Talk:ALS technical notes

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ALS vs. Rembrandt

Cquote1.png Rembrandt and ALS work with two different rendering pipelines/implementations using very different assumptions - thus, it would be a lot of work to integrate those two properly, and as has been said, Rembrandt isn't beint actively maintained currently, while ALS has been under active development.

Several contributors familiar with shaders and effects have stated that they're not overly motivated to pick up Rembrandt maintenance mainly due to its performance issues, which cannot be just improved by doing base package development (effects/shaders), so that people wanting to improve Rembrandt performance would need to modify the corresponding C++ code. People familiar with FlightGear's rendering pipeline are in very short supply. Unfortunately, FlightGear's rendering pipeline is generally also not very well documented.


Cquote1.png For my visual preferences and on my system ALS is a much better use of what rendering resources there are than Rembrandt and the view out the windows is superior to that of the default scheme.
— AndersG (Sat Oct 18). Re: Orbital Makes the Sky Black.
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Cquote1.png the reason we still havent moved to opengl 3.x+ has been due to supporting OSX. If we wish to support OSX, we need to completely abandon the fixed function pipeline. Some of our dependencies (plib) are no longer maintained , so must be replaced with something that supports shaders (canvas, etc).

Apple has made app developers to move on or stay in fixed fn. We aren't there yet.

Almost every feature in fg needs a maintainer. Maybe someone who especially loves deferred rendering will step up, and begin migrating Thorsten's als shaders to rembrandt.

— psadro_gm (Sat Oct 18). Re: Orbital Makes the Sky Black.
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Cquote1.png the other issue is that there's still legacy GL code running in the main/rendering loop that prevents us from using a more recent OpenGL version, such as the panel/HUD and GUI code - those things are in the process of being unified, and re-implemented, on top of modern OSG code using a shared back-end via Canvas.
— Hooray (Sat Oct 18). Re: Orbital Makes the Sky Black.
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Cquote1.png you never actually transit from a deferred to a forward scheme, which is why you don't have the same baseline internally, which is why you need to structure operations you do very differently and can in general expect a very different performance footprint.
— Thorsten (Sun Oct 19). Re: Orbital Makes the Sky Black.
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Cquote1.png But the point is - I do understand what the shaders outside ALS do, and I could fix them and/or develop them further if needed. And, given a few weeks to iron out the details, I could also make ALS work under Rembrandt.
— Thorsten (Thu Mar 27). Re: A long shot.
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Cquote1.png The actual reason why this isn't happening is twofold:

First, as I said, you can spend performance only once. For my default settings of random vegetation and buildings and clouds, I'm getting 15 fps out of Rembrandt as it is once I want nice shadows (i.e. apply sufficient filtering that I don't get a headache watching them) vs. 60 fps in ALS at highest quality settings. ALS would require to squeeze another 1000 lines of code into the fragment shader, i.e. make it perhaps 5 times longer than it it (on average). That's on a modern gaming laptop. So who's expected to be able to run Rembrandt + ALS with anything above 5 fps? I don't see it on my machine. And of course, assume I do it - guess at whose feet complaints about low framerate end up? Guess who gets told by every amateur GLSL coder that he's stupid because 'there must be a faster way'?

Second, there seems to be something religious about Rembrandt. I've always gotten help and good advice from FredB for whatever I was trying to do, but there's a very outspoken and agressive community of Rembrandt-users which pass no opportunity to tell me that what I do is crap, rubbish and that Rembrandt is the best and I should better quit what I'm doing because it's so inferior. Maybe so - but I sure won't lift a finger for anything these people want to see done. If anyone wants ALS under Rembrandt, insulting me is a sure way to not get it done.

— Thorsten (Thu Mar 27). Re: A long shot.
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Cquote1.png You could in fact take lots of the procedural texturing code and it would run - it's even easy, since I factored the noise functions into libraries which can be included. As to why Rembrandt doesn't do that, it's a question for the Rembrandt maintainers, not for me. I have offered 3 or 4 times to assist if anyone wants to port these code blocks on the devel list.

So, the mysterious reason is: the Rembrandt maintainers are not interested. That's all.

— Thorsten (Fri Oct 17). Re: Orbital Makes the Sky Black.
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Cquote1.png I tend to use/support what works for me well enough (including performance), as well as features that are either sufficiently generic and extensible or at least well-documented with some manpower - for the time being, none of this applies to Rembrandt unfortunately. I consider myself fairly familiar with FG, including its internals - and I am generally able to make FG work well enough on most systems - in fact, I am the one who started the corresponding wiki articles to document such tips - I have yet to see sufficient "configuration advice" from Rembrandt evangelists.

