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Randi Rost is an ISV Manager in the Software and Solutions Group at Intel. Previously he held several positions at 3Dlabs, Inc., the company that led the creation of the OpenGL Shading Language (GLSL). Randi was a core contributor to the development of GLSL and the OpenGL API that supports it, as well as one of the first programmers to design and implement shaders using this technology.
For just about as long as there has been graphics hardware, there has been programmable graphics hardware. Over the years, building flexibility into graphics hardware designs has been a necessary way of life for hardware developers. Graphics APIs continue to evolve, and because a hardware design can take two years or more from start to finish, the only way to guarantee a hardware product that can support the then current graphics APIs at its release is to build in some degree of programmability from the very beginning.
Until recently, the realm of programming graphics hardware belonged to just a few people, mainly researchers and graphics hardware driver developers. Research into programmable graphics hardware has been taking place for many years, but the point of this research has not been to produce viable hardware and software for application developers and end users. The graphics hardware driver developers have focused on the immediate task of providing support for the important graphics APIs of the time: PHIGS, PEX, Iris GL, OpenGL, Direct3D, and so on. Until recently, none of these APIs exposed the programmability of the underlying hardware, so application developers have been forced into using the fixed functionality provided by traditional graphics APIs.
Hardware companies have not exposed the programmable underpinnings of their products because of the high cost of educating and supporting customers to use low-level, device-specific interfaces, and because these interfaces typically change quite radically with each new generation of graphics hardware. Application developers who use such a device-specific interface to a piece of graphics hardware face the daunting task of updating their software for each new generation of hardware that comes along. And forget about supporting the application on hardware from multiple vendors!
As we moved into the 21st century, some of these fundamental tenets about graphics hardware were challenged. Application developers pushed the envelope as never before and demanded a variety of new features in hardware in order to create more and more sophisticated onscreen effects. As a result, new graphics hardware designs became more programmable than ever before. Standard graphics APIs were challenged to keep up with the pace of hardware innovation. For OpenGL, the result was a spate of extensions to the core API as hardware vendors struggled to support a range of interesting new features that their customers were demanding.
The creation of a standard, cross-platform, high-level shading language for commercially available graphics hardware was a watershed event for the graphics industry. A paradigm shift occurred, one that took us from the world of rigid, fixed functionality graphics hardware and graphics APIs to a brave new world where the visual processing unit, or VPU (i.e., graphics hardware), is as important as the central processing unit, or CPU. The VPU is optimized for processing dynamic media such as 3D graphics and video. Highly parallel processing of floating-point data is the primary task for VPUs, and the flexibility of the VPU means that it can also be used to process data other than a stream of traditional graphics commands. Applications can take advantage of the capabilities of both the CPU and the VPU, using the strengths of each to optimally perform the task at hand.
This book describes how graphics hardware programmability is exposed through a high-level language in the leading cross-platform 3D graphics API: OpenGL. This language, the OpenGL Shading Language, lets applications take total control over the most important stages of the graphics processing pipeline. No longer restricted to the graphics rendering algorithms and formulas chosen by hardware designers and frozen in silicon, software developers are beginning to use this programmability to create stunning effects in real time.
The primary audience for this book is application programmers who want to write shaders. This book can be used as both a tutorial and a reference book by people interested in learning to write shaders with the OpenGL Shading Language. Some will use the book in one fashion, and some in the other. The organization is amenable to both uses and is based on the assumption that most people won't read the book in sequential order from back to front (but some intrepid readers of the first edition reported that they did just that!).
Readers do not need previous knowledge of OpenGL to absorb the material in this book, but such knowledge is very helpful. A brief review of OpenGL is included, but this book does not attempt to be a tutorial or reference book for OpenGL. Anyone attempting to develop an OpenGL application that uses shaders should be armed with OpenGL programming documentation in addition to this book.
Computer graphics has a mathematical basis, so some knowledge of algebra, trigonometry, and calculus will help readers understand and appreciate some of the details presented. With the advent of programmable graphics hardware, key parts of the graphics processing pipeline are once again under the control of software developers. To develop shaders successfully in this environment, developers must understand the mathematical basis of computer graphics.
This book has three main parts. Chapters 1 through 8 teach the reader about the OpenGL Shading Language and how to use it. This part of the book covers details of the language and details of the OpenGL commands that create and manipulate shaders. To supply a basis for writing shaders, Chapters 9 through 20 contain a gallery of shader examples and some explanation of the underlying algorithms. This part of the book is both the baseline for a reader's shader development and a springboard for inspiring new ideas. Finally, Chapter 21 compares other notable commercial shading languages, and Appendices A and B contain reference material for the language and the API entry points that support it.
The chapters are arranged to suit the needs of the reader who is least familiar with OpenGL and shading languages. Certain chapters can be skipped by readers who are more familiar with both topics. This book has somewhat compartmentalized chapters in order to allow such usage.
I gave this book as a present. And, they loved this book a good learning tool for OpenGL. I highly recommend.Published 22 months ago by platinumchair517
The book is random set of GLSL topics, the examples are incomplete and most of them useless. If you are a beginner this book is not for you and if you are not then you already know... Read morePublished on October 10, 2010 by Ariel Juan Bernal
By and large, the reviews here have found this book to be a great resource, to have helpful examples, and perhaps is THE book to have for all things GLSL. Read morePublished on December 30, 2008 by Sariel V