Rendering Shadows

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This article will walk through how to render shadows in a 3D scene. You may follow along by loading Media:3D_render.toe in TouchDesigner. Jump to the end of the article for the completed shadow example.


Step 1 - Turn on Shadows[edit]

In the light1, go to it's 'Shadows' parameter page and change the Shadow Type to 'Hard, 2D Mapped'. You'll see shadows but they don't quite look right. This is because geometry from the light/camera is casting a shadow. Change the 'Shadow Casters' parameter to be just geo1 instead of * and only the objects in geo1 will cast a shadow.

Step 2 - Removing Shadow Artifacts[edit]

Sometimes there is a "moire" effect artifact covering the geometry with the default settings for the shadows. There won't be in this case, but you can see them if you change the Polygon Offset Factor in the light's shadow parameter to something lower. If you experience these artifacts you will need to adjust the polygon offset values until they go away.

Step 3 - Shadow Detail[edit]

Shadow detail can be optimized by adjusting the shadow map to use its resolution most effectively. Using the light's Focal Length and Aperture parameters (or FOV), try to fill as much of the depth map as possible with the geometry.

You can visualize what the shadow map looks like by pointing a Depth TOP at the light. The shadow map may be very faint, too faint to see the geometry (the depth data is still valid, but the floating point values may be too hard to see visually in the image). Increase the light's Near parameter until the geometry is visible. For light1, a value of 2 works in this example.

Now adjust Focal Length and/or Aperture until the geometry fills the maximum amount of the depth map. While adjusting these parameters, watch the viewer of the depth1 TOP and inspect the shadow's detail. Go as far as possible without clipping the shadows. Return light1's Near parameter to the previous value when done.

TIP: Double-check animated scenes when changing these settings.

Step 4 - Tweaking other Shadow Parameters[edit]

On phong1's Advanced parameter page, experiment with the Shadow Strength and Shadow Color parameters. Notice this only effects the shadows on that material, and the shadows that are cast on the floor do not change with phong1. To change those, adjust the material at /3D_render/stage/mat_floor


Media:Shadow_example.toe - the example file with shadows.

An Operator Family that creates, composites and modifies images, and reads/writes images and movies to/from files and the network. TOPs run on the graphics card's GPU.