WebGLFundamentals.org

WebGL 3D Perspective Correct Texturemapping

This post is a continuation of a series of posts about WebGL. The first started with fundamentals. This article covers perspective correct texture mapping. To understand it you probably need to read up on perspective projection and maybe texturing as well. You also need to know about varyings and what they do but I'll cover them briefly here.

So in the "how it works" article we covered how varyings work. A vertex shader can declare a varying and set it to some value. Once the vertex shader has been called 3 times WebGL will draw a triangle. While it's drawing that triangle for every pixel it will call our fragment shader and ask it what color to make that pixel. Between the 3 vertices of the triangle it will pass us our varyings interpolated between the 3 values.

v_color is interpolated between v0, v1 and v2

Going back to our first article we drew a triangle in clipspace, no math. We just passed in some clipspace coordinates to a simple vertex shader that looked like this

  // an attribute will receive data from a buffer
  attribute vec4 a_position;

  // all shaders have a main function
  void main() {

    // gl_Position is a special variable a vertex shader
    // is responsible for setting
    gl_Position = a_position;
  }

We had a simple fragment shader that draws a constant color

  // fragment shaders don't have a default precision so we need
  // to pick one. mediump is a good default
  precision mediump float;

  void main() {
    // gl_FragColor is a special variable a fragment shader
    // is responsible for setting
    gl_FragColor = vec4(1, 0, 0.5, 1); // return redish-purple
  }

So let's make that draw 2 rectangles in clipspace. We'll pass it this data with X, Y, Z, and W for each vertex.

var positions = [
  -.8, -.8, 0, 1,  // 1st rect 1st triangle
   .8, -.8, 0, 1,
  -.8, -.2, 0, 1,
  -.8, -.2, 0, 1,  // 1st rect 2nd triangle
   .8, -.8, 0, 1,
   .8, -.2, 0, 1,

  -.8,  .2, 0, 1,  // 2nd rect 1st triangle
   .8,  .2, 0, 1,
  -.8,  .8, 0, 1,
  -.8,  .8, 0, 1,  // 2nd rect 2nd triangle
   .8,  .2, 0, 1,
   .8,  .8, 0, 1,
];

Here's that

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Let's add a single varying float. We'll pass that directly from the vertex shader to the fragment shader.

  attribute vec4 a_position;
+  attribute float a_brightness;

+  varying float v_brightness;

  void main() {
    gl_Position = a_position;

+    // just pass the brightness on to the fragment shader
+    v_brightness = a_brightness;
  }

In the fragment shader we'll use that varying to set the color

  precision mediump float;

+  // passed in from the vertex shader and interpolated
+  varying float v_brightness;  

  void main() {
*    gl_FragColor = vec4(v_brightness, 0, 0, 1);  // reds
  }

We need to supply data for that varying so we'll make a buffer and put in some data. One value per vertex. We'll set all the brightness values for vertices on the left to 0 and those on the right to 1.

  // Create a buffer and put 12 brightness values in it
  var brightnessBuffer = gl.createBuffer();

  // Bind it to ARRAY_BUFFER (think of it as ARRAY_BUFFER = brightnessBuffer)
  gl.bindBuffer(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, brightnessBuffer);

  var brightness = [
    0,  // 1st rect 1st triangle
    1, 
    0, 
    0,  // 1st rect 2nd triangle
    1, 
    1, 

    0,  // 2nd rect 1st triangle
    1, 
    0, 
    0,  // 2nd rect 2nd triangle
    1, 
    1, 
  ];

  gl.bufferData(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, new Float32Array(brightness), gl.STATIC_DRAW);

We also need to look up the location of the a_brightness attribute at init time

  // look up where the vertex data needs to go.
  var positionAttributeLocation = gl.getAttribLocation(program, "a_position");
+  var brightnessAttributeLocation = gl.getAttribLocation(program, "a_brightness");

and setup that attribute at render time

  // Turn on the attribute
  gl.enableVertexAttribArray(brightnessAttributeLocation);

  // Bind the position buffer.
  gl.bindBuffer(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, brightnessBuffer);

  // Tell the attribute how to get data out of brightnessBuffer (ARRAY_BUFFER)
  var size = 1;          // 1 component per iteration
  var type = gl.FLOAT;   // the data is 32bit floats
  var normalize = false; // don't normalize the data
  var stride = 0;        // 0 = move forward size * sizeof(type) each iteration to get the next position
  var offset = 0;        // start at the beginning of the buffer
  gl.vertexAttribPointer(
      brightnessAttributeLocation, size, type, normalize, stride, offset);

And now when we render we get two rectangles that are black on the left when brightness is 0 and red on the right when brightness is 1 and for the area inbetween brightness is interpolated or (varied) as it goes across the triangles.

click here to open in a separate window

So then, from the perspective article we know that WebGL takes whatever value we put in gl_Position and it divides it by gl_Position.w.

