalefactor	scale objects by the given factor
	-mx		mirror objects about the Y-Z plane
	-my		mirror objects about the X-Z plane
	-mz		mirror objects about the X-Y plane
	-i N		repeat the following arguments N times
	-a N		make an array of N geometric instances
Transform arguments have a cumulative effect. That is, a rotation about X of 20 degrees followed by a rotation about X of -50 degrees results in a total rotation of -30 degrees. However, if the two rotations are separated by some translation vector, the cumulative effect is quite different. It is best to think of each argument as acting on the included geometric objects, and each subsequent transformation argument affects the objects relative to their new position/orientation.

For example, rotating an object about its center is most easily done by translating the object back to the origin, applying the desired rotation, and translating it again back to its original position, like so:

# rotate an included object 20 degrees clockwise looking down
# an axis parallel to Y and passing through the point (15,0,-35)
xf -t -15 0 35 -ry -20 -t 15 0 -35
i object.mgf
Note that the include entity, i, permits a transformation to be given with it, so the above could have been written more compactly as:

i object.mgf -t -15 0 35 -ry -20 -t 15 0 -35
Rotations are given in degrees counter-clockwise about a principal axis. That is, with the thumb of the right hand pointing in the direction of the axis, rotation follows the curl of the fingers.

The transform entity itself is cumulative, but in the reverse order to its arguments. That is, later transformations (i.e. enclosed transformations) are prepended to existing (i.e. enclosing) ones. A transform command with no arguments is used to return to the previous condition. It is necessary that transforms and their end statements ("xf" by itself) be balanced in a file, so that later or enclosing files are not affected.

Transformations apply only to geometric types, e.g. polygons, spheres, etc. Vertices and the components that go into geometry are not directly affected. This is to avoid confusion and the inadvertent multiple application of a given transformation. For example:

xf -t 5 0 0
v v1 =
	p 0 10 0
	n 0 0 1
xf -rx 180
# Transform now in effect is "-rx 180 -t 5 0 0"
ring v1 0 2
The final ring center is (5,-10,0) -- note that the vertex itself is not affected by the transformation, only the geometry that calls on it. The normal orientation is (0,0,-1) due to the rotation about X, which also reversed the sign of the central Y coordinate.


The -a N transform specification causes the following transform arguments to be repeated along with the contents of the included objects N times. The first instance of the geometry will be in its initial location; the second instance will be repositioned according to the named transformation; the third instance will be repositioned by applying this transformation twice, and so on up to N-1 applications.

Multi-dimensional arrays may be specified with a single include entity by giving multiple array commands separated by their corresponding transforms. A final transformation may be given by preceding it with a -i 1 specification. In other words, the scope of an array command continues until the next -i or -a option.

The following MGF description places 60 spheres at a one unit spacing in a 3x4x5 array, then moves the whole thing to an origin of (15,30,45):

v v0 =
	p 0 0 0
xf -a 3 -t 1 0 0 -a 4 -t 0 1 0 -a 5 -t 0 0 1 -i 1 -t 15 30 45
sph v0 0.1
Note the "-i 1" in the specification, which marks the end of the third array arguments before the final translation.

Detailed MGF Example

MGF Entity Reference

MGF Translators

MGF Parser Library

Application Notes

Relation to Standard Practices in Computer Graphics

Relation to IESNA LM-63 and Luminaire Catalogs