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Revision as of 01:09, 24 April 2019 by Kidnation (talk | contribs) (Added description for -fastambient which was taken mainly from VRAD itself. Documented -noao, -aoradius, and -aosamples, which were found in Insurgency's vrad_dll.dll, seems NWI liked more control over AO. Documented -StaticPropLightingFinal.)
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VRAD is the command-line tool that takes a compiled BSP map and embeds lighting data into it. VRAD's static and pre-compiled light is bounced around the world with a radiosity algorithm.

VRAD will:

VRAD is generally the slowest of the three compilers due to the many, many calculations it must perform. Lighting optimization can help, as can ensuring your map is free of leaks.

Tip.png Tip: If you are watching the compile dialog and it looks like it has hung at 9... this is usually because VRAD takes longer with each light bounce calculation.
Warning.png Warning: VRAD will take up a lot of CPU during conversion of trying to make light.
Bug.png Bug: Ep1 and L4D users seeing crashes when VRAD compiles HDR lighting should read VRAD HDR Crash Fix.
Bug.png Bug: In non-L4D branch games, .mdl files that don't have .dx80.vtx files with them will lead to VRAD skipping lighting for that prop, copying the .dx90.vtx file and renaming it to a .dx80.vtx will fix the issue.
Bug.png Bug: Additionally, .mdl files that have the IDST1 header will fail to load for VBSP, and will give a error message stating the prop failed to load; this can be fixed by changing the header to IDST0 in a Hex Editor, or by recompiling the prop in a non-L4D branch Studiomdl application such as Source 2013.
Bug.png Bug: As of around 5-10 years ago up until at least October, 2017 all known copies of VRAD have a thread sharing bug which causes performance to scale poorly to multiple threads, particularly on outdoor scenes with -final set (despite showing 100% CPU usage). The fix to this bug for Source 2013 is available here and edited DLLs are available here. Valve also released a patch for CSGO's VRAD that fixes this issue.
Bug.png Bug: Randomly causes corrupt lightmaps that look like "ink spills".
Tip.png Tip:  Source Engine BSP Lightmap Editor can be used to manually correct a .bsp lightmap data.


vrad [options...] <bsp file>

For example:

"Half-Life 2\bin\vrad.exe" -both -StaticPropLighting sdk_trainstation_01

This will generate and embed both standard and High Dynamic Range lighting data, at per-vertex detail for prop_static entities.


Use these in combination with expert compile mode or a batch file.


Whether to compile standard or High Dynamic Range lighting, or both.
Note.png Note: In InsurgencyCounter-Strike: Global Offensive, you need to compile with -hdr in order have proper lighting since LDR isn't supported.
Quick and dirty lighting. Don't ship with this.
Increases the quality of light_environment and indirect lighting by spending more time firing rays.
-extrasky <int>
Trace N times as many rays for indirect light and sky ambient.
(-final is equivalent to -extrasky 16; normal is equivalent to -extrasky 1)
-lights <filename>.rad
Load a custom lights file in addition to lights.rad and map-specific lights file. Include the file extension in the parameter.
-bounce <int>
Set the maximum number of light ray bounces (default: 100).
-smooth <int>
Set the threshold for smoothing groups, in degrees (default: 45).
-luxeldensity <normal>
Scale down all luxels. Default (and maximum) value is 1.
-softsun <float>
Treat the sun as an area light source of this many degrees. Produces soft shadows. Recommended values are 0-5, default is 0. Identical to the SunSpreadAngle parameter in light_environment.
Generate per-vertex prop_static lighting; always enabled for light_spot entities. Disables info_lighting entities on props WITHOUT normal maps. Does not work on props with Phong Enabled, except in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Note.png Note: In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, in order to get proper lighting on your static props, you will need to run VRAD with this command.

-StaticPropPolys (in all games since Half-Life 2: Episode TwoHalf-Life 2: Episode Two)

Perform shadow tests of prop_statics at polygon precision. Default is to use collision meshes.

-TextureShadows (in all games since Half-Life 2: Episode TwoHalf-Life 2: Episode Two)

Generates lightmap shadows from $translucent surfaces of models (NOT brushes) that are specified in a lights file and being used with prop_static. Usually requires -StaticPropPolys to have any effect.
Note.png Note: A surface will need a low lightmap scale for most texture shadows to be recognisable.
-aoscale <float> (in all games since Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
Scales the intensity of VRAD's simulated ambient occlusion. 1.0 is default.
Tip.png Tip: Valve uses 1.5 for the new Dust 2.

