books

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We’ve been reworking our books page to take longer to download, I mean, to be more visually interesting and readable. Honestly, the old one was a dense, hard to view pile of book titles. Just adding whitespace between titles is a plus. We’ve also added one book to the recommended list, Eric Lengyel’s math book. Anyway, go check it out. On our main resources page we’ve put all the free books online into one section.

There are some new books coming out that look interesting. For those of you going to GDC, there should be some worthwhile offerings to check out on the floor.

The Programming Massively Parallel Processors book by Kirk (Chief Scientist at NVIDIA) and Hwu (professor at U. of Illinois) is out by now, as of 3 days ago, and is currently sold out on Amazon. It’s undoubtedly derived from the course they co-taught at Illinois. CUDA and Tesla are the keywords here. Hwu’s current course lectures are here and here; I don’t know how they compare to the book, but these newer (non-Kirk) lectures seem more general. I look forward to learning more about this volume—if you have it, please do leave a comment (or better yet, a review on Amazon).

Wolfgang Engel and all have a new book out, GPU Pro. He’s using a new publisher, so it does not have the ShaderX name, but effectively is ShaderX 8. Finally, the book is color throughout vs. previous ShaderX’s. I’ve skimmed some of the articles, and it’s in the same vein as others in the series: a range from practical advice to wild ideas. I can just about guarantee that professional interactive graphics programmers will find something of interest—I found about 5 articles off the bat I want to read through, and plenty of others I should at least skim. More info at the blog for this book.

Game Programming Gems 8 adds to this long-lived series. I haven’t seen it yet, so no comments; Adam Lake’s blog may give updates on status, contents, etc. This series has slowly drifted to including much more non-graphical material over the years. Understandable, but Adam’s someone I think as a graphics guy, so I’m selfishly hoping for more graphics and less the other stuff. My view on collection books like ShaderX and this is simple: an hour of a programmer’s time is about the same as the cost of a book, so if the book saves an hour, it’s paid for itself. Of course, there’s the time cost of reading the articles of interest, but still…

Second editions have been announced for Physically Based Rendering Techniques and High Dynamic Range Imaging. PBRT is more offline rendering oriented, but is a great book because it takes a stand; the authors say what they do for a real system and why they made that choice, vs. listing all possible techniques. It also presents about the longest literate programming presentation published. I have a short review of the first edition. The HDRI book is nice in that it pulls together the various research articles out there into one place, with a coherent thread to it all. The second edition’s new material is described on its Amazon page.

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First day of work, so here are a few from coworkers and others:

  • Naty passed on this blog post about RGBD, a compact way of storing HDR environment map colors.
  • Gamasutra has an excerpt from Game Engine Architecture, a book we’ve mentioned before. Added bonus info on the author, Jason Gregory: he was a lead programmer on Uncharted 2 (which my older son loves, as do many others).
  • Manny Ko mentioned the free program Mendeley, which he swears by for organizing his PDF collection of graphics papers. I’ll look into it once I’ve reloaded everything after my Windows 7 upgrade.
  • Physics in graphics? Here’s one person’s extensive collection of abstracts through 2005.
  • From Nicholas Wilt, interesting to hear how one brokerage firm is now using GPUs to run complex simulations for bond prices. That GPU Gems chapter on options pricing was prescient.
  • Speaking of brokers and lots of GPUs, there’s this article. I’m a little skeptical of a GPU cloud for graphics (vs. running OpenCL), since graphics cards are not quite interchangeable parts at this point. Also, CPUs don’t normally need driver updates, GPUs do. OTOY I’m super-skeptical about, I have to admit, though I’d love to see them pull it off. Anyway, fun to think about situations where network bandwidth > graphics compute power and cloud cost < local cost.
  • One more from the demoscene, Farbrausch’s The Cube – interesting effects, what looks like procedural clips and procedural surfaces using interior mapping. At least, that’s my guess. I wish they would spend a little time explaining what they did, though maybe that would ruin the magic.

