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WebGL Deferred Shading

This project was created as an assignment for CIS 565. It is a reference solution implementing the basic features. The assignment below is approximately as it was assigned in the course.

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Assignment Text

University of Pennsylvania, CIS 565: GPU Programming and Architecture, Project 6

  • Tested on: (TODO) Google Chrome 222.2 on Windows 22, i7-2222 @ 2.22GHz 22GB, GTX 222 222MB (Moore 2222 Lab)

Demo Video


DO NOT leave the README to the last minute! It is a crucial part of the project, and we will not be able to grade you without a good README.

This assignment has a considerable amount of performance analysis compared to implementation work. Complete the implementation early to leave time!

Instructions (delete me)

This is due at midnight on the evening of Sunday, October 25.

Summary: In this project, you'll be introduced to the basics of deferred shading and WebGL. You'll use GLSL and WebGL to implement a deferred shading pipeline and various lighting and visual effects.

Recommendations: Take screenshots as you go. Use them to document your progress in your README!

Read (or at least skim) the full README before you begin, so that you know what to expect and what to prepare for.

Running the code

If you have Python, you should be able to run server.js to start a server. Then, open http://localhost:10565/ in your browser.

This project requires a WebGL-capable web browser with support for WEBGL_draw_buffers. You can check for support on WebGL Report.

Google Chrome seems to work best on all platforms. If you have problems running the starter code, use Chrome or Chromium, and make sure you have updated your browser and video drivers.

In Moore 100B/C, both Chrome and Firefox should work.

See below for notes on profiling/debugging tools.


Ask on the mailing list for any clarifications.

In this project, you are given code for:

  • Loading OBJ files and color/normal map textures
  • Camera control
  • Partial implementation of deferred shading including many helper functions

Required Tasks

You will need to perform the following tasks:

  • Implement deferred Blinn-Phong shading (diffuse + specular)
  • Implement one of the following effects:
    • Bloom using post-process box or Gaussian blur [1]
    • Toon shading (with ramp shading + simple edge detection for outlines)
  • Optimized g-buffer format
    • Ideas: pack values together, use 2-component normals, quantize values using smaller texture types instead of gl.FLOAT, etc.
    • For credit, you must compare the performance of each permutation you test while optimizing, in a simple table.
    • See mainly: copy.frag.glsl, deferred/*.glsl, deferredSetup.js
  • Scissor test optimization: when accumulating shading from each point light source, only render in a rectangle around the light.
    • Show a debug view for this (showing scissor masks clearly)
    • Code is provided to compute this rectangle for you

Extra Tasks

You must do at least 8 points worth of extra features.

INSTRUCTOR TODO: review point values

  • (4pts) The effect you didn't choose above

  • (2pts) Include material properties (e.g. specular coefficient and exponents) in g-buffers

    • Use this to render objects with different material properties
    • These may be uniform across one model draw call
  • (3pts) Screen-space ambient occlusion [2]

  • (4pts) Screen-space 1D motion blur [3]

  • (3pts) Two-pass Gaussian blur using separable convolution (using a second postprocess render pass) to improve bloom or other 2D blur performance

  • (6pts) Tile-based deferred shading with detailed performance comparison

    • On the CPU, check which lights overlap which tiles. Then, render each tile just once for all lights (instead of once for each light), applying only the overlapping lights.
    • Show a debug view for this (number of lights per tile)
  • (4pts) Light proxies

    • Instead of rendering a full-screen quad for every light, render some proxy geometry which covers the part of the screen affected by the light (e.g. a sphere, for an attenuated point light).
      • A model called sphereModel is provided which can be drawn in the same way as in drawScene.
    • (+2pts) To avoid lighting geometry far behind the light, render the proxy geometry (e.g. sphere) using an inverted depth test (gl.depthFunc(gl.GREATER)) with depth writing disabled (gl.depthMask). This test will pass only for parts of the screen for which the backside of the sphere appears behind parts of the scene.
      • Note that the copy pass's depth buffer must be bound to the FBO during this operation!
    • Show a debug view for this (showing light proxies)
  • (5pts) Deferred shading without multiple render targets (i.e. without WEBGL_draw_buffers).

