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OpenGL High Quality realtime rendering

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Hi guys, as you can see I'm new to Gamedev, so hello to everyone. I've a question for you: I use to program simple games using OpenGL about 8 years ago. Then I unfortunately moved to a different job and I didn't follow too much the growth of the technology. I'd like to go back to gamedev building a really simple viewer for the models my borther is making in Max. I'd like to display them at the best resolution possible ... those models right now are not animated and rappresent simple objects (say pens, books, etc). They have high quality textures and materials, and a lot of polygons. The problem is that right now I've no idea about which is a good resolution that might be achieved using simple 3D rendering techniques and a decent hardware ... I saw some examples but they where quite all game engines, that usually include a lot of additional stuff (AI, etc) that require them to reserve some calculation time and sometimes lower the quality of the rendering. I saw that even if with high antialiasing, you cannot achieve a result that is near to the one you can obatin with raytracing a simple object with a simple material. Also the trasparency (ie: transparent pen tubes) cannot be rendered correctly as I see ... I'd like someone of you to give me some infos about high quality realtime rendering ... articles, images, demos, book, suggestions ... whatever Thanks [Edited by - gabrielefarina on November 24, 2008 3:57:02 AM]

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I really recommend looking at SIGGRAPH papers from the last 3 or so years for the most advanced techniques. It can be a bit hard to choose the best approach from the various proposed algorithms for caustics, global illumination, multiple-refraction+object impostors, texture generation, subsurface scattering, complex BRDFs, skin rendering, translucency, accurate soft shadows, etc., but it's worth checking all these out. I can post a list of some of the more interesting papers I've read and recommend in a few days (too busy till then), but I should note that many of these techniques are only realizable in real-time on the highest end cards.

Also, I'd suggest downloading the 3.0 OpenGL standard, the document version with changes highlighted, to see the latest additions (note that the various new extensions are not described there, just core stuff).

These two links list the non-deprecated functions and constants respectively:
http://www.devklog.net/2008/08/23/forward-compatible-opengl-3-entry-points/
http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/userblogs/mls/blogView?showComments=true&printTitle=Forward_compatible_OpenGL_3.0_defines&entry=3398275422

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Is there any graphics card you suggest for realtime rendering ? I saw that some NVidia cards have some extensions that might be quite useful for good looking realtime graphics.

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