Shader compiler for the Nintendo GameCube/Wii
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What is it?

Tevsl is a kind-of fragment-shading language for the Nintendo GameCube & Wii consoles. The aim is to simplify programming of the texture environment units of the Flipper/Hollywood chips, moving some way towards making their fixed-function fragment-processing pipelines appear more like those available on a modern fully-programmable GPU, without incurring any performance loss.

Hopefully the friendly syntax of tevsl shader descriptions will make it easier to fully exploit the capabilities of Flipper/Hollywood GPUs, by making it clearer what each processing stage is doing and by making modifications to the fragment-processing setup much easier to accomplish.

What is the TEV unit?

The TEV (texture environment) unit is part of the GPU on the GameCube & Wii which handles fragment (pixel, more or less) processing operations. Its purpose is to take inputs from e.g. texture lookups and lighting calculation results and combine them into a final colour for writing to the embedded framebuffer (EFB), and henceforth to the screen or a texture. It is not a fully-programmable processor, but can still be used for quite sophisticated effects.

How does it work?

Short stage-by-stage "shader" descriptions are fed into tevsl, which processes them and emits a description which can be directly #included into C code. For example basic texture mapping can be achieved by writing the following:

stage 0:
  tev = texmap0[texcoord0];

The effect of this is to look up texture coordinates specified by texcoord0 in the texture map texmap0, and assign the RGBA results to "tev". This can be compiled as follows:

$ tevsl basic-texture.tev -o

and then in your C program, you write something like:

void setup_basic_texture_mapping (void)
#include ""

Ideally, you should set up Makefile (or whatever other build system you use) rules so that .inc files are automatically regenerated when you edit the corresponding .tev file.

Tevsl sets up many of the parameters concerning TEV configuration, greatly reducing the need for you to keep track of the TEV state yourself. See later for a full list of the functions which tevsl subsumes.

Basic syntax

You must write consecutively-numbered definitions for each of the stages you want to use:

stage 0:
  tev = ...;

stage 1:
  tev = ...;

(The need to manually number stages may disappear at some point.)

The left-hand side of each assignment corresponds to the output of the TEV unit for each stage, and the RHS of the assignment corresponds to the inputs to that stage and the processing which is done on those inputs. You should only assign to each colour/alpha channel once per stage: "tev =" write to all four simultaneously, though you can also split the colour/alpha parts and perform different operations for each (see below).

Though several kinds of expression are supported, note that tevsl can't magically add programmability to the Flipper/Hollywood chip: so, you're quite restricted in what you can write on the RHS of each stage description.

The "canonical" form of expression which is supported is as follows:

stage 0:
  tev = (<accum> [+/-] ((1 - c) * a + c * b) + <bias>) * <scale>;

You can write such expressions out "in full", e.g.:

stage 0:
  tev = (tev + ((1 - chan0) * texmap0[texcoord0] + chan0 * cr0) + 0) * 2;

Or, since you won't want to use all the available functionality per-stage all the time, you can write simplified versions of the expression and tevsl will rewrite the expression for you into the fixed format required by the hardware. So you can write, e.g.:

stage 0:
  tev = texmap0[texcoord0] + chan0;

and you will get the expected result. Beware that this is no computer algebra system which can infer the correct form of expression from anything you feed it though! Though tevsl makes some attempt to match what you give it, you might need to manually rearrange your formulae so that tevsl can recognize them properly, even if mathematically speaking it should be possible for it to deduce the solution for a particular expression itself.

Further description of the features available are below.

Value ranges

The normal TEV setup functions provide the illusion that colour and alpha values fall in the range 0...1, corresponding to 8-bit colour channel values 0 to 255, and tevsl follows the same convention.

Where texture coordinates are manipulated explicitly, e.g. by the indirect-texture lookup syntax, values typically run from 0 to the actual size of the texture (minus one). E.g. a 256x256 texture will use coordinates 0...255.


You can clamp the result of each TEV stage (to 0...1, i.e. the maximum and minimum representable values for each of the R,G,B,A colour channels), by writing:

tev = clamp (<expr>);

around your expression. Channels are clamped independently, and you can clamp colour channels but not alpha channels, or vice versa.