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Some great bits have accumulated. Here they are:

  • I3D 2010 paper titles are up! Most “how would that work?!” type of title: “Stochastic Transparency”.
  • Eurographics 2010 paper titles are up! Most intriguing title: “Printed Patterns for Enhanced Shape Perception of Papercraft Models”.
  • An article in The Economist discusses how consumer technologies are being used by military forces. There are minor examples, like Xbox controllers being used to control robotic reconnaissance vehicles. I was interested to see that BAE Systems (a company that isn’t NVIDIA) talk about how using GPUs can replace other computing equipment for simulation at 1/100th the price. Of course, Iraq knew this 9 years ago.
  • I wish I had noticed this page a week ago, in time for Xmas (where X equals, nevermind): Christer Ericson’s recommended book page. I know of many of the titles, but hadn’t heard of The New Turing Omnibus before – this sounds like the perfect holiday gift for any budding computer science nerd, and something I think I’d enjoy, too. Aha, hmmm, wait, Amazon has two-day shipping… done!
  • A problem with the z-buffer, when used with a perspective view, is that the z-depths do not linearly correspond to actual world distances along the camera’s view direction. This article and this one (oh, and this is related) give ways to get back to this linear space. Why get the linear view-space depth? Two reasons immediately come to mind: proper computation of atmospheric effects, and edge detection due to z-depth changes for non-photorealistic rendering.
  • Wolfgang Engel (along with comments by others) has a great summary of order-independent transparency algorithms to date. I wonder when the day will come that we can store some number of layers per pixel without any concern about memory costs and access methods. Transparency is what kills algorithms like deferred shading, because all the layers are not there at the time when shading is resolved. Larrabee could have handled that… ah, well, someday.
  • Morgan McGuire has a paper on Ambient Occlusion Volumes (motto: shadow volumes for ambient light). I’ll be interested to see how this compares with Volumetric Obscurance in I3D 2010 (not up yet for download).

Amazon Stock Market update: one nice thing about having an Amazon Associates account is that prices at various dates are visible. The random walk that is Amazon’s pricing structure becomes apparent for our book: December 1st: $71.20, December 11-14: $75.65, December 18-22: $61.68. Discounted for the holidays? If so, Amazon’s marketing is aiming at a much different family demographic than I’m used to. “Oh, daddy, Principia Mathematica? How did you know? I’ve been wanting it for ever so long!”

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Clearing the Queue

I’ve have a goal this week (it should be clear by now) of clearing my queue of stored-up RTR links by my birthday, today! (Hint: I want a pony.) So excuse the excessively-long list o’ links. Next task on my list, update the main RTR page itself.

  • StructureSynth. This looks pretty cool, and I love procedural models (my ancient SPD package was all about this, back in the days when downloading models was oppressively slow). I do wish they just provided an executable – building looks like a pain.
  • That previous link was on Meshula.net, which also blogs about Pixel Bender Fractals. Great stuff, sort of steampunk computer graphics: you must click this link, if no other on this page, and look on in awe.
  • Shapeways has a blog, and it’s not just dull company announcements. I’m glad they find people as pixels as interesting as I do. They also cover exporting Spore characters to Collada files (which is a great addition to Spore) and creating physical models from these.
  • In related news, The Economist has a reasonable summary of some trends in 3D printing. Their Technology Quarterly also has articles on Augmented Reality, 3D displays, and CAPTCHAs, among other topics.
  • This is one more reason the Internet is great: an in-depth article on normal compression techniques, weighing the pros and cons of each. This sort of article would probably not see the light of day in traditional publications, even Game Developer – too long for them, but all the info presented here is worthwhile for a developer making this decision. Aras’ blog has other nice bits such as packing a float into RGBA and SSAO blurring.
  • I need to add a link to the article itself to the object intersection page, but Morgan McGuire recently verified that he found this ray/box algorithm super-fast in SIMD. Code’s downloadable from that page, free version of article is downloadable here. Morgan uses this test in the ray tracer for his cool photon mapping paper at HPG 2009; if nothing else, you should at least see the video.
  • In related news, I am happy to see that AK Peters is beginning to put past journal of graphics tools articles online. At $15 each, the price of an article is quite high for individuals (or at least this individual), but current journal of graphics (gpu, & game) tools subscribers have full access to this archive for free. The mechanism to get access is a little clunky right now: if you’re a subscriber, you need to register with Metapress, then tell AK Peters your userid and they’ll provide you access.
  • Related to this, I hope Google Books conquers the world (or anyone else doing similar work, as long as it isn’t Apple or Amazon or other overcharging closed-box “we’re just protecting the authors, who get 10% or less for a purely digital sale with nil physical cost to us per unit” retailers – rant over, and I do understand there are fixed start-up costs for the retailer/publisher/etc., but really…). Google Books is so darn handy to look for short articles in books at Google’s repository, such as this one giving a clean way to build an orthonormal basis given a vector, from Graphics Tools: The JGT Editors’ Choice.
  • Humus provides a whole slew of new cubemaps he captured, if you’re getting tired of Grace Cathedral.
  • CUDA itself (vs. others) may or may not be a critical technology, but what it shows about the underlying GPU architecture is fascinating.
  • It should be mentioned: August 2009 DirectX SDK is available. Includes the first official release of DirectX 11.
  • This is hilarious, and possibly even useful!
  • I love seeing things like this: build your own multitouch display. Not that I’ll ever do it, but I hope others will.
  • You might be sick of Larrabee news (ship one, already!), but I found Phil Taylor’s article pleasantly hype-free and informative.
  • ATI’s Eyefinity (cute marketing name, I must admit – now I want to use the word everywhere) seems to me to solve a problem that rarely occurs: too much GPU for too few screens. Still, it’s nice to have the option. Eyefinity allows up to six monitors to be driven by a single GPU. I guess Eyefinity is useful when running older flight simulator programs on newer GPUs; otherwise, Eyefinity is pretty irrelevant. Eyefinity, eyefinity, eyefinity. At work I find two displays is plenty, one to run, one to debug. Anyway, the sweet spot for the monitor:GPU ratio is 13:1, as can be seen here:
    Flight Simulator - living the dream
  • There’s an article on instancing animated grass using DX10 on Gamasutra.
  • Humus’ summary of z interpolation is a good summary of the topic. He gives some of the key tricks, e.g., if you’re using floating point, use a near=1.0 and far=0.0 to help preserve precision.
  • Here’s a basic tutorial on different projection methods used in videogames, with lots of visual examples (add “Zaxxon” and it’s complete, for me). The one new tidbit I learnt from it was about reverse perspective, an effect I’ve made myself once every now and then when I screw up a projection matrix.
  • While I’ve been on break (one of the reasons I’ve been posting so much – Autodesk gives wonderful 6 week “sabbaticals”, aka “long vacations”, to U.S. employees every four years you’re there; it’s like being French or Swedish every fourth year), the rest of the company’s been busy: this new sketch application for the iPhone looks pretty cool, at the usual $2.99 “cup of coffee” type price.
  • Caustics can be dangerous. I can attest to this myself; a goofy award Andrew Glassner gave me long ago sat on my windowsill for years (I moved once, as you should discern from the picture), until I noticed what was happening to the base:
    caustics
  • I usually don’t have time to keep up with Slashdot, but SeenOnSlash, the funny bits of SlashDot, is sometimes entertaining. Graphics-related example: AMD’s latest chip.

