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"I'll just leave this here for now" -- a brief discourse concerning Materials and Shaders

Discussion in 'General' started by James Stallings, Oct 9, 2016.

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  1. James Stallings

    By:James StallingsOct 9, 2016

    Sep 28, 2016
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    Greetings. These are certain observations made by James Stallings concerning materials and shaders in the Sine Tech Channel on Skype (tm)

    Regarding shaders and materials in Unity5
    just WOW

    ok here is what you need to know :

    The label Standard Shader is a complete misnomer at first glance.

    They call it the standard shader because as of it's introduction in Unity3D 5, it is the new standard; that's where the 'standard' begins and ends, however.

    This shader is the new standard because it is sufficiently capable that it can replace every other shader in common use (given that it is being used on modern graphic hardware).
    The logical implication is that all the other shaders were kept for purposes of backward compatibility, both hardware and software.

    It's important too, to note that shaders are not software (they are programs, however, just not in the usual sense). Shaders are a software 'reflection' of the capabilities of the hardware on which they run; if you make a shader in Maya, the shader mechanics will be identical in Unity, Blender or 3DsMax.

    So as a new Unity user running unity on modern hardware who is developing or modifying shaders, you should almost always use one of the two standard shaders provided: either the Standard Shader, or the Standard Shader with Specular Setup.

    Concerning the differences between texturing in SL and modelling materials with shaders in Unity, I will say only that the comparison is so disparate as to be devoid of meaning. It's a whole new ballgame. It's comparing the Estes model rockets I played with as a kid, to spaceships that only exist in fiction.
    I won't even try to address it; the only similarities are that both software systems manage to arrive at a presentation of three dimensional objects.

    That is where the similarity begins and ends.

    So what to do to understand the use of materials and shaders in unity3D? This will sound strange coming from me, as I am not typically one who learns well from video tutorials, but the presentation given in the video linked here will really give a feel for the possibilities as well as provide a jumping off point for exploring those:


    Welcome to the world of AAA content :)

    Do yourself a favor: go watch that video, right now. It might well be the best use of 13 minutes and 27 seconds you ever invest in comprehending unity :)

    FYI there are a couple of reasons why you actually might not want to use one of the two standard shaders:
    1. Your graphics hardware is legacy and doesn't support them
    2. your user's graphics cards are legacy and wont support them
    3. you are developing for webGL
    that last may go away with the arrival of WebAssembly.

    That is All :)

    Oh, and Good Morning :D

    Some further notes concerning practicum in the user interface:

    There's a couple things to know about the interface, one really big one:
    If you look at a material in the inspector, you'll notice many of the settings have a little dot beside them. That little dot is there because a texutre map can be substituted in place of a uniform value (as supplied by a static number, a slider, or a value from the color picker).

    Those maps work a lot like UV maps, in that a position on the map is sampled for a value that will be applied in a similar position on the rendered object. You can tell when a map is being used instead of a uniform value, because the little square to the left of the dot will be filled in with something rather than greyed out.

    Another thing to know about the inspector is that it's presentation of materials is a little misleading; it almost looks as if you are editing shader properties when you open the material dropdown. Obviously, this is not the case; you are, however, modifying the parameters suppled to the shader, per the material you are editing.

    Usually (I have yet to find an exception thus far), when both map and uniform value is supplied, the uniform value is used to modify the map's overall influence on the material's appearance.

    One last thing before I shut up about it for a bit:
    The specular set up of the standard shader uses a slightly different lighting model. An oversimplification of the difference is that metals look more polished in the specular set up; without the specular setup, they look slightly flatter or uniformly scuffed.

    Oh and I forgot to explicitly mention about the dot: click it to open an asset picker.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2016