    • Render the scene once for each target g-buffer, each time into a different framebuffer object.
    • Include a detailed performance analysis (for different models), comparing with/without WEBGL_draw_buffers.
  • Compare performance to equivalently-lit forward-rendering:

    • (2pts) With no forward-rendering optimizations
    • (3pts) Coarse, per-object back-to-front sorting of geometry for early-z
      • (Of course) must render many objects to test
    • (2pts) Z-prepass for early-z

This extra feature list is not comprehensive. If you have a particular idea that you would like to implement, please contact us first (preferably on the mailing list).

Where possible, all features should be switchable using the GUI panel.

Performance & Analysis

Optimize your JavaScript and/or GLSL code. Web Tracing Framework and Chrome/Firefox's profiling tools will be useful for this. For each change that improves performance, show the before and after render times.

For each new effect feature (required or extra), please provide the following brief analysis:

  • Concise overview write-up of the feature.
  • Performance change due to adding the feature.
    • If applicable, how do parameters (such as number of lights, tile size, etc.) affect performance?
  • If you did something to accelerate the feature, what did you do and why?
  • How might this feature be optimized beyond your current implementation?

For each performance feature (required or extra), please provide:

  • Concise overview write-up of the feature.
  • Detailed performance improvement analysis of adding the feature
    • What is the best case scenario for your performance improvement? What is the worst?
    • Are there tradeoffs to this performance feature?
    • How do parameters (such as number of lights, tile size, etc.) affect performance?
    • Show debug views when possible.
      • If the debug view correlates with performance, explain how.


  • Before doing performance analysis, you must disable debug mode by changing debugMode to false in framework.js.
  • Be aware that stats.js may give 0 millisecond frame timings in Chrome on occasion - if this happens, you can use the FPS counter.

Starter Code Tour

You'll be working mainly in deferredRender.js using raw WebGL. Three.js is included in the project for various reasons. You won't use it for much, but its matrix/vector types may come in handy.

It's highly recommended that you use the browser debugger to inspect variables to get familiar with the code. At any point, you can also console.log(some_var); to show it in the console and inspect it.

The setup in deferredSetup is already done for you, for many of the features. It is recommended that you review the comments to understand the process, BEFORE starting work in deferredRender.

In deferredRender, start at the START HERE! comment. Your first goal should be to get the debug views working.

  • js/: JavaScript files for this project.
    • main.js: Handles initialization of other parts of the program.
    • framework.js: Loads the scene, camera, etc., and calls your setup/render functions. Hopefully, you won't need to change anything here.
    • deferredSetup.js: Your deferred shading pipeline setup code.
    • deferredRender.js: Your deferred shading pipeline execution code.
    • ui.js: Defines the UI using dat.GUI.
      • The global variable cfg can be accessed anywhere in the code to read configuration values.
    • utils.js: Utilities for JavaScript and WebGL.
      • abort: Aborts the program and shows an error.
      • loadTexture: Loads a texture from a URL into WebGL.
      • loadShaderProgram: Loads shaders from URLs into a WebGL shader program.
      • createAndBind(Depth/Color)TargetTexture: Creates empty textures for binding to frame buffer objects as render targets.
      • renderFullScreenQuad: Renders a full-screen quad with the given shader program.
  • glsl/: GLSL code for each part of the pipeline:
    • clear.*.glsl: Clears each of the NUM_GBUFFERS g-buffers.
    • copy.*.glsl: Performs standard rendering without any fragment shading, storing all of the resulting values into the NUM_GBUFFERS g-buffers.
    • quad.vert.glsl: Minimal vertex shader for rendering a single quad.
    • deferred.frag.glsl: Deferred shading pass (for lighting calculations). Reads from each of the NUM_GBUFFERS g-buffers.
    • post1.frag.glsl: First post-processing pass.
  • lib/: JavaScript libraries.
  • models/: OBJ models for testing.
    • Sponza is the default.
  • index.html: Main HTML page.
  • server.bat (Windows) or (OS X/Linux): Runs a web server on your local machine.

The Deferred Shading Pipeline

See the comments in deferredSetup.js/deferredRender.js for low-level guidance.