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  • RapidMind is now a part of Intel. Which I think is a good fit; RapidMind does some interesting multicore techniques. Anything that makes multicore programming easier for a larger group of people is all to the good.
  • I3D 2010 Call for Participation. October 23rd for papers, December 18th for posters – submit! I3D will be in Washington, DC, February 19-21.
  • Dirty Coding Tricks in Gamasutra. A reprint of a Game Developer article, I’m glad to see it online – it’s pretty amusing in places. The hack at the top of page 2 is my favorite.
  • Carmack on the iPhone 3GS. Now the iPhone begins to face the same problem PC developers have to deal with: different levels of GPU support. At least there will be only one line of Apple phones, vs. multiple IHVs with a wide range of offerings at different price points, etc.
  • Mendeley Bibliographic Database. Manny Ko mentioned this one to me, and it looks interesting: a number of tools to pull in PDFs, get their references, let you annotate them, etc.
  • O’Reilly’s author guide. A surprisingly open and honest guide to how you as an author deal with publishers, specifically O’Reilly. Many publishers consider their contracts and royalty terms to be trade secrets, so it’s refreshing to see this information given in a straightforward manner.
  • aM Laboratory ToneMatrix. Pretty fun, and it reminds me of an experimental device seen at SIGGRAPH a few years ago. To see the most elaborate (and beautiful) web app ever, click on the AudioTool link, Start AudioTool, then pick DrumNBass. Scroll around. Click the menu in the lower left corner. Amazing.

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coversmallOne bit of deja vu for me at SIGGRAPH this year was another book signing at the A K Peters booth.  Last year’s SIGGRAPH had the signing for Real-Time Rendering; this year I was at the book signing for the third edition of Fundamentals of Computer Graphics.  My presence at the signing was due to the fact that I wrote a chapter on graphics for games (this edition also has new chapters on implicit modeling, color, and visualization, as well as updates to the existing chapters).  As in the case of Real-Time Rendering, I was interested in contributing to this book as a fan of the previous editions.  Fundamentals is targeted as a “first graphics book” so it has a slightly different audience than Real-Time Rendering, which is meant to be the reader’s second book on the subject.

At the A K Peters booth I also got to try out the Kindle edition of Fundamentals (the illustrations in Real-Time Rendering rely on color to convey information, so a Kindle edition will have to wait for color devices).  I haven’t jumped on the Kindle bandwagon personally (the DRM bothers me; when I buy something I like to own it), but I know people who are quite pleased with their Kindle (or iPhone Kindle application).

