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OpenGL I want to be a graphics programmer. Am I on the right path?

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I've read the first three chapters of OpenGL 4 Shading Language Cookbook and re-implemented all of the examples in my own object-oriented, C++11 wrapper, but I still feel like I've only touched the tip of the iceberg in graphics programming. So in order to better myself, I've scoured the web and compiled this list of good learning resources:

  • Real-Time Rendering
    • The authority on the subject.
  • Mathematics for 3D Game Programming and Computer Graphics
    • Best math reference.
  • OpenGL 4 Shading Language Cookbook + OpenGL Development Cookbook
    • These two books are great for learning OpenGL by example, supplemented by the OpenGL wiki and OpenGL API docs. In particular, OpenGL 4 Shading Language Cookbook provides a nice segue into Texturing and Modeling: A Procedural Approach.
  • The OpenGL spec + Red Book + Blue Book
    • Seems like all you really need is the OpenGL spec. The Blue Book has some good explanations of lighting, but you could also find that in Real-Time Rendering.
  • Starter tutorials like Learning Modern 3D Graphics Programming, open.glopengl-tutorial.org, and the OpenGL Meta-Tutorial
    • These all cover roughly the same ground. opengl-tutorial.org has the best explanation of matrix transformations.
  • GPU Gems + GPU Pro + ShaderX + OpenGL Insights
    • These are books about advanced techniques.
  • /r/OpenGL, /r/WebGL, the OpenGL forums, gamedev.net's graphics forums, ##OpenGL, Twitter
    • Some graphics programming communities.
  • Shader School
    • I don't find this all that useful, since most of these techniques are covered in books. If anything, it's a nice interactive introduction.
  • Shadertoy
    • Loads of cool fragment shaders here.
  • stackgl
    • Cool group of developers here.
  • http://www.p1xelcoder.com/links
    • Even more resources.
  • Procedural Content Generation in Games
    • This is not specific to graphics, but is closely related.

Even though I have a good idea of what I'm doing, it's discouraging to see a gigantic stack of books and resources that would take me a very long time to get through. Do people actually read a gigantic stack of books to become a pro at this? Or is it better to skim the books and work on graphics demos that build your knowledge over time, only diving into the stack of books when necessary?

 

Ultimately, my understanding is that graphics programming is the art of bending a real-time rendering pipeline to your will. It's insanely cool, and for me working on something insanely cool is a goal in and of itself. Do I have the correct big-picture mindset, and am I going down the right path?

Edited by Mango Man

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Do people actually read a gigantic stack of books to become a pro at this?

Yes, but it's not sufficient.


Or is it better to skim the books and work on graphics demos that build your knowledge over time, only diving into the stack of books when necessary?

Yes on that count as well. There are a lot of SIGGRAPH proceedings worth reading, as well as tons of hardware and platform documentation released by NV and AMD.

 

Ultimately however, collecting knowledge without context or application serves no purpose. The high quality people in this industry don't learn by reading, they learn by doing. Reading is a useful way to fill in holes and compare notes with those who are more knowledgeable, as are communities. These are most effective when you are actually in the process of building a full blown rendering system, and can contextualize the information.

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Most of the nitty gritty details are not included in books, you can just learn it by experience. That's what usually makes also the difference between juniors, seniors, principals etc. as people coming from universities are usually quite educated with theoretical knowledge and can keep up with their leads, but practical knowledge is what will take time. That's important not only to be able to implement the needed things correctly, but also to be able to make decisions without implementing all possibilities first.

I think, especially as a graphics programmer, it's a never ending journey of gathering knowledge/skills. Other fields e.g. gameplay programmer, require not that intense increase of knowledge, it has other high requirements (e.g. being able to implement a game that is actually fun, not just technically correct). So, decide wisely, not just based on interest, but also based on skills.


btw. graphics programming is not just a realtime thing, offline rendering also needs graphics programming and there are not just those two worlds, e.g. some people also define an 'interactive rendering' which is not 30Hz+ but also not min/frame. And you'll need to know about all those areas.

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Yes on that count as well. There are a lot of SIGGRAPH proceedings worth reading, as well as tons of hardware and platform documentation released by NV and AMD.

Do you have any download links to the SIGGRAPH proceedings?

Edited by Andrew Kabakwu

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Yes on that count as well. There are a lot of SIGGRAPH proceedings worth reading, as well as tons of hardware and platform documentation released by NV and AMD.

Do you have any download links to the SIGGRAPH proceedings?

 

Ke-Sen Huang's page is the massive archive: http://kesen.realtimerendering.com/

But a more focused place to start is the Physically Based Shading courses: http://blog.selfshadow.com/publications/

Most of SelfShadow's blogroll is also extremely high quality reading material from people who are not only skilled and knowledgeable, but also highly reachable (typically through twitter).

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