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Python based Shader Meta-Language for implementing, customizing and extending shader generators for Panda3D. Allows configuring a acyclic graph of customizable CG code generator nodes to make your own 100% customizable shader generators.



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A shader generator for Panda3D Specifically, a Shader Meta-Language for implementing, customizing and extending shader generators.

Target Users

This is a common area of confusion, so to be clear: This system is intended for advanced shader programmers. If you find yourself struggling with maintaining many different but related shader files, this may be a tool for you. If you want to have a special shader for each combination or several atributes generated from a single set of shader code, this is the tool for you.

Example: Some of my models (or even parts of models) have textures. Some have model colors. Some have material colors. Some have normal maps. I can use this tool to define a shader generator to handle all possible combinations of these correctly.

It can even handle adjusting shaders based on tags placed on models, available vertex data columns, textures, and global flags. More custom controls can also be added, though I think tags are general enough to cover most special needs.

Example: I have several adjustable settings, such as enabling deferred shading and cartoon inking. Using the flags feature, my generator can be designed to reorder and change the shaders to act accordingly. In the deferred shading case, the lighting computation code can be shared between the deferred lighting pass shader, and the model shader for forward shading. For the cartoon inking, the inking code in the post process is simply omitted of its flag is off.

This is very powerful, and very flexible, but it does not save writing the shader code! It simply provides a way to avoid having to maintain and select between many related shaders.

High level conceptual overview

This is how it works, not a ussage guide. Some example usage is in the shader tutorial here:

  • A Script produces a Generator Graph.
  • RenderStates are used as input to the Generator Graph to produce the Active Graph for to the provided RenderState.
  • The Active Graphs are compiled into shaders.

Scripts --> Generator Graphs

Each script file describes (generates) a graph structure (The generator graph) This is done by constructing nodes and passing in incomming edges (and possibly some constants).


The types of nodes in the graph are defined in, and via libraries (which are loaded as CodeNodes from

These node types have 0 or more outputs, accessable as They may (and might not) have a default output which can be accessed by just passing the node itself:


Thus, the scripts describe directed acyclic graphs. The graphs do not need to be connected.


See also

When generating a shader from the Generator Graph, a RenderState is provided as input (and its the only input).

The shader generator uses a very similar RenderState class to panda3d.core.RenderState.

The reason the panda RenderState class is not used is tweo fold:

  • It contains lots of unneeded data (hurts caching)
  • It is missing some needed data (tags, geomVertexFormat etc)

To get the exact minimum needed data stored in the RenderStates for the ShaderBuilder, the Generator Graph is used to setup a RenderStateFactory the produces ideal minimal RenderStates for a specific Generator Graph

Generating the Shader

A shader builder uses it's Generator Graph, and a passed in RenderState and produces an Shader. shaderBuilder.ShaderBuilder.getShader does this. It includes caching, since the process is a deterministic process that depends only on the Generator Graph (constant for the builder), and the input RenderState.

Generating the Active Graph

The first step is to generate the Active Graph. See shaderBuilder.makeStages.

Compiling the Active Graph into Stages

See shaderBuilder.makeStage.

Misc Notes

Outputting visual graphs requires pydot and graphviz to be installed.


  • Allow coders to provide all possible shader effects (no restrictions on shader code, stages used, inputs, outputs etc) (Done)
  • Allow easy realtime configuration and tuning of effects (accessible to artists and coders) (Not started, not longer emphasized)
  • Generate custom shaders based on render state and other settings on a per NodePath basis from a single configuration (Done via use of meta-language design)
  • Allow easy use of multiple separate configurations applied to different NodePaths (ex: one for deferred shaded lights, one for models, one for particles. Done.)
  • Produce an extensive collection of useful NodeTypes and example Graphs, sample applications etc. (Most of the remaining work is here)

It is important that adding, sharing and using libraries of effects is easy. To facilitate this, they are packed into libraries which can simply be placed in a libraries folder (even recursively) There is however currently no name spacing. For now, manually prefix things if you with to avoid any potential conflicts.

The focus on allowing full control of the shaders is important. A shader generator that can't use custom shader inputs, render to multiple render targets, or use multiple stages (vshader, fshader, gshader etc) is not complete. This design inherently supports all of these, and more.

Many more details in, see comments near top.

Example Meta-Language scripts are in the graph directory. These scripts create a graph structure that is used to generate the final shader graphs for different render states which are compiled into shaders.

The set of nodes that can be used in these graphs are the regestered classes from, and those loaded from the libraries (see the library folder).

Its possibe to add custom node types implemented in python, simply provide them when instancting the shaderBuilder.Library

This system currently does not modify render states, add filters or any other changes to the scene graph. It just generates shaders. It assumes the scene graph will be setup separately. It would be possible to add in some scene graph modifying active nodes that would be collected while generating the shader, and then applied along with the shader (by passing the node to the apply method of each). This can be made to work with the current cache system.


Python based Shader Meta-Language for implementing, customizing and extending shader generators for Panda3D. Allows configuring a acyclic graph of customizable CG code generator nodes to make your own 100% customizable shader generators.







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