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  • Books, books, and more books: I received review copies of two books. Best of Game Programming Gems is as it sounds, certainly cheaper than buying the seven books in this series, no real review needed (look inside). Game Engine Architecture is about just that, how to make a professional-grade game rendering system, from soup to nuts (you can look inside). Eberly’s two books are the previous notable works in this area, but are quite different than this new volume. While they focus almost exclusively on algorithms, this book attempts to cover the whole task of developing an engine: what to use for source control, dealing with memory management and in-game profiling, input devices, SIMD, and many other practical topics. There is also algorithmic coverage of rendering, animation, collision detection and physics, among other areas. Naturally, the amount of information on each area is limited by page count (the book’s a solid 860 pages), but in my brief skim it looks like most of the critical areas and concepts are touched on. You won’t become an expert in any one area from this volume, but it looks like you’ll have some reasonably deep understanding of the elements that go into making a game engine. Quite an impressive work, and I know of nothing else in this area that is so detailed. I hope I get a chance to read it (who am I fooling? Though I do wish I had the time…) – well, at the least, it’s a place I’ll first go if I want to learn about a topic in game development that I know little about. If you’d rather wax nostalgic about great game engines you have known, as well as what the state of the are is, this article is for you (oh, yeah, the author of this new book works at the company that made #3).
  • Looking around for titles I’d like to look over at SIGGRAPH, I found these: Game Graphics ProgrammingProgramming the Cell Processor: For Games, Graphics, and ComputationIntroduction to 3D Game Programming with DirectX 10Ultimate Game Programming with DirectX, 2nd Ed., Advanced Game ProgrammingGame Coding Complete. Which all sort of sound the same (except for the Cell book), but I’d be happy to page through each and see if it looks promising.
  • There’s a worthwhile comparison of average vertex normal computation methods on the MeshLab blog. He gives the nod to Thürmer and Wüthrich’s method. You can try each of the three using MeshLab itself.
  • Sure, Spore didn’t light the world on fire as many of us hoped, but a lot of cool technology was explored. Chris Hecker has a worthwhile rundown of some of the great stuff they worked on.
  • There are some surprisingly affordable 3D stereolithography objects available on Shapeways. I bought Spiral Cage (tiny, but impressive, and so cheap), Clematis (looks delicate, but is quite springy), and Gyroid (pricier, but more sizeable and a fun form). It’s great to see so many people exploring such areas; here’s a detailed summary of resources. Even if you never plan on getting involved, the Flickr area dedicated to such techniques is worth a browse.
  • This one amused me: a cloud computing company had a contest that was meant to show off Ruby and cloud computing strengths. It was won by people brute-forcing the problem with GPUs: 16 used by the first-place winner (plus 117 CPU cores, which had less performance total than the 16 GPUs), 4 by the second. Steve Worley and others talk about the GPU approach on the CUDA forum (his program, shared with the community there, was used to win second place).
  • I admire the dedication.

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While at SIGGRAPH I like to look at new books at the booths. One you may wish to check out is Graphics Shaders: Theory and Practice, from AK Peters (or just use “Look Inside” on Amazon). I received a review copy and skimmed through it. If you’re interested in programming in GLSL 1.2 (part of OpenGL 2.1), consider looking at this one. A minor problem is that it’s not quite as up-to-date as the Orange Book (now on OpenGL 3.1), but the difference in core concepts between language versions is not large. The Graphics Shaders book is full color and comes with a lot of GLSL code examples. It has a bias towards scientific visualization, though not so much that it neglects the basics. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on noise, as it gave one of the clearest explanations I’ve seen on the differences between various types of basic interactive noise functions. One or two elements in the book are a little weak – the flowcharts for pipelines are often too small and difficult to read, for example – but all in all this looks like a solid contribution to the field. Don’t expect more elaborate effects, e.g., shadows are not touched upon. It does cover the basics, plus some additional topics like image post-processing (not normally covered in texts I’ve seen). One of the authors wrote a nice learning tool for GLSL, glman, free for download. If you find you like this tool, definitely consider the book.

Another book I noticed recently is Fluid Simulation for Computer Graphics. This is a topic I know little about, I was just interested to see that there’s any book at all. It looks pretty equation-filled, so is definitely for the serious practitioner.

Speaking of fluid simulation, Intel has an article on this topic for games. One of the chief strengths of any publication is that its staff makes a decision based on merit as to what is published and what is culled. So, I have to admit to being leery of anything that says, “Sponsored Feature”, as that means editorial review and decision-making are gone. I tend to err on the side of ignoring such articles (there’s plenty to read already). That said, Intel’s had quite a number of these articles recently, including such topics as instancing, ocean fog, FFT’s for image processing, and quite a few on parallelism.

