Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Higher Quality Vertex Normals

 I use the Oct16 format to encode my vertex normals, this format is two 8 bit channels in octahedral mapping.

  Most of the time this was sufficient, but under certain conditions artifacts were visible-- such as the surface of a smoothly varying sphere using triplanar texturing, whose weights are based on the normals.

Here is a visualization of the Triplanar weights generated from the Oct16 normals.


There is a very obvious diamond pattern visible.
Even switching to Oct20(10 bits per channel) does not completely solve this, the diamonds are much smaller, but they persist.

Oct16, but with custom scale/bias

Instead of adding bits, I decided to take advantage of the fact that most triangle patches only use a
limited range of the world space normals.

I track min/max per channel for the entire patch, then encode the normals so that the full range of bits is used.

Decoding in the shader requires a custom scale and bias parameter per channel(4 floats for the two channel Oct16).

There are no extra instructions,  as a fixed scale of 2 and bias of -1 was previously being used to transform from [0,1] to [-1,1] range.

The 2nd image was encoded this way, the normals are still using Oct16, so only 16 bits per normal, but with a custom scale/bias per patch.

 In the majority of cases this provides many extra bits of precision, and in the worst case it degrades back to standard Oct16.

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