I would also very much like to see Rembrandt development to continue, and I might even contribute to such an effort - but for that to happen, a few other things need to happen first, including more/better developer docs - Rembrandt is covering a lot of uncharted waters, i.e. areas in FG to which only long-time contributors like Fred, Tim or Mathias have contributed.
Given Thorsten's recent C++ patches to the rendering pipeline, he seems to be well on his way to actually understand/document such code paths than any other active contributor.
Personally, I am frankly easily distracted by stuff that I find more interesting than investigating Rembrandt's performance issues, and I don't consider shadows essential either - but Rembrandt development will either need to be picked up by Fred himself, or we'll inevitably have to do a lot of research, trial & error and documenting to make heads and tails of the code.

— Hooray (Fri Oct 17). Re: Orbital Makes the Sky Black.
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Do we actually have to have the ALS vs. Rembrandt philosophy here? I'm trying to create a technical documentation page which should be concise and to the point, I can't see how the assortment of things I have said about ALS and Rembrandt features here.

it's your article, so feel free to remove whatever you disagree with - that said, your quotes may still be useful elsewhere, especially because the whole Rembrandt vs. ALS debate is a recurring one, so maybe some kind of FAQ ? I don't know ... I just added some of your quotes here to ensure that people can refer to those arguments, without having to resurrect these debates on the forum over and over again. If you think there is a better way to accomplish that, it's your call. --Hooray (talk) 06:29, 11 March 2015 (EDT)


There is internally no 'ALS' or 'Rembrandt' in the effect framework. We assign effects to surfaces. These effects have techniques which depend on conditionals (predicates), always the first matching technique of an effect is used. It is at the level of these conditionals that we decide upon ALS or Rembrandt.

This is not a must - it would be easy to write an effect which only runs ALS, even if Rembrandt is on. Just leave the conditional out of the technique.

The opposite is pretty much what happens if you assign model-transparent to a surface. This is an effect which has just a single technique (a fixed pipeline setup). Which means that you get transparency rendered okayish, no depth buffer written and outside- in rendering of a depth ordered bin - but at the same time, this technique wrecks ALS light and fog - at night at high altitude the glass will glow faintly red (because that's the light setting of the default renderer) and you will see it through fog no matter the distance.

Now, an unassigned surface uses the general-purpose model-default.eff. This has depth buffer writing and no outside-in rendering and does not use a depth sorted bin - so it may have issues for transparent surfaces. But this has a proper sequence of conditionals and will run ALS when ALS is selected and Rembrandt when Rembrandt is selected, i.e. always get lighting and fogging right.

The glass effect eventually will be one way to render glass in ALS (intended for windows seen from inside). It has correct lighting and fogging, and it will soon use the depth sorted bin and do all the other transparent stuff - and automatically dispatch the surface to the same fixed-pipeline technique Rembrandt uses in model-transparent when Rembrandt is running[1].

Article name

Looking over the page, this article seems to be devoted to describing effects based on ALS used on aircraft, while the title suggests that it describes the technical processes and details of the "works" of ALS itself. As such, would a title such as "ALS Aircraft Effects," "ALS effects" or "ALS aircraft information" be more appropriate? Adam (else MIG29pilot) (talk) 16:22, 1 January 2016 (EST)

GLSL code quoted

/* Fading of a directional light */

Note: To better explain the relation of the variables inner_angle, outer_angle and zero angle, this is the algorithm that produces the scalar value directional_fade from which the intensity value is defined in the shaders file light-ALS.frag:

 float directional_fade (in float direction) {
 float arg = clamp(direction, 0.0, 1.0);
 float ia = (1.0 - inner_angle);
 float oa = (1.0 - outer_angle);
 float za = (1.0 - zero_angle);
 if (direction > ia) {return 1.0;}
 else if (direction > oa) 
 {return outer_gain + (1.0-outer_gain) * (direction - oa) / (ia - oa);}
 else if (direction > za)
 {return outer_gain * (direction - za) / (oa - za);}
 else {return 0.0;}

Quoting GLSL code in the wiki is risky (it might change on the repository without warning), too detailed and misleading (generally people tend to expect copy/pastable examples).

If more explanation is required, either link to the shader code on the repository or make an illustration please.

For that, try the {{fgdata source}} template.
Bugman (talk) 05:53, 3 August 2018 (EDT)