In the vertices above we supplied 1 for W but since we know WebGL will divide by W then we should be able do something like this and get the same result.

  var mult = 20;
  var positions = [
      -.8,  .8, 0, 1,  // 1st rect 1st triangle
       .8,  .8, 0, 1,
      -.8,  .2, 0, 1,
      -.8,  .2, 0, 1,  // 1st rect 2nd triangle
       .8,  .8, 0, 1,
       .8,  .2, 0, 1,

      -.8       , -.2       , 0,    1,  // 2nd rect 1st triangle
       .8 * mult, -.2 * mult, 0, mult,
      -.8       , -.8       , 0,    1,
      -.8       , -.8       , 0,    1,  // 2nd rect 2nd triangle
       .8 * mult, -.2 * mult, 0, mult,
       .8 * mult, -.8 * mult, 0, mult,
  ];

Above you can see that for every point on the right in the second rectangle we are multipliying X and Y by mult but, we are also settting W to mult. Since WebGL will divide by W we should get the exact same result right?

Well here's that

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Note the 2 rectangles are drawn in the same place they were before. This proves X * MULT / MULT(W) is still just X and same for Y. But, the colors are different. What's going on?

It turns out WebGL uses W to implement perspective correct texturemapping or rather to do perspective correct interpolation of varyings.

In fact to make it easier to see let's hack the fragment shader to this

gl_FragColor = vec4(fract(v_brightness * 10.), 0, 0, 1);  // reds

multplying v_brightness by 10 will make the value go from 0 to 10. fract will just keep the fractional part so it will go 0 to 1, 0 to 1, 0 to 1, 10 times

click here to open in a separate window

Now it should be easy to see the perspective.

A linear interpolation from one value to another would be this formula

 result = (1 - t) * a + t * b

Where t is a value from 0 to 1 representing some position between a and b. 0 at a and 1 at b.

For varyings though WebGL uses this formula

 result = (1 - t) * a / aW + t * b / bW
          -----------------------------
             (1 - t) / aW + t / bW

Where aW is the W that was set on gl_Position.w when the varying was as set to a and bW is the W that was set on gl_Position.w when the varying was set to b.

Why is that important? Well here's a simple textured cube like we ended up with in the article on textures. I've adjusted the UV coordinates to go from 0 to 1 on each side and it's using a 4x4 pixel texture.

click here to open in a separate window

Now let's take that example and change the vertex shader so that we divide by W ourselves. We just need to add 1 line.

attribute vec4 a_position;
attribute vec2 a_texcoord;

uniform mat4 u_matrix;

varying vec2 v_texcoord;

void main() {
  // Multiply the position by the matrix.
  gl_Position = u_matrix * a_position;

+  // Manually divide by W.
+  gl_Position /= gl_Position.w;

  // Pass the texcoord to the fragment shader.
  v_texcoord = a_texcoord;
}

Dividing by W means gl_Position.w will end up being 1. X, Y, and Z will come out just like they would if we let WebGL do the division for us. Well here are the results.

click here to open in a separate window

We still get a 3D cube but the textures are getting warped. This is because by not passing W as it was before WebGL is not able to do perspective correct texture mapping. Or more correctly, WebGL is not able to do perspective correct interpolation of varyings.

If you recall W was our Z value from our perspective matrix). With W just being 1 WebGL just ends up doing a linear interpolation. In fact if you take the equation above

 result = (1 - t) * a / aW + t * b / bW
          -----------------------------
             (1 - t) / aW + t / bW

And change all the Ws to 1s we get

 result = (1 - t) * a / 1 + t * b / 1
          ---------------------------
             (1 - t) / 1 + t / 1

Dividing by 1 does nothing so we can simplify to this

 result = (1 - t) * a + t * b
          -------------------
             (1 - t) + t

(1 - t) + t when t goes from 0 to 1 is the same as 1. For example if t was .7 we'd get (1 - .7) + .7 which is .3 + .7 which is 1. In other words we can remove the bottom so we're left with

 result = (1 - t) * a + t * b

Which the same as the linear interpolation equation above.

Hopefully it's now clear why WebGL uses a 4x4 matrix and 4 value vectors with X, Y, Z, and W. X and Y divided by W get a clipsapce coordinate. Z divided by W also get a clipspace coordinate in Z and W is still used during interopation of varyings and provides the ability to do perspective correct texture mapping.

Mid 1990s Game Consoles

As a little piece of trivia the Playstation 1 and some of the other game consoles from the same era didn't do perspective correct texturemapping. Looking at the results above you can now see why they looked the way they did.


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