A simplified form of syntax is provided for writing blending equations:

tev = mix (<var1>, <var2>, <amt>);

This is internally rewritten to:

tev = (1 - <amt>) * <var1> + <amt> * <var2>;

This is similar to the GLSL mix() function: 0 for gives the value of , 1 for gives the value of , and inbetween values linearly interpolate between the two. Channels are mixed independently.

Note that using this function means the canonical TEV expression can be written more concisely as:

tev = (<accum> [+/-] mix (<var1>, <var2>, <amt>) + <bias>) * <scale>;

Simplified forms

Quite a few simplified forms of the above expression are recognized. These are a few examples:

tev = tev + chan0;

tev = tev * chan1;

tev = tev * 2;

tev = tev / 2;

tev = clamp ((1 - tev) * 2);   (!!! this doesn't work, bug.)

tev = clamp ( + chan0.rgb);

The last of these introduces a new feature, channel selection. This is described more fully in the following sections.

Separate colour/alpha expressions

The colour and alpha settings for each TEV stage are independent. You can describe this to tevsl by writing separate equations, like so:

stage 0:
  tev.rgb = chan0.rgb;
  tev.a = 1;

You can't split channels in different groupings from these on the LHS of these expressions though: we're limited to what's supported by the TEV unit (and we don't support merging/rearranging expressions setting different channels, even when it might be technically possible. E.g. this will NOT work:

stage 0:
  tev.r = chan0.r;
  tev.g = chan0.g;
  tev.b = chan0.b;
  tev.a = chan0.a;

it's not clear how useful such functionality would be.)

If you just write "tev" on the LHS of an expression, then both colour and alpha expressions will be defined. In that case you're limited to the subset of expressions which are valid for both the alpha and colour TEV parts.

You can also write all channels explicitly if you wish:

tev.rgba = chan0.rgba;

This has the same meaning as omitting the ".rgba" parts from both the LHS and RHS of the expression (if it doesn't, it's a bug!).

Available variables and constants

The following variables and constants are available for use in expressions.

  • "tev". This may be used on the LHS or RHS of expressions, and is usually used to pass intermediate values between stages. The last stage MUST assign its output to tev.

  • "cr0", "cr1", "cr2". These may be used on the LHS of RHS of expressions, and correspond to the TEV registers which can be used for constant inputs to the TEV, or for intermediate results. These map to GX_TEVREG{0,1,2} on the LHS of expressions, or GX_CC_C{0,1,2} etc. on the RHS of expressions. When used as constants, these are set using GX_SetTevColor. (You must take care not to use a given register as both a constant and an intermediate value: that won't work.)

These variables can be used with channel selectors,

For colour channels, e.g.

tev.rgb = tev.rgb;  (pass through colour unchanged)
tev.rgb =;

For alpha channels, e.g.:

tev.a = cr1.a;

There's no facility to swizzle colours with the tev/crN variables beyond the alpha selection already shown (.aaa). These are "signed 10 bit" quantities (at least they are referred to as such in various documentation, although the sign is in fact separate from the 10 bits, so -1024 to 1023 can be represented). See later for more discussion on that subject.

  • "texmapN[texcoordM]". This is a regular texture lookup: coordinates "texcoordM" are looked up in texture "texmapN", and an RGB (or A) result is obtained.

  • "chan0", "chan1". These are the rasterised colour channels 0 and 1 (similar to "varying" values in GLSL), used for vertex colouring or the results of lighting calculations.

Both texmap and chan0/chan1 variables may use arbitrary swizzles, which are automatically mapped to the TEV's "swap table" facility (there are only four channel combinations possible in total: tevsl will attempt to merge tables wherever possible, and will give an error if you attempt to use too many). So you can write any of:

tev.rgb = chan0.rgb;

tev.rgb = chan0.rrr;

tev.rgb = chan1.bgr;

tev.a = texmap0[texcoord1].g;

tev.rgb =;

tev.rgb = chan1.rrr + chan1.ggg;

Even corner cases such as the last are supported, since alpha and colour channels can be referred to independently by the colour TEV channels, and both are subject to remapping via swap tables (so in that example, alpha would be mapped to green, and each of the RGB channels would be mapped to red).

You can use independent swizzles for texture-map lookups and for the rasterised colour channels. You can only refer to one of chan0/chan1 in each TEV stage, and you can only refer to a single regular texture in each stage also (you can't use different colour channels/texture maps in colour and alpha expressions).

