Archive for the 'Tools' Category


SharpDX and 3D model loading

I used to be a great fan of XNA Game Studio as a framework to try new graphics techniques, those that needed a bit more support in the runtime than FX Composer or other shader editors could offer. It hasn’t been updated for quite some time now though, and it is becoming irrelevant in an age of advanced graphics APIs and next gen platforms.

In the past few months I noticed a promising framework, SharpDX, which seems to offer a similar level of abstraction of Direct3D as XNA, ideal for graphics demos, but updated to support D3D11 as well. There is another similar framework, SlimDX, but if I understand correctly it is not being as actively developed. Continue reading ‘SharpDX and 3D model loading’


Using Unity as an FX Composer replacement for shader prototyping

A few days ago, while preparing a presentation on physically based rendering, I needed to create a few shaders to showcase the difference between the various reflectance models. As always I fired up my aging FX composer and tried to load a Stanford Dragon model I found on the internet (various formats and polygon counts). FX Composer consistently failed to cooperate. Then, I remembered Unity and its very capable content pipeline so I thought I’d give it a go. And voila I got my model rendering with two drag-n-drops.

This got me thinking about how good the free version of Unity would be as an FX composer replacement. I am aware that Unity is a game engine and not specifically tuned for material/shader creation, but it has many good features like the price (can’t get a better deal than free), content pipeline, scene editor, material inspector UI and a shader editor that could make it a prime candidate. I’ve been using FX Composer to prototype/try shaders for quite some time now, but it is starting to show its age with its D3D10 support and, frankly, not so slick UI and Editor/Scene Viewer. So I set about investigating it. Continue reading ‘Using Unity as an FX Composer replacement for shader prototyping’


Tools of the trade

A large part of a graphics programmer’s work revolves around the tools that allow her to create, edit and customise shaders, which in turn define the look of a 3D environment.

Over the years I’ve used many different tools ranging from a simple text editor and a command line compiler to a fully fledged shader graph editor with drag and drop functionality. Which tools will actually be used for a graphics project depends a lot on personal preference, development platform and/or ease (and cost) of development. Continue reading ‘Tools of the trade’