-aoradius <float> (in all games since Insurgency)

Set the radius of VRAD's simulated ambient occlusion. To do: Figure out what exactly this does.

-aosamples <int> (in all games since Insurgency)

How many samples to use for VRAD's simulated ambient occlusion.
-StaticPropBounce <int> (in all games since Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
Number of static prop light bounces to simulate. The default is 0.
Tip.png Tip: Valve uses 3 static prop bounces for the new Dust 2.
Note.png Note: Any static props that you want light to bounce off of must also have their "Enable Bounced Lighting" keyvalue set.
-StaticPropLightingFinal (in all games since Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
Compiles high quality lighting for static props.


Run as a low-priority process.
-threads <int>
Override the number of CPU threads used. Maximum is 16 threads. With a patched vrad_dll you can use 32 threads.
Use VMPI to distribute computations.
-mpi_pw <string>
Use a password to choose a specific set of VMPI workers.
Disable supersampling.
-chop <int>
Smallest number of luxel widths for a bounce patch, used on edges.
-maxchop <int>
Coarsest allowed number of luxel widths for a patch, used in face interiors.
This can be used if there are splotches of bounced light on terrain. The compile will take longer, but it will gather light across a wider area.
-compressconstant <int>
Compress lightmaps whose color variation is less than this many units.
Uses low quality per-leaf ambient sampling to save compute time.

-noao (in all games since Insurgency)

Disables compiling simulated ambient occlusion for lightmaps.
-StaticPropSampleScale x (in all games since Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
Regulates the generated per-vertex prop_static lighting.
slow: 16 (high quality); default: 4 (normal); fast: 0.25 (low quality)
Note.png Note: -final is the equivalent of having -StaticPropLightingScale 16.


Emit red light when "a luxel has no samples".
-vproject <directory>
-game <directory>
Override the VPROJECT environment variable.
-insert_search_path <directory>
To do: What does this do?
Turn on verbose output.
Don't bring up graphical UI on vproject errors.
Dump patches to debug files.
Write normals to debug .txt files.
Places debugging data in lightmaps to visualize supersampling.
Force direct lighting into different lightmap than radiosity.
Wait for a keypress on exit.
Don't light detail props.
Move sample centers.
Log the sample hash table to samplehash.txt.
Only light detail props and per-leaf lighting.
-maxdispsamplesize #
Set max displacement sample size (default: 512).
Write large minidumps on crash.
Only perform direct static prop lighting.
When lighting static props, just show their normal vector.
Turn off recursion into 3d skybox (skybox shadows on world).
Globally disable self-shadowing on static props.
-dumppropmaps (in all games since Source 2013Source 2013)
Dump computed prop lightmaps.

Lights files

A light file is a plain text file that can be used to manipulate the way VRAD handles given materials when compiling static lighting. All lights files must have the .rad file extension and must be in the same folder as your gameinfo.txt.

There are:

  1. lights.rad, the global file.
  2. An auto-loaded map light file, using the format <map name>.rad. The file must be placed in the same folder as <map name>.vmf.
  3. Any number of additional lights files that can be added with the -lights parameter.


Lights files perform these functions, one rule per line:

<material> <red> <green> <blue> <intensity> <hdr_red> <hdr_green> <hdr_blue> <hdr_intensity>
Makes the material emit the given light value when applied to a brush face (hdr_ values are optional). Texture scale has an effect on final intensity.
Note.png Note: materials that aren't in a folder must have a slash before their name.
Note.png Note: The material itself doesn't emit anything, it instead creates light entities on its face.
Warning.png Warning: A func_detail with an emissive material applied on a face may randomly cause VRAD to fail computing lighting for the face.
noshadow <material name>
Prevents the named material from casting shadows.
forcetextureshadow <model path>.mdl
Enables translucency shadow testing for a model when VRAD is run with -TextureShadows. Path is relative to the models folder.
Prefixes to make any rule only apply to LDR or HDR lighting.
Lines beginning with both tags (in that order) will always be ignored by VRAD. Can be used to add comments or quickly disable some entries.

See also