WebGL Resources

by Patrick Cozzi, a guest blogger

(I was corresponding with Patrick and found he knew way too much about WebGL, so asked him to write something down. – Eric)

Although I am a long-time C++ and OpenGL developer, I’ve been developing full-time in JavaScript and WebGL for the past year and a half on an open-source 3D engine, Cesium, for virtual globes and maps. Here are some of my favorite WebGL resources.

Reading

SIGGRAPH

  • The WebGL BOF, organized by Ken Russell, will have a series of five-minute lighting talks with a focus on demos, including a Cesium demo I’m giving. Last year the room was packed – people standing, sitting on the floor, and crowding around the door. Let’s hope the room is a lot bigger this year.
  • Graphics Programming for the Web is a timely new course by Pushkar Joshi, Mikaël Bourges-Sévenier, Ken Russell, and Zhenyao Mo covering WebGL and other relavant HTML5 techniques. It sounds like it will be pretty broad, which is great for C++ developers like me that recently started to pretend to be web developers.
  • Although not WebGL-specific, I’ll be at the Rest 3D BOF organized by Rémi Arnaud. I’ll even miss part of Beyond Programmable Shading for it. Rest 3D is defining a REST API for accessing 3D content over HTTP. If it gets widespread adoption from content providers, WebGL apps using the API will have access to a ton of content, which is a big win for everyone.

Need to convince management/leads to consider WebGL?

  • WebGL is cross-platform, and doesn’t require an install, plugin, or admin rights. IE doesn’t support WebGL, but there are several options. We’ve found Chrome Frame to be the best because it installs without requiring admin rights, and also brings Chrome’s fast JavaScript engine.
  • WebGL browser support is increasing. Check out the WebGL Stats by Florian Bösch. It currently reports that 65.6% of desktop browsers across all OSes support WebGL. (more stats for Firefox here).
  • JavaScript doesn’t suck that much, really. JavaScript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford and his other JavaScript writings are great reads. There are downsides too, of course; for example, I have a much harder time rationalizing about performance in JavaScript than I do in C++. Fortunately, the built-in Chrome profiler is painless to use.

Tools

  • The WebGL Inspector by Ben Vanik allows us to step through WebGL calls or just draw calls, and view textures, buffers, shaders, and the current state – think gDEBugger for WebGL. I like to use it as a sanity check to make sure we are not making too many draw calls or loading too many textures.
  • Our WebGL Report uses a pipeline diagram to display the system’s WebGL capabilities such as maximum texture size and number of texture image units.

Finally, the WebGL wiki has a ton of great resources including a list of frameworks and more.

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  1. davidgaleano’s avatar

    If you are interested on the Turbulenz Engine you should also check out the high quality recording of our WebGL demo using Quake 4 assets:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJg_BmY9-8o&hd=1

    It is the same demo I showed live at WebGL Camp Europe.

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