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Submitted by , posted on 10 November 2004



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We work for a CAE simulation company and have done some work for our next release adding support for pixel and vertex shaders. :) We used OpenGL Shader Language for this, as it seemed a better option than the proprietary CG/etc languages that are out there. It seems this is likely to stay around longer (who remembers Voodoo II) than the custom stuff vendors are putting out...

Top left: simple chrome effect. Top right: 3 point-light phong-shaded with cubic reflection map. It's amazing to see realtime phong rendering at 1600x1200 res, when you used to remember how long 3D studio DOS would take to render a scanline! :) The middle image is a fake-phong: which uses a specular map to lookup based on the surface normal: it runs really fast and sometimes looks even better than the real-phong! At the bottom is the X-ray shader (don't ask... maybe nostalgia, or maybe too much Syndicate Wars..)

Cons/Pros?

Man. Earlier ATI cards are pants! During our testing these were the suffering, with tiny instruction limits, lots of crashes and not a very friendly Shader Language Compiler. nVidia really kicks butt! Though, I can see why there is no option in the display properties to "render gouraud triangles as phong", as it's still just a little bit too slow for that yet (we get only about 3 frames per second on our most complex shaders: but then, these are HUGE programs.) It's amazing the computer power that is packed into a GPU in addition most of our models are around 20,000+ polies. The main taker of time is not Tris but pixels..

It was surprising to find out how many cards did support OpenGL 2.0 when we installed the latest reference drivers from nVidia and *cough* ATI. There's been no fanfar about it however: nothing on the webpages like when some redundant feature is added (ie full-page advert about a better cooling-fan and how this will make your life better.) Of course, the reason for this may be that both nVidia and ATI support is still not 100%... (no noise operator for nVidia, and no variables indexing arrays and poor compiler support for ATI!)



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