• 03/24/14 12:47 PM
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    Visual Studio Graphics Content Pipeline for C# Projects

    Graphics and GPU Programming

    Spazzarama
    In this article we will look at how to use the graphics content pipeline for C# in both Visual Studio 2012 and Visual Studio 2013 for Desktop and Windows Store apps. Since Visual Studio 2012 there has been a new graphics content pipeline and graphics debugger - including a DirectX frame debugger and HLSL debugger. The graphics content pipeline provides a number of build targets for converting common 3D and graphics assets into a usable format for DirectX applications, this includes the compilation of common mesh formats such as Collada (.dae), AutoDesk FBX (.fbx), and Wavefront (.obj) into a compiled mesh object (.cmo) file, and converting regular images into .DDS files. Unfortunately the graphics content pipeline tasks don't work out-of-the-box with C# because the MSBuild targets are not compatible.

    Graphics content pipeline for C#

    Thankfully it is quite simple to get this to work for our C# projects by making a few minor tweaks to the MSBuild target XML definitions. These build targets are defined in files named *Task.targets within the directories
    • C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\Common7\IDE\Extensions\Microsoft\VsGraphics
      OR
    • C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 11.0\Common7\IDE\Extensions\Microsoft\VsGraphics
    You can download the updated graphics content tasks that work with C# projects for Visual Studio 2012 and Visual Studio 2013 for both Desktop apps and Windows Store apps that are attached to this article. After extracting the contents of the archive we can use the content tasks by right clicking our project in the solution explorer and select Unload Project, then select Edit yourprojectname.csproj. At the end of the project file insert the following: ... Reload your project, select a graphics resource such as a 3D model and then apply the appropriate Build Action, as shown in the following screenshot.
    [attachment=20525:MeshContentTask.png]
    This will result in a Character.cmo file being generated in the project's build output directory.

    Controlling the graphics content pipeline task properties

    In order to pass through options to the task for C# projects it is necessary to edit the associated *.props file. This contains a section for default settings. For example the ImageContentTask allows you to determine whether or not to generate mip levels. The following XML shows the available ImageContentTask parameters found in ImageContentTask.target And the following XML extract shows the appropriate section within ImageContentTask.props that you would need to update. $(OutDir)%(RelativeDir)%(Filename).dds $(OutDir)AppX\%(RelativeDir)%(Filename).dds

    Conclusion

    Visual Studio 2012 brought with it some significant improvements for graphics / Direct3D programming for the C++ world, however it left C# developers a little short. By integrating the graphics content pipeline with your C# project you can then make use of these great features.

    Further reading

    Direct3D Rendering Cookbook by Justin Stenning and published by Packt Publishing provides further examples of how to work with Direct3D in C# using SharpDX and the Visual Studio graphics content pipeline.

    Article Update Log

    20 Mar 2014: Initial release
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