In the “clearing the queue” category of links, I don’t think I ever pointed out this handy page, which presents all AMD/ATI and NVIDIA presentations at GDC 2009.

There’s now a (not very active, but at least it exists) Microsoft DirectX blog.

On the OpenGL front, NVIDIA has introduced bindless graphics to help avoid L2 cache misses. I will be interested to see how APIs evolve, as the elements in the current APIs that are bottlenecks are not so much CPU or GPU limitations as due to the API constructs themselves.

Thing for the day: an advertisement with interesting stippling.

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Well, I have 69 links stored up, wade through them here if you want unedited content. I’ve decided that getting 7 links out per post is a good round number, so here’s the first.

  • This is my screen-saver du jour: Pixel City (put the .scr file in your Windows directory). It’s fully described (along with source) in this great set of articles; if you’re too busy to read it all (though you should: it’s an fun read and he has some interesting insights), watch the video summary on that page. If you feel like researching the area of procedural modeling of cities more thoroughly, start here.
  • The book Real-Time Cameras, which is about camera control for games, now has a sample excerpt on Gamasutra.
  • NPR: Forrester Cole has two worthwhile GPU methods for deriving visible line segments for a set of edges (e.g., computing partial visibility of geometric lines). He’s put source code for his methods up at his site, the program “dpix“. Note: you’ll need Qt to compile & link.
  • The author of the Legalize Adulthood blog has recently had a number of posts on using DirectX10.
  • DirectX9 is still with us. Richard Thomson has a free draft of his book about DirectX 9 online. He knows what he’s about; witness his detailed pipeline posters. The bad news is that the book’s coverage of shaders is mostly about 1.X shaders (a walk down memory lane, if by “lane” you mean “horrifically complex assembly language”). The good news is that there’s some solid coverage of the theory and practice of vertex blending, for example. Anyway, grist for the mill – you might find something of use.
  • Around September I have 6 weeks off, so like every other programmer on the planet I’ve contemplated playing around with making a program for the iPhone. The economics are terrible for most developers, but I’d do it just for fun. It’s also interesting to see people thinking about what this new platform means for games. Naturally, Wolfenstein 3D, the “Hello World” of 3D games, has been ported. Andrew Glassner recommended this book for iPhone development, he said it’s the best one he found for beginners.
  • Speaking of Andrew, he pointed me at an interesting little language he’s been messing with, Processing. It’s essentially Java with a lot of built-in 2D (and to a lesser extent, 3D) graphics support: color, primitives, transforms, mouse control, lerps, window, etc., all right there and trivial to use. You can make fun little programs in just a page or two of code. That said, there are some very minor inconsistencies, like transparency not working against the background fill color. Pretty elaborate programs can be made, and it’s also handy for just drawing stuff easily via a program. Here’s a simple image I did in just a few lines, based on mouse moves:
    Processing output
That’s seven – ship it.

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Just some quick bits to chew on for breakfast:

  • Microsoft announced Project Natal at E3; the (simulated) video is entertaining. Lionhead Studios’ demo is also worth a look. Somehow a little creepy, and I suspect in practice there’s a high likelihood that a user will quickly run off the rails and not do what’s expected, but still. Considering how limited the Eye Toy is compared to its hype, I’m not holding my breath, but it’s interesting to know & think about. (thanks to Adam Felt for the link)
  • New book out, Graphics Shaders: Theory and Practice. It’s about GLSL, you can find the Table of Contents and other front matter at the book’s site (look to the right side). I hope to get a copy and give a review at some point.
  • I mentioned Mark Haigh-Hutchinson’s Real-Time Cameras book in an earlier post. The, honestly, touching story of its history is republished on Mark DeLoura’s blog at Gamasutra.
  • Nice history of graphics cards, with many pictures.
  • Humus describes a clever particle rendering optimization technique (update), and provides a utility. Basically, make the polygon fit the visible part of the particle to save on fill rate. One of those ideas that I suspect many of us have wondered if it’s worth doing. It is, and it’s great to have someone actually test it out and publish the results.
  • This is an interesting concept: with an NVIDIA card and their new driver you can now turn on ambient occlusion for 22 games that don’t actually use this technique in their shipped shaders. In itself, this feature is a minor plus, but brings up all sorts of questions, such as buying into a particular brand to improve quality, who controls and who can modify the artistic look of a game, etc. (thanks to Mauricio Vives for the link)
  • Old, but if you haven’t seen it before, it’s a must: transparent screens.

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