  • "k0", "k1", "k2", "k3". These four are extra "konstant" colour channels, which can be used to pass constant values to the TEV. These are somewhat like GLSL "uniform"s. These are unsigned 8-bit values only, and can be set with GX_SetTevKColor.

You can write each of these using ".rgb" (for the colour part of the TEV) or ".a" (for the alpha part of the TEV) selectors, or using all-same selectors, ".rrr", ".ggg" (for colour channels) or ".r", ".g" (alpha channels) etc., although you can't use swizzles other than those. E.g.:

tev.rgb = k0.rgb;

tev.a = k0.a;

tev.rgb = k1.rrr;

tev.a = k0.g;

For all variables, writing them without a selector infers ".rgb" for colour channels (in tev.rgb = ... expressions), and ".a" for alpha channels (tev.a = ...).

Several scalar constants are available:

  • "0", "1", "0.5", "1/8", "2/8", "3/8", etc.. These may be mapped to either regular constants, or "konstant" constants, as appropriate. You probably don't normally need to worry about which will be used in a given expression, but you may only have one "konstant" value per colour- or alpha-part of each stage: tevsl will give an error if your expression needs more than that.

These constants are replicated across each channel.

Ternary (conditional) expressions

You can write conditional expressions using C-like ternary operations. The general form of these look like this:

tev = <accum> [+/-] ((<var1> <cmp> <var2>) ? <true-val> : 0);

A concrete example, an 8-bit comparison:

tev.rgb = (texmap1[texcoord1].r > tev.r) ? 1 : 0;

The R, G, and B channels of the TEV output for this stage will each be set to 1 (if the comparison is true), or 0 (if it is false). You can also use "==" for an equality test.

You can also do element-wise comparisons:

tev.rgb = (texmap1[texcoord1].rgb > tev.rgb) ? 1 : 0;

then three separate 8-bit comparisons will be performed for each of the R, G and B channels, and the corresponding results written to the RGB channels of TEV.

You can also use a different syntax to "concatenate" channels, and do 16- or 24-bit comparisons:

tev.rgb = (texmap1[texcoord1]{gr} > tev{gr}) ? 1 : 0;

In such expressions, the most-significant channel comes first, the least-significant last. The "canonical" ordering of these channels is "bgr", i.e. concatenation expressions are written "the other way round" from selection expressions (using .rgb syntax). This shouldn't really be relevant unless you're running short on swap tables, though.

The "false" arm of the ternary expression must be zero (a hardware limitation: tevsl is not able to perform much rewriting on these expressions).

Signed 10-bit values

Tevsl usually makes no distinction between unsigned 8-bit values and signed 10-bit values (it could try harder to do the right thing actually, although there would still be ambiguous cases). If the data type is important, e.g. you are accumulating a value over several stages, you should write an annotation against the accumulation variable in question:

tev = (tev:s10) + cr1;

This will attempt to ensure that the "tev" input will end up in the D input, where it will be used properly as a signed 10-bit value. Other inputs truncate to the lower 8-bits and interpret them as an unsigned value. Your expression will fail to match if you try to use too many ":s10" annotations, rather than silently ignoring them.

Indirect texture lookups

Tevsl provides support for configuring indirect texture lookups. These can be written using a couple of different syntaxes.

A simple form is as follows:

tev = texmap0[indmtx0 ** texmap1[texcoord0] * indscale0];

"indmtx0" and "indscale0" here refer to the indirect matrix and scale set by the GX_SetIndTexMatrix API. This expression will look up a texel from texmap1[texcoord0], matrix-multiply GX_ITM_0 (indmtx0 in the above expression) with it, then scale each component of the result (indscale0). The scale number you use must be equal to the matrix number (a hardware limitation).

You can also use a bias expression:

tev = texmapN[<indmtx> ** (texmapO[texcoordP] + <bias>) * indscaleM];

bias can be, e.g.:

vec3 (-128, -128, 0)

where the values can each be either -128 or 0 per-channel. (Other biases are used under certain circumstances, but those are not yet implemented.)

This is used to map colour values (which are read from the texture as 0...255) to signed values -128...127. The indirect matrix and scale should map these texture coordinates so that they match the scale of the regular texture (texmapN above) -- unlike other texture lookups, coordinates are not automatically scaled from 0...1 to the texture size.

