Real-Time Shadows: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Real-Time Shadows

1st Edition

By Elmar Eisemann, Michael Schwarz, Ulf Assarsson, Michael Wimmer

A K Peters/CRC Press

384 pages

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Hardback: 9781568814384
pub: 2011-07-27
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Important elements of games, movies, and other computer-generated content, shadows are crucial for enhancing realism and providing important visual cues. In recent years, there have been notable improvements in visual quality and speed, making high-quality realistic real-time shadows a reachable goal.

Real-Time Shadows is a comprehensive guide to the theory and practice of real-time shadow techniques. It covers a large variety of different effects, including hard, soft, volumetric, and semi-transparent shadows.

The book explains the basics as well as many advanced aspects related to the domain of shadow computation. It presents interactive solutions and practical details on shadow computation. The authors compare various algorithms for creating real-time shadows and illustrate how they are used in different situations. They explore the limitations and failure cases, advantages and disadvantages, and suitability of the algorithms in several applications. Source code, videos, tutorials, and more are available on the book’s website


… features insights by four world-renowned experts on the topic. Advanced, college-level collections in computer graphics will find this offers game programmers a fine survey of shadowing methods that use different combinations of scenes, shapes, lighting and more for their effects. All of the approaches under one cover make this volume a top recommendation for game programmers and advanced computer graphics collections alike.

Midwest Book Review, December 2011

Shadows are one of the most visually important effects in computer graphics. Far from being a solved problem, generating efficient and robust shadows is one of the most active research topics in real-time rendering. Fortunately, four of the world’s foremost experts in real-time shadows have come together to write this excellent book, covering everything from the basics of simple shadow mapping to the state-of-the-art research in GPU-enabled soft and hard shadow techniques. If you work in games or real-time graphics, you owe it to yourself to get this book.

—David Luebke, NVIDIA Research

Real-Time Shadows is a wonderful book about a very important topic in computer graphics, and I hope it will cast a long and soft-edged shadow on the real-time graphics industry. This way, future games can look even better, and I am certain that this book will also serve as inspiration for more advanced research.

—Tomas Akenine-Möller, Lund University and Intel Corporation

There is a multitude of shadowing methods distributed across a wide variety of books and papers, each capitalizing on different combinations of various scene configurations, shape representations, lighting effects, aliasing situations, and computational resources. This book does a great job of collecting all of these together into a single volume of concise algorithm descriptions to make it easier to find the right shadowing method and then implement it.

—John C. Hart, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and former editor-in-chief of ACM Transactions on Graphics

At first glance, shadows seem to be a solved problem, but with limited time budget in real-time games they’re not. There is a zoo of shadow rendering techniques in games, and finally here is a book that covers them all. The authors are among the most knowledgeable people I know on all kind of occlusion problems and guide us through the various quality and performance tradeoffs.

—Martin Mittring, Epic Games

Table of Contents



Importance of Shadows

Difficulty of Computing Shadows


General Information for the Reader

Basic Shadow Techniques

Projection Shadows

Shadow Mapping

Shadow Volumes

Stencil Shadow Volumes



Shadow Map Aliasing

Shadow Mapping as Signal Reconstruction

Initial Sampling Error – Undersampling

Resampling Error

Shadow Map Sampling



Global Partitioning

Adaptive Partitioning

View Sample Mapping

Shadow Map Reconstruction

Temporal Reprojection


Filtered Hard Shadows

Filters and Shadow Maps

Applications of Filtering

Precomputing Larger Filter Kernels


Image-Based Soft Shadow Methods



A Reference Solution

Augmenting Hard Shadows with Penumbrae

Blurring Hard Shadow Test Results

Filtering Planar Occluder Images

Reconstructing and Backprojecting Occluders

Using Multiple Depth Maps


Geometry-Based Soft Shadow Methods

Plausible Shadows by Generating Outer Penumbra

Inner and Outer Penumbra

Soft Shadow Volumes

View-Sample Mapping


Summary of Soft Shadow Algorithms

Image-Based Transparency

Deep Shadow Maps

Approximating the Transmittance Function


Volumetric Shadows

Real-Time Single Scattering in Homogeneous Participating Media

Ray Marching a Shadow Map

Shadow Volume-based Approaches


Advanced Shadow Topics

Multi-Colored Light Sources

Multisample Antialiasing

Voxels and Shadows

Ray-Casting Shadows

Environmental Lighting

Precomputed Radiance Transfer


Hard Shadows

Filtered Hard Shadows

Soft Shadows

Advanced Methods

Welcome to Tomorrow

Appendix A: Down the Graphics Pipeline

Appendix B: Brief Guide to Graphics APIs

Appendix C: A Word on Shading

Appendix D: Fast GPU Filtering Techniques

Appendix E: More For Less – Deferred Shading and Upsampling

Appendix F: Symbols


About the Originator

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Computer Graphics
COMPUTERS / Programming / Games