In order to enable and disable effects using the GUI, upload a vec4 uniform where each component is an enable/disable flag. In JavaScript, the state of the UI is accessible anywhere as cfg.enableEffect0, etc.

Pass 1: Renders the scene geometry and its properties to the g-buffers.

  • copy.vert.glsl, copy.frag.glsl
  • The framebuffer object pass_copy.fbo must be bound during this pass.
  • Renders into pass_copy.depthTex and pass_copy.gbufs[i], which need to be attached to the framebuffer.

Pass 2: Performs lighting and shading into the color buffer.

  • quad.vert.glsl, deferred/blinnphong-pointlight.frag.glsl
  • Takes the g-buffers pass_copy.gbufs/depthTex as texture inputs to the fragment shader, on uniforms u_gbufs and u_depth.
  • pass_deferred.fbo must be bound.
  • Renders into pass_deferred.colorTex.

Pass 3: Performs post-processing.

  • quad.vert.glsl, post/one.frag.glsl
  • Takes pass_BlinnPhong_PointLight.colorTex as a texture input u_color.
  • Renders directly to the screen if there are no additional passes.

More passes may be added for additional effects (e.g. combining bloom with motion blur) or optimizations (e.g. two-pass Gaussian blur for bloom)


If there is a WebGL error, it will be displayed on the developer console and the renderer will be aborted. To find out where the error came from, look at the backtrace of the error (you may need to click the triangle to expand the message). The line right below wrapper @ webgl-debug.js will point to the WebGL call that failed.

Changing the number of g-buffers

Note that the g-buffers are just vec4s - you can put any values you want into them. However, if you want to change the total number of g-buffers (add more for additional effects or remove some for performance), you will need to make changes in a number of places:

  • deferredSetup.js/deferredRender.js: search for NUM_GBUFFERS
  • copy.frag.glsl
  • deferred.frag.glsl
  • clear.frag.glsl


Also see: The articles linked in the course schedule.

Profiling and debugging tools

Built into Firefox:

  • Canvas inspector
  • Shader Editor
  • JavaScript debugger and profiler

Built into Chrome:

  • JavaScript debugger and profiler


Firefox can also be useful - it has a canvas inspector, WebGL profiling and a shader editor built in.


Replace the contents of this in a clear manner with the following:

  • A brief description of the project and the specific features you implemented.
  • At least one screenshot of your project running.
  • A 30+ second video of your project running showing all features. Open Broadcaster Software is recommended. (Even though your demo can be seen online, using multiple render targets means it won't run on many computers. A video will work everywhere.)
  • A performance analysis (described below).

Performance Analysis

See above.

GitHub Pages

Since this assignment is in WebGL, you can make your project easily viewable by taking advantage of GitHub's project pages feature.

Once you are done with the assignment, create a new branch:

git branch gh-pages

Push the branch to GitHub:

git push origin gh-pages

Now, you can go to <user_name><project_name> to see your renderer online from anywhere. Add this link to your README.


  1. Open a GitHub pull request so that we can see that you have finished. The title should be "Submission: YOUR NAME".
    • ADDITIONALLY: In the body of the pull request, include a link to your repository.
  2. Send an email to the TA (gmail: kainino1+cis565@) with:
    • Subject: in the form of [CIS565] Project N: PENNKEY.
    • Direct link to your pull request on GitHub.
    • Estimate the amount of time you spent on the project.
    • If there were any outstanding problems, briefly explain.
    • List the extra features you did.
    • Feedback on the project itself, if any.

Third-Party Code Policy

  • Use of any third-party code must be approved by asking on our mailing list.
  • If it is approved, all students are welcome to use it. Generally, we approve use of third-party code that is not a core part of the project. For example, for the path tracer, we would approve using a third-party library for loading models, but would not approve copying and pasting a CUDA function for doing refraction.
  • Third-party code MUST be credited in
  • Using third-party code without its approval, including using another student's code, is an academic integrity violation, and will, at minimum, result in you receiving an F for the semester.


Partial SOLUTION for rewritten deferred shading assignment for CIS 565 Fall 2015






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