You can add a regular texcoord to an indirectly looked-up texcoord:

tev = texmap0[texcoord1 + indmtx0 ** texmap1[texcoord0] * indscale0];

The texture lookup (in texmap0 in the example) will then use the resulting texture coordinates from this calculation. Texcoord1 will be automatically scaled to texmap0's size before the addition as for normal texture lookups.

You can also use wrapping on the regular texture coordinate using a "modulus" (%) operator:

tev = texmap0[(texcoord1 % 32) + indmtx0 ** texmap1[texcoord0] * indscale0];

The right-hand side of the modulus operator can be an integer (as written), or a two-element vector to use different moduli for the S and T coordinates:

tev = texmap0[(texcoord1 % vec2 (32, 16)) + indmtx0 ...];

It is sometimes necessary (e.g. for "ST" bump mapping) to calculate an indirect texture coordinate over several TEV stages. This is supported by tevsl. You can perform indirect texture lookups without also doing a regular lookup by writing:

itexcoord = indmtx0 ** texmap1[texcoord0] * indscale0;

and you can add to the indirect coordinate calculated by the previous stage (only -- i.e. no inbetween stages doing other operations are permitted) by writing:

itexcoord = itexcoord + indmtx0 ** texmap1[texcoord0] * indscale0;

This technique can be used over multiple stages to accumulate a 2D (s,t) texture-coordinate result before performing a final look-up in a regular texture (which is the only thing you can do with the result).

An implementation detail: when you use this syntax, tevsl takes care of inserting "GX_TEXMAP_DISABLE" for the appropriate GX_SetTevOrder command for you.

If you want to use the "dynamic" S and T-type matrices, you can write that as, for example:

stage 2:
  itexcoord = itexcoord
	  + (t_dynmtx (texcoord2) ** (texmap2[texcoord0]
				      + vec3 (-128.0, -128.0, 0)))
	    * indscale0;
  tev = tev;

"s_dynmtx" and "t_dynmtx" depend on the texcoord from the "regular" texture lookup for the stage, so are written using function-like syntax with that texcoord as an argument. You can still add the same texcoord independently in the same stage, if you wish (though the ability to do that might not be useful).

Tevsl automatically infers texmap and texcoord numbers to use for some of the above usage scenarios, in an attempt to avoid extraneous details in the input language. That code is quite experimental though, so beware that it might break under some circumstances.

Recognition of indirect texture expressions is a little more strict than regular TEV expressions, in terms of the order in which you must write terms, etc.. This is probably a bug, and may be fixed in due course.

Texture coordinate scaling

A feature not mentioned in the previous section (currently slightly experimental) is support for sharing texture coordinates between direct and indirect stages. Normally texture coordinates are automatically scaled to the size of the texture map which is the subject of the lookup in question: this is true of both direct lookups and indirect lookups.

Sometimes it's useful to use the same texture coordinate for both an indirect lookup AND a direct lookup: the hardware provides limited support for this, both in cases where the indirect and direct texture maps are the same size, and when the indirect texture map is a power-of-two factor smaller than the direct texture map. You may also use separate scales for the width and height of the indirect texture.

To use this feature in its simplest form with tevsl, just write the same texcoord for direct and indirect parts:

stage 0:
  tev.rgb = texmap0[texcoord0];

stage 1:
  cr0.rgb = texmap1[indmtx0 ** texmap2[texcoord0] * indscale0];

In this case, the scaling factor for the indirect lookup will be set to 1, so typically texmap0 and texmap2 will need to have the same size (the size of texmap1 is irrelevent to the discussion here, always being "manually" controlled by the indirect matrix).

To use the scaling feature, write the indirect part like so:

stage 1:
  cr0.rgb = texmap1[indmtx0 ** texmap2[texcoord0 / 2] * indscale0];

or, for separate width/height scales, e.g:

stage 1:
  texmap1[indmtx0 ** texmap2[texcoord0 / vec2(4, 8)] * indscale0];

You may use any power-of-two scale between 1 and 256.

Note that you cannot share texture maps between direct and indirect stages. Any given map must be used exclusively for direct or exclusively for indirect lookups.

