Title: OpenGL SuperBible (Fifth Edition)
Author: Richard S. Wright, Jr., Nicholas Haemel, Graham Sellers, Benjamin Lipchak
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Publishing http://www.awl.com/
Price: $59.99 US
Book Website: http://www.opengl.org/superbible, www.informit.com/title/9780321712615
Summary: Quite possibly the best introduction to OpenGL 3.3 programming that focuses exclusively on graphics programming using shaders.
The OpenGL SuperBible (www.informit.com/title/9780321712615) in its fifth edition is almost a complete rewrite. The authors threw out the discussion of old-style, fixed-function programming and replaced it with an introduction to OpenGL that is exclusively focused on using shaders from the very beginning. All the things that got deprecated with the advent of OpenGL 3 got removed, making it a more relevant and up-to-date book than the previous editions. The OpenGL SuperBible still strives to be the "world's best introduction to OpenGL" according to the authors. Let's see if it can keep that promise.
With the removal of the fixed-function pipeline, the OpenGL SuperBible is no longer quite the heavy-weight it used to be. It shrunk from more than 1200 to about 970 pages, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The book starts out with a basic introduction to 3D graphics, coordinate systems, and some basic math concepts, followed by short rundown of the history of OpenGL and a first little example program that renders a triangle. The authors even provide instructions on how to setup the C/C++ projects to build the example on Windows and MacOS. The writing is to the point but still verbose enough to easily follow the text. The authors analyze the example program in detail making it easy for a beginner to follow and understand the code. Overall, I really like the writing style and the flow of the book.
The next few chapters gradually introduce more and more OpenGL API functionality intermixed with new 3D graphics concepts, such as rendering points, lines, and polygons in various ways, alpha blending, how to use geometric transformations and projections, and how to move objects and the camera. Eventually, basic texture mapping is introduced with most of the basic things you need to know about the topic. In particular, specifying textures coordinates, sampling textures in the fragment shader, the various filtering modes (even anisotropic filtering), and texture compression are discussed. In a later chapter the authors do another deep dive into the topic of textures, in particular rectangle textures, cube maps, multitexturing, point sprites, and using texture arrays
Until this point the authors used haven't really talked much about shader programming yet. Most of the examples use simple pre-made shaders that don't really do much. This changes with chapter six titled "Nonstock Shaders" where we get a first glimpse of how to write our own shaders in GLSL, the OpenGL Shading Language. In particular, a fragment shader that uses a simple lighting model to light objects is developed.
After these introductory chapters presenting the basics of OpenGL programming, the next part of the book focuses on more advanced topics, beginning with buffer objects and how to use them to make your OpenGL programs run much more efficiently on modern hardware. Some of the examples presented in this part of the book include using render-to-texture to do reflections, tone mapping, and bloom. This part of the book closes with two fairly long chapters on advanced usage of the shader pipeline, in particular the transform feedback and the geometry shader stages. There is also some discussion on more advanced effects achievable with fragment shaders, in particular applying filters to images, such as a Gaussian blur or a Sobel filter. Finally, rendering geometry efficiently with vertex buffer objects and rendering many objects via geometry instancing is presented.
The final part of the book consists of 4 chapters explaining how to integrate OpenGL with the underlying operating system, in particular with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux plus various other Unix flavors. The last chapter of this part of the book is about OpenGL ES, which is a version of OpenGL designed to be used especially on embedded system devices, in particular mobile phones and PDAs, to render real-time, interactive 3D graphics.
The book has a lot of images and diagrams throughout, though unfortunately not all of them are in color. There are however 24 color plates of the most interesting images in the middle of the book. The complete source code of the book, and even precompiled binaries for Windows and Mac OS X, can be downloaded from the book’s webpage http://www.opengl.org/superbible.
If you are new to both 3D graphics programming and OpenGL with a bit of C/C++ programming experience and you are eager to learn how to develop interactive programs with OpenGL, then this book is exactly right for you. The book is written in an easy to understand style without skimming the details (or even more advanced topics). It is the most comprehensive introduction to OpenGL that doesn’t require a lot of previous knowledge I have seen to date. The decision to completely drop any discussion of the fixed-function pipeline turned out to be an excellent choice. Finally there is a book that no longer wastes the reader's time with the parts of OpenGL that nobody who does serious graphics development uses and instead presents up-to-date information on how to do 3D graphics on modern graphics hardware.
All in all, the OpenGL SuperBible in its fifth edition succeeds very well in keeping its promise to be the best introduction to OpenGL and 3D graphics programming. Even after you’re done working your way through the main parts of the book you will always come back to the handy OpenGL API reference in the appendix of the book.
About the review author:
The author has been involved in real-time graphics programming for more than 10 years and works as a professional game developer for High Moon Studios http://www.highmoonstudios.com/ in sunny California.