220.127.116.11 Why are triangle meshes in ASCII format?
"Why are triangle meshes in ASCII format? They are huge! A binary format would be a lot smaller. If
POV-Ray can read binary images, why can it not read binary mesh data?"
It is not as simple as you may think.
You cannot compare binary mesh data with image files. Yes, images are binary data, but there is one big difference:
Image files use integer numbers (usually bytes, in some cases 16-bit integers), which can be easily
read in any system.
However, meshes use floating point numbers.
It might come as a bit of surprise that it is far from easy to represent them in binary format so that they can be
read in every possible system.
It is very important to keep in mind that POV-Ray is intended to be a very portable program, which should be
compilable in virtually any system with a decent C compiler. This is not just mumbo-jumbo; POV-Ray IS used in a wide
variety of operating systems and computer architectures, including Windows, MacOS, Linux, (Sparc) Solaris, Digital
Unix and so on.
The internal representation of floating point numbers may differ in number of bits and bits reserved for each part
of the number inside the data type in different systems. There is also the infamous big-endian/low-endian problem
(that is, although the floating point numbers were identical in two different systems, they may be written in
different byte-order when writing to a file).
If you try to make carelessly a patch which reads and writes floating point numbers in binary format, you will
probably quickly find that your patch only works in a certain architecture only (eg. PC) and not others.
In order to store floating point numbers so that they can be read in any system, you have to store them in an
universal format. ASCII is as good as any other.
However, you are not completely out of luck when dealing with compressing mesh data. This
has been done before.
Since version 3.5, POV-Ray supports a new type of mesh (called mesh2) which stores the mesh data in a more compact
format (similar to the one used in the PCM format described in the abovementioned link, but with a bit more 'syntax'