Z textures

You can use Z-texturing by writing an expression at the last stage, e.g.:

z = <z + >texmapM:fmt[texcoordN]< + offset>;

(where <> indicate optional parts).

'fmt' must be z8, z16 or z24 (or z24x8, which is identical in meaning to the last). This specifies the format of the Z texture texmapM, since the Z-texture setup function needs to know that, and tevsl doesn't otherwise know what the format should be.

'offset' is a 24-bit offset which may optionally be added to the Z texture. As a special case you may write "$foo" here (for any foo corresponding to a valid C variable name), and the variable "foo" will be emitted verbatim in the output file. This allows injection of different values for the offset at runtime. See below for an example.

You can either replace the Z buffer for the fragment in question (z = ...) or add to the usual calculated value for the fragment (z = z + ...).

Use this for image-space colour & Z-buffer compositing. Using Z-textures automatically configures Z-buffering to occur after texturing.

Alpha test

Alpha test is supported using the following syntax:

  alpha_pass = tev.a > 30 && tev.a < 70;

This should be written after the last stage in your input file, since that is when the alpha-test logically takes place (though the placement of the "finally" stage isn't actually enforced at present, which is a bug). The hardware supports two comparisons (as written above), whose results may be combined in several ways to determine the final true/false (render fragment/do not render fragment) result.

Note that in alpha_pass expressions, the value of tev.a ranges from 0 to 255, rather than the normalized range 0 to 1 used in regular TEV stage expressions. This follows the convention used by the underlying API.

You can write any of the following for the comparison operators, which follow their usual meaning:

< <= == != => >

And you can combine two comparisons using the operators:

&& || ^ ==

where "^" means exclusive-OR (first condition or second condition true, but not both), and "==" means equal or not-exclusive-OR (first and second condition both true, or both false). The "&&" and "||" operators mean logical-AND and logical-OR, as per usual C semantics.

You may also write a single comparison, e.g.:

  alpha_pass = tev.a > 128;

Then, tevsl will insert a null condition for the second comparison for you.

You may write C variables (as above, like "$foo") instead of constants in alpha-test expressions (see below).

Using alpha test automatically configures Z-buffering to occur after texturing (as required by the hardware).

Using C variables in expressions

In limited circumstances (Z texturing and alpha-test expressions), you may write C variables instead of constants by writing a variable name preceded with a dollar sign, e.g. "$variable". This variable name is then emitted verbatim in the output, so will be captured from the point at which you include the compiled shader ".inc" file.

E.g. for shader code, "texture-holes.tev":

stage 0:
  tev = texmap0[texcoord0];

  alpha_pass = tev.a > $threshold;

You might compile the shader and include like this:

void setup_holes_shader (int threshold)
#include ""

Then, you can vary the threshold by calling this function with a suitable argument.

Note that C-variable substitution doesn't work at present for expressions other than those mentioned above. Support for use in other types of expression may be added in the future, if necessary and feasible.

List of automated APIs

Tevsl can almost completely control the following set of APIs, freeing you of the need to call any of them explicitly:

  • GX_SetNumTevStages
  • GX_SetNumChans
  • GX_SetNumTexGens
  • GX_SetTevSwapModeTable
  • GX_SetTevSwapMode
  • GX_SetNumIndStages
  • GX_SetIndTexOrder
  • GX_SetTevOrder
  • GX_SetTevDirect
  • GX_SetTevIndirect
  • GX_SetTevColorIn
  • GX_SetTevColorOp
  • GX_SetTevAlphaIn
  • GX_SetTevAlphaOp
  • GX_SetTevKColorSel
  • GX_SetTevKAlphaSel
  • GX_SetZTexture
  • GX_SetAlphaCompare
  • GX_SetZCompLoc
  • GX_SetIndTexCoordScale

You can also specify much of the functionality provided by the GX_SetTevInd* helper functions (GX_SetTevIndBumpST, etc.) using tevsl expressions, hopefully leading to easier-to-understand code.

Bugs & drawbacks

Many and varied! Most error detection and reporting is nonexistent or poor. Compiled TEV descriptions are almost completely static, which might limit the way effects can be combined or altered at runtime.

Tevsl works by tree rewriting, and does not have a type system or any kind of understanding of the expressions it is manipulating. This might occasionally cause it to do unexpected or incorrect things, particularly for meaningless inputs.