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Real-Time Rendering (second edition)
Author: Tomas Akenine-Möller
Publisher: A.K. Peters
ISBN: 1-56881-182-9
Purchasing: [Amazon.Com] - RRP US$59
Reviewed: 18th September 2002

Front Cover Shot:


Real-Time Rendering, the first edition, was one of the books that all top graphics programmers would have a copy of.  In 1999 it was one of the definitive texts on the subject.

Now, in 2002, the field is radically different, justifying this expanded and more up to date text - covering not only the original content, but all of the latest and greatest innovations and technologies of the last 3 years.

A Solid Foundation

The first edition won many awards (including the bestseller award from Amazon) and was praised for being full of both practical information and theoretical information. 3D graphics, whilst it has advanced considerably in 3 years, is still based on the same foundations that Möller and Haines were writing about in the first edition. This provides a great starting point for this book, yet at the same time it also raises the bar for the acceptable level of a second edition.

The second edition has been expanded by some 60%, with several new chapters and all the corrections/revisions necessary for the original edition. The new chapters generally deal with the advanced areas of 3D graphics (API's may be getting easier/better, but the field just keeps getting more complicated). We have gained a significant amount of new text regarding shading techniques and advanced illumination - two areas that were almost impossible in real-time at the time the first edition was written, but are fast becoming standard now. We also get (mostly included in the new chapters) coverage of shader technology - possibly the biggest change in recent years, and curved/sub-division geometry.

Experience and Skill

Both Möller and Haines show a considerable amount of experience in this field, and a great deal of theoretical/research knowledge. There are more references quoted at the end of the book than there are actual physical pages (846 references to 835 pages).

The fact that they possess plenty of industry experience, and obviously enjoy their work, rubs off on the writing style of the book - it is both informative and interesting to read.

No Stone Left Unturned

The book, albeit relatively small in physical dimensions does not fail to hit any of the major areas that make up real-time computer graphics today. Everything from a full overview of traditional (and modern) rendering pipelines to occlusion culling is covered.

The content is intentionally API independent - anything you learn in this page will require you to translate it into a form acceptable/appropriate to your 3D API of choice. For this point alone it raises the level of skill and knowledge on the readers part. You need to be very good, and very knowledgeable about your API (be it Direct3D or OpenGL). If you're fairly new to the real-time graphics scene then this book could prove to be a challenging read, but if you persevere with it (and maybe read it along with a book specific to your API) then it will do you wonders.

It is a book great for learning, but it also stands out as a great book for research and reference. If there are features of graphics that you're not too familiar with or need to learn about in a hurry you can pick this book up and get quite a bit of information about them without having to read the whole book. Likewise, with the huge reference list included you can often find the original research material covering what you're actually trying to do. Effectively opening gateways to solve your problem.


This book is quite heavy on text, so expect to do plenty of reading. Other books of similar content have had more diagrams to help with the explanation. This is only a minor point, but for those of you who prefer a more visual approach to learning will find it slightly harder going than some texts.

There are a considerable number of color plates included in the book - far more than you'd expect to find: 49 to be precise.

The book makes heavy use of mathematical notation - all things considered, graphics programming is very heavy on mathematics so this is to be expected. For those of you not completely up to speed on notation, a summary and overview is give at the start of the book - but this is revision and not for first-time learning.

In Conclusion

Möller and Haines are back with another top-quality book. Building on their original success they've succeeded in improving and refining it to take into account the latest technological advances. For those of you who own a copy of the first edition there is probably plenty in here to justify purchasing, those without the first edition should already be contemplating where to buy the book.

Good Things Bad Things
• Covers every major aspect of current 3D graphics. • Not much mention of non-3D related graphics work.
• Works brilliantly as a reference book, and also as a general reading book. • Not much use for beginners. 
• Möller and Haines know what they're talking about. • Applied Direct3D section is not particularly relevant anymore.
• An extensive reference list for those who wish to go further. • Could have been slightly improved with more diagrams to explain the main text.
• A must have for those who don't have the first edition.  


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