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Jim Blinn's Corner: A Trip Down the Graphics Pipeline (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Computer Graphics) ****-

Jim Blinn's Corner: A Trip Down the Graphics Pipeline (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Computer Graphics) By Jim Blinn
Published July 1996
List Price: $60.95, Your Amazon.com Price: $40.19

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 979,555
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Summary:
a compendium of 20 articles for advanced computer graphics programmers who are interested in hyperoptimizing their code.

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2 Comments

This book is old enough (the original articles were written in '87-'92 - ancient history by graphics standards) that it probably isn't going to appeal to everyone, but any graphics geek should definitely check it out. Jim Blinn is a graphics god, and he shares his knowledge in an entertaining and easy-to-understand manner. As the title suggests, the topics covered center on core concepts in the graphics pipeline, such as homogenous coordinates, perspective correction, viewports, clipping, coordinate spaces, and so on. Whether you're writing a software renderer (as I am), writing shaders, or just want to better understand what goes on under the hood, you're sure to find something useful here.
Choosing an overall rating for this book was very difficult - either a 3 or 4 now but quite easily a 4 or 5 about 5-10 years ago. If you, as I suspect most, primarily use Direct3D or OpenGL class API's for graphics then much of the content in this book is already hidden away. Ultimately you won't actually need to implement many of the algorithms covered and thus Blinn's tips-n-tricks aren't relevant.

Having said that it is still very useful to know, if only vaguely, what is happening behind the scenes. "The Homogeneous Perspective Transform" and "Hyperbolic Interpolation" are possibly worth the price of the book alone - I think I might finally have gotten my head around the why now.

Blinn's writing style is very clear, concise and entertaining - there were quite a few bits of this book that (from a mathemagical point of view) went straight over my head yet I could still enjoy reading about them. Part of this comes from Blinn's method of working from assumptions and final results rather than going the full distance and starting from basic principles. Consequently this would make it difficult to directly implement techniques from this book alone - you'll need to get your ideas here and then refer to a proper maths/graphics textbook to get the gory details.

Even though modern API's are abstracting much of the detail required from traditional software renderers the move towards programmable pipelines is actually making this sort of theory MORE relevant again. Even if the individual tips-n-tricks aren't necessary it's still a way of thinking about problems that is probably lost on graphics programmers that only understand the field via their API of choice.

This sort of book really fleshes out and rounds off a more applied/practical understanding of computer graphics. It is also quite interesting to note that even in 2006 (the content of this book is from 1987-1994) it is recommended in the DirectX SDK as a source of further reading.

I highly recommend this for experienced/advanced level graphics programmers, but unlikely to be suitable or useful for beginners.

Bottom line: a four star score.

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