Category Archives: Uncategorized

What to do if a custom modal sheet doesn’t get presented modally the first time it is called

This isn’t in the documentation anywhere, although to be fair the documentation is in even more of a mess than it ever was before, and despite the fact that the old methods are all deprecated, the guide for presenting window sheets in Cocoa still seems to be stuck in the 10.1 era.

Problem: I am trying to present a custom panel as a modal sheet attached to my main window. The first time the panel is called, it appears as an individual window, unattached to the window from which the panel was presented, and does not behave modally. The second time it is called, it displays normally.

Solution: in Interface Builder, select the window you are using as your custom panel and uncheck “Visible at Launch”.

Volumetric sun shafts, in motion

A quick video of the lighting buffer produced by my volumetric lighting shader; see the post below for more details.

And here’s a slightly longer one, which is a bit shaky-cam but emphasises the fact that you don’t need to have the light source in frame for this to work.

Orientation Matrices for Cube Mapping

I may well be totally wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever successfully Googled a useful set of orientation matrices for cube mapping. As you already know, a cube map is a set of six images which, when projected on to a cube, provide a decent simulation of a spherical texture map. Two of the most common modes of usage are to provide real-time reflections on the outside of an object (by repeatedly making a map of the environment surrounding that object and then projecting that map back on to the object, as in the reflections you see on e.g. the cars in racing games), and to provide a skybox.

Skyboxes are usually either pre-rendered (pretty but boring), or done through rendering atmospheric scattering for your scene and then projecting some celestial bodies like the moon, stars etc (pretty but computationally intensive). An additional bonus of drawing your own skyboxes is that you can then use them for doing environment/ambient lighting for objects in your scene, either by working out the spherical harmonics (neat but I’m far too dumb to have ever wrapped my head around it) or by techniques which involve downsampling the cube map. This gives you ambient light which changes colour depending on the angle of the sun basically for free.

Therefore cube maps have multiple advantages for rendering your skybox and lighting:
1) render once and reuse (you can make this once per frame, or less often depending on how dynamic the sun is.)
2) you can do atmospheric scattering at a surprisingly low resolution and still have a decent looking result. You basically have to do your atmospheric scattering in the fragment shader if you want to use a “spotlight” effect to render the sun, which gets very expensive in terms of fragment power. I actually do both the sun and the moon, which is even more expensive, so lowering resolution is a major speed-up here.
3) basically free specular and ambient environment mapping of the sky on to everything in your scene. You can either go the very expensive route for downsampling, or just mipmap the thing and get 90% of the quality for 10% of the effort, and hardware acceleration.
4) if you’re blending your scene into the sky for a distance fogging effect – well, you just got the source for that as well!

This is where you usually run into a brick wall because figuring out the correct orientation matrices for rendering the cube map is a pain in the backside. What you’re going to be doing in the end is rendering a box around your camera and texture mapping the cube map on to the inside of the box, which will then act as the skybox. You can simplify this by not applying any rotation to the skybox, so that it’s aligned with the x, y and z axes. Therefore what you need to do is figure out how to make the camera look in six directions: +x, -x, +y, -y, +z and -z. You could do this with gluLookAt, but that’s a whole heck of a lot of lines of code just to look in the direction of an axis. Better to just know what matrices to use: see below. (I’m weird and use +x = east, +y = north, -z = up i.e. inverted right-handed axes.)

Continue reading Orientation Matrices for Cube Mapping

A tale of two vectors (normal reconstruction and driver differences)

If you’re playing around with deferred rendering or post-process techniques, you’ve probably come across the concept that you can recover camera-space surface normals from camera space position like so:

vec3 reconstructCameraSpaceFaceNormal(vec3 CameraSpacePosition) {
    vec3 res = normalize(cross(dFdy(CameraSpacePosition), dFdx(CameraSpacePosition)));
    return res;

where C is the camera-space position.

What you might not realise is that you’re accidentally setting yourself up for confusion depending on your graphics driver. For the longest time, I was using this technique to try to implement SSAO without having to bother with storing screen space normals. After fiddling about a bit I noticed that on my desktop with an NVIDIA GTX680 everything looked OK, while on my laptop with intel HD integrated graphics everything looked inverted. I then tried reversing the normal I was getting out of this function. Success! The laptop is now displaying correctly. Failure! The desktop is now screwed up.

Continue reading A tale of two vectors (normal reconstruction and driver differences)