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jollyjeffers

Relevance of "Jim Blinn's Corner" series of books

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Hi all, Due to recently getting older I've been given some money - thinking about investing it Jim Blinn's books or possibly the ShaderX/GPU-Gems series. I trust that everyone here is familiar with Jim Blinn and his somewhat legendary status in the graphics world [grin] I've heard people refer to his series as essential reading for people interested in graphics programming and his writing style is commended as being very readable and entertaining/interesting. Jim Blinn's Corner: Trip Down the Graphics Pipeline, 1996 Jim Blinn's Corner: Dirty Pixels, 1997 Jim Blinn's Corner: Notation, Notation, Notation, 2002 Whilst I'm sure they'll be interesting no matter what, I'm wondering about their relevance with regards to the now standard hardware/shader based graphics processing route. I know enough about the mathematics/concepts of general graphics processing, but I don't tend to directly use that theory on a daily basis - lots of it is abstracted via the API or just handled by the hardware instead... Given the relative ages of the books (the '96 and '97 ones) I wondered whether they're going to be focusing on some older stuff thats not really so relevant/useful anymore. For a total price of £77.22 it'd be nice if they had more than just novelty value [smile] Anyone read these books and offer any comments? Cheers, Jack

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My universities library stocked them, although Id say that they are a great read (he is a very entertaining writer) it depends what you are after. Many of the chapters in the book that are still relevant can be found seperately on the internet or in more modern.

If you want more applicable material go for GPU gems and the newer ShaderX books (3/4, since the first three ShaderX books deal more with limitations of shader model 1-2.0 and basics).

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Thanks for the reply.

I'm pretty sure GPU Gems and/or ShaderX will be more practical, but I was thinking about Jim Blinn's corner from an "enthusiast" type point of view. That is, just learning more about the science/technology that I have an interest in. BUT, where it gets blurry is that to justify that sort of money I'd also like to get something useful from the books.

Cheers,
Jack

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Hey,
I find Blinn's books great. I think the only problem with them is, that you can find his ideas implemented in every math or graphic library ... so it is actually there and you do not have to re-invent the wheel ... but if you are interested to know why things work as they work, this is great.
I am too shy to comment on the ShaderX books here :-).

- Wolf

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Quote:

you can find his ideas implemented in every math or graphic library


Very true, but understanding those ideas is always helpful.

I like his books (I am still missing one, but I'll pick it up soon). I'd say go for it.

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Quote:
Original post by wolf
if you are interested to know why things work as they work, this is great.
Yeah, this is my primary justification - understanding the "why" [grin]

Quote:
Original post by wolf
I am too shy to comment on the ShaderX books here :-)
Really? I wonder why... How's about you give me a good answer and I hit the "buy" button to make you some more $/£/€ [lol]

Jack

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I can't speak to the relevance of the books, not having read them personally, but my gut feeling is that no amount of theory is irrelevant. I'm told on a regular basis that assembler skills are no longer relevant, but I still find a deep understanding of processor architecture extremely useful on a virtually daily basis [smile]

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Hey Jack,
the ShaderX books try to give you a good explanation + working code for techniques that were used in games or for techniques that should be used in games in the future.
I think the last two books of the series are more tailored to the latest standards, so if you are not working on a XBOX game or a PC game with a low min spec, these books should be fun to read. If you have to target older hardware the first three books are also very cool.

Have fun,
- Wolfgang

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Quote:
Original post by ApochPiQ
I'm told on a regular basis that assembler skills are no longer relevant, but I still find a deep understanding of processor architecture extremely useful on a virtually daily basis [smile]
That is a damn good point!

Quote:
I think the last two books of the series are more tailored to the latest standards, so if you are not working on a XBOX game or a PC game with a low min spec
my "low spec" engine that I have is entirely fixed-function [lol] But my own personal projects have never been below SM2, SM3 or when I can get Vista running SM4. I think I'll pick up the last two, although Amazon.co.uk doesn't seem to stock, list or know anything about ShaderX 4 [oh]

Cheers,
Jack

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Funny, from the covers of those three books I would have thought that the subject was the progression of Blinn's combover =)

Seriously though, it seems that you are trying to make the decision between theory material and implementation, but only you can know which would be more useful to you.

Quote:
I am too shy to comment on the ShaderX books here :-)


That's pretty great that you can get a recommendation of a book straight from the editor in person =) Thanks for being part of the community Wolfgang.

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Quote:
Original post by jollyjeffers
Due to recently getting older I've been given some money - thinking about investing it Jim Blinn's books or possibly the ShaderX/GPU-Gems series.
Blinn's books and the ShaderX/GPU Gems books are completely different beasts. The ShaderX/GPU Gems books are all about rendering, Blinn's books aren't. The ShaderX/GPU Gems books deal with implementations of shaders for certain graphical effects on current generation hardware. As the years go by, these books will become less and less relevant. In contrast, Blinn's books are predominantly about teaching timeless concepts and ideas that relate to graphics, but are often mathematical in nature.

Your immediate takeaway from Blinn's books will be (much) lower, but if you truly read them and understood everything that is in them (which will require a lot of dedication), they have significantly more value for money.

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if you havent purchased them, i will say that the "trip down the graphics pipeline" would be, i think, far more relevant than "dirty pixels." dirty pixels seems (from what i recall from a few years ago) to deal more with the oddities of video (especially ntsc) and color formats, whereas in graphics pipeline you get more (i think) interesting things like perfectly defined platonic solids and the nitty-gritty of projection matrices, clipping spaces, and that strangeness of strangeness, homogenous coordinates. and i mean *really* nitty-gritty. i really enjoyed it.

but what matters my opinion?
john carmack on "a trip down the graphics pipeline"

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I own all of the books in question here, and highly recommend all of them.

I think you should get the Blinn books. They are like a good foundation of graphics information. When you can, get the ShaderX books, also.

As for the whole ShaderX series, I still refer to the ShaderX2 books as well as X3 and X4, and feel that anyone doing serious shader programming should have ShaderX2-4. X1 was good for it's time, but the X2 books replace it.


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To jollyjeffers and Alpha_ProgDes:

I'll comment on the Jim Blinn series of books because I think the previous posters have made it clear the intentions of the ShaderX books.

If you're the type of person that enjoys working on a math/graphics problem out on paper then you're the type of person that will enjoy these books. The books are both light hearted to read in a night and very deep in understanding. They are short and concise to read in a sitting yet to truely master will take a good deal of work. When I'm frusterated at work with a problem, I like to turn to something else. I'll sit down and work on a particular problem out of his books. Most chapters take a paper and a pencil to get what he's talking about but at the same time the math can be skipped to get the general idea.

Truely, I think Blinn's books are really good practice books. In that I mean, the books make sure you have a solid foundation in math needed for a broad area of graphics and game programming. If an interview canidate came to our company and understood what was in those books I'm sure they would have no problem passing our interview. Not that we base our interview on the problems in his books but the concepts that come from them all share the same mathematical background.

If nothing else they are fun.

- Dave

P.S. I own all of wolf's books and highly recommend them as well.

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