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GPU Gems: Programming Techniques, Tips and Tricks for Real-Time Graphics Hardcover – April 1, 2004
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From the Back Cover
--Eric Haines, Author of Real-Time Rendering"GPU Gems is a cool toolbox of advanced graphics techniques. Novice programmers and graphics gurus alike will find the Gems practical, intriguing and useful."
--Tim Sweeney, Lead Programmer of Unreal at Epic Games
GPU Gems is a compilation of articles covering practical real-time graphics techniques arising from the research and practice of cutting edge developers. It focuses on the programmable graphics pipeline available in today's graphics processing units (GPUs) and highlights quick and dirty tricks used by leading developers, as well as fundamental, performance-conscious techniques for creating advanced visual effects. The contributors and editors, collectively, bring countless years of experience to enlighten and propel the reader into the fascinating world of programmable real-time graphics.
Major topics covered include:
Contributors are from the following universities and corporations:
The accompanying CD-ROM includes complimentary examples and sample programs.
About the Author
Randima (Randy) Fernando is Manager of Developer Education at NVIDIA.
Top customer reviews
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The text is divided into six major parts: natural effects, lighting and shadows, materials, image progressing, performance and practicalities, and beyond triangles. Each part has anywhere between 5 to 9 chapters (for an overall total of 42 chapters). The chapters are separate white papers related to the overall part's major topic. For example, the natural effects part contains chapters on water caustics, Perlin noise, creating realistic fire, and diffraction just to name a few.
Generally, each chapter has an introduction, a background with some mathematics, an implementation occasionally with some partial source code, a conclusion, and key references. While a different author writes each chapter, the overall feel of the book is consistent and smooth. The chapters read very similar to a SIGGRAPH paper without as much math or specific detail.
Take for example, the chapter on stereograms - a process by which a 2D image encodes stereo information that when viewed correctly reveals a 3D scene. The chapter has brief background section that includes several helpful color examples. The author discusses how to create such an image using the fragment program capabilities of a GPU using the z-buffer as a depth map and provides a demo program on the CD. Many of the articles follow the same format - enough of a topic to provide understanding, but not enough depth to be comprehensive or fully instructional.
The topics presented are extremely current. Many of the samples provided on the CD required the latest video hardware (GeForce4 or better) and latest drivers to run. The sample programs and demos require shader support, Cg, OpenGL, or the latest version of DirectX to run. On the plus side, the majority of the companion topics included pre-compiled binaries (but not the runtime dynamic link libraries) or an AVI illustrating the subject in addition to the source code. While the CD contains over 600 MB of examples from the text, it provided only 23 of the 42 topics covered in the book. Since most of the articles provide an overview and references to a topic, additional material on the CD would have been beneficial.
The majority of the contributors are from the Nvidia Corporation which causes the book to bias toward their hardware and developer tools. In fact, one of the chapters is featured FX Composer, Nvidia's shader tool. The source code is a mixture of different shader languages from Microsoft's HLSL to Nvidia's Cg - with various authors using whatever was comfortable or convenient. Although the majority of the material presented is applicable to other hardware, it is critical to have a broad understanding of various shader languages if porting to specific hardware is important.
I found the wide range of subjects quite interesting - and was refreshed that the topics actually seemed "ahead of the curve" in terms of hardware requirements. However in order to provide more subject depth, it seemed that the text could have been split into two volumes in order to expand the existing chapters with sufficient depth. As the material is just enough to get one started, the subject treatment may disappoint some readers seeking to apply the clever and unique techniques presented in the book directly or those hoping to use the book as an opportunity to learn some of the advanced features provided in a programming graphical processing unit.
The book consists of 42 articles covering techniques available on modern programmable GPUs. The articles were written by the most impressive collection of authors I've seen. Many of them are from NVIDIA, with the rest being from game development studios and other leaders in the graphics industry, both in academia and commercial development. Each chapter is approximately 15-20 pages long, which allows for greater depth than most gems-style books.
The topics covered include lighting, shadows, materials, image processing, performance tuning, water, fire, grass, skin (from the Dawn demo), and nontraditional uses of the GPU. The examples use either HLSL or Cg (and thankfully not assembly level shaders). Unfortunately, the OpenGL Shading Language was not complete at the time of the book's writing, but the examples should port easily.
As should be obvious from the NVIDIA logo on the cover, ATI wasn't involved with this book. Not surprisingly then, many of the demo programs included on the CD won't work on ATI hardware. This is unfortunate, since ATI hardware seems to be more popular at the high end right now, so many readers won't be able to run a lot of the demos. However, the techniques themselves should be readily portable.
As a nice bonus, the book is printed in full-color, which is definitely a welcome change as it makes it easier to visualize the results.
This is one of the most timely and relevant books currently available for graphics and game development. I highly recommend it to anyone involved with either.