# Transparent voxels

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Is there a way to properly render layered transparent objects when you can't do depth sorting? Since the terrain is all built up into 2 vertex buffers per region (1 for solid blocks, 1 for transparent blocks), we can't do the typical depth sorting. Are there any alternatives?

This is what its coming out like right now:

[attachment=13842:RuinValor 2013-02-23 21-42-37-02.png]

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Keep in mind we are trying to get alphas on a model like this:

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Ah.. well i saw some things behind it, here let me give you a better example:

Added a video so you can see what it looks like more clearly. Should be in 1080p here shortly:

Edited by riuthamus

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It looks like simple "sample alpha to coverage". It will give you order independent transparency with antialiasing, but you will have just N levels of transparency, where N equals your (multi)samples count for your framebuffer. Nah I'm not a good teacher, rather see here:

Here is a demonstration with brief description - http://www.humus.name/index.php?page=3D&ID=61

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-- Drawing your grass with additive blending and no depth testing, and a write mask of rgb=false, a=true (so that only the alpha channels are summed).

-- Drawing your grass with depth-testing and alpha-testing (no blending), and a write mask of rgb=true, a=false (so that only the color channels are written).

First pass state:
descBlendAlphaOnly.RenderTarget[0].IsBlendEnabled = true;
descBlendAlphaOnly.RenderTarget[0].SourceBlend = BlendOption.SourceAlpha;
descBlendAlphaOnly.RenderTarget[0].SourceAlphaBlend = BlendOption.SourceAlpha;
descBlendAlphaOnly.RenderTarget[0].DestinationBlend = BlendOption.One;
descBlendAlphaOnly.RenderTarget[0].DestinationAlphaBlend = BlendOption.One;

Second pass state:
descBlendColorOnly.RenderTarget[0].IsBlendEnabled = false;

Are these correct?

This is the result I'm getting:
[attachment=13870:RuinValor 2013-02-24 00-33-06-95.png]

I have no alpha testing on the first pass and the 2nd pass uses this:
if(color.a == 0.0f)

Edited by Telanor

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Not sure why they have light halos against the sky/ground... that might be a problem with the composition pass? Make sure you're using traditional alpha blending for that pass (src*srcAlpha+dst*invSrcAlpha).

But the dark outlines against other bits of grass are "correct", simply because your grass texture contains those dark colours in it (i.e. it's an art problem)

If you want smoother edges in the areas where multiple bits of grass overlap, you can use:
//in 1st pass, only use the top 50% of the alpha channel
return saturate(color.a*2-1).xxxx;

//2nd pass, discard at the 50% mark
if(color.a < 0.5f)
discard;
or
//in 1st pass, only use the top 75% of the alpha channel
return saturate((color.a-0.25)/0.75).xxxx;

//2nd pass, discard at the 25% mark
if(color.a < 0.25f)
discard;
etc Edited by Hodgman

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I added a dark bg for simple testing purposes. I know that when I am making the final one I need to have something near the color tone of the primary color.

Edited by riuthamus

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Actually scratch that, he said he is using a PNG that i made... the png is here. It has no alpha.... so not sure why that would happen

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I had the wrong blend mode. Halos are fixed now. Can we use premultiplied alpha to get rid of the grass-on-grass darkness? Or does that not work?

Edit: Another question: will this work for glass and other transparent blocks without looking terrible? Edited by Telanor

Thanks Hodgman

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I had the wrong blend mode. Halos are fixed now. Can we use premultiplied alpha to get rid of the grass-on-grass darkness? Or does that not work?

Edit: Another question: will this work for glass and other transparent blocks without looking terrible?

admittedly, I am not really sure if premultiplied alpha really makes much of a difference. usually what seems to cause this sort of effect IME is the color values within the fully transparent pixels, which some graphics programs I use (such as Paint.NET) seem to automatically replace fully transparent pixels with black.

a trick I have used which mostly fixes the issue in my case, was to have a blurred version of the image in the background with a very low (but not quite zero) opacity, which causes the colors near the edges to "bleed over" into the transparent pixels.

another related trick is to use weighted blending when generating mipmaps.

say, rather than:
r=(r0+r1+r2+r3)>>2;
g=...
a person can use something like:
ta=a0+a1+a2+a3;
af0=(4096*a0)/ta;
...
r=(af0*r0+af1*r1+af2*r2+af3*r3)>>12;
g=(af0*g0+af1*g1+af2*g2+af3*g3)>>12;
...

which is slightly more costly, but oh well...

another thing:
I draw my terrain in front-to-back order for opaque geometry, and back-to-front for alpha blended geometry.

granted, in my case, I render the terrain per-chunk. though not perfect, the use of per-chunk sorting usually draws things in "about the right order". rendering per-chunk also allows omitting chunks which are not visible.

this gives the correct draw order "in general", but by itself may still result in transparent geometry clipping within the same chunk, but this isn't usually as big of an issue IME.

for better sorting, a BSP + index-array or similar can be used. say, a BSP walk is done and used to fill out the contents of an index array. another simpler (but more costly) solution, could be using a variant of QuickSort, and sorting alpha-blended geometry per distance (probably only for chunks near the camera).

likely, if a BSP were used, this could be a small (per-chunk) BSP, probably using a quick-and-dirty algo whenever the geometry for the chunk is rebuilt.

the BSP is probably only needed for blended geometry, whereas for opaque geometry, the exact draw order is less important, and it is much more useful to have everything sorted out by texture/material.

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admittedly, I am not really sure if premultiplied alpha really makes much of a difference. usually what seems to cause this sort of effect IME is the color values within the fully transparent pixels, which some graphics programs I use (such as Paint.NET) seem to automatically replace fully transparent pixels with black.

That's the point of using premultiplied alpha - the premultiplication step changes those colour values to zero and because you then use additive blending instead of interpolative blending they contribute nothing to the final image.

(The name is misleading - you premultiply the RGB based on the alpha, as well as alter the alpha itself.)

Edited by Kylotan

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admittedly, I am not really sure if premultiplied alpha really makes much of a difference. usually what seems to cause this sort of effect IME is the color values within the fully transparent pixels, which some graphics programs I use (such as Paint.NET) seem to automatically replace fully transparent pixels with black.

That's the point of using premultiplied alpha - the premultiplication step changes those colour values to zero and because you then use additive blending instead of interpolative blending they contribute nothing to the final image.

(The name is misleading - you premultiply the RGB based on the alpha, as well as alter the alpha itself.)

fair enough. I wasn't entirely sure what premultiplied alpha did exactly (when used for rendering).

as-noted, where relevant, I had generally preconditioned the images.

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I had the wrong blend mode. Halos are fixed now. Can we use premultiplied alpha to get rid of the grass-on-grass darkness? Or does that not work?

Edit: Another question: will this work for glass and other transparent blocks without looking terrible?

The RGB value of the dark outlines in your screenshot is the same value as the background in riuthamus' picture, so are you first sure that these outlines aren't from the art file?

It will kinda-sorta-maybe-not somewhat work for glass, depending on what you're after.

It will work fine for the first layer of transparency, but if you have multiple layers of glass, then you'll only be able to see the color of the first layer.

To illustrate, if you had a glass statue, and you put a pane of red glass over some it, you'd see something like this -- Only the colour of the first layer of transparent objects can be seen, but the silhouette of the other layers can be seen by the increased opacity.

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Thanks again hodge. Really you have been more than helpful.

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