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2018 release: Graphics updates

January 18, 2018 in Engine & platform | 4 min. read

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The Unity 2018 release cycle will have a heavy focus on graphics! There are a number of features that will be released during 2018 that will drastically enhance Unity’s rendering capabilities. Hopefully you will find a new feature for every type of user, such as the visual tools for artists or more powerful rendering control for low-level engineers. We are very excited to share with you what we are working on, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll make with it!

We will be following up this blog post with more in depth posts about each of the systems we are developing.

Scriptable Render Pipelines

The Scriptable Render Pipeline is a way of configuring and performing rendering in Unity that is controlled from C# script. This is a big shift away from how Unity has traditionally performed rendering, moving control of how a project renders from being hard coded to being completely project driven.

Currently Unity provides a number of rendering configurations (for example: forward rendering and deferred rendering). These pipelines are fixed and provided as is. This has a number of downsides:

  • Inability to fix or workaround rendering issues.
  • The pipelines are large and complex, as they have to handle all use cases.
  • It’s very difficult to add state-of-the-art effects due to legacy and complexity.

To solve these issues we have been developing the SRP API as an experimental feature throughout 2017. Now in 2018.1, the feature is moving into beta. We are confident that not only does this system resolve these problems, but it is also fast, easy to work with, and empowering for rendering programmers.

With SRP we no longer have to provide a monolithic rendering pipeline that is trying to do everything for everyone. The SRP API opens up the Unity rendering interface, allowing for flexibility and control right from C# scripts. Programmers can now write custom renderers tailored specifically to their project.

Imagine designing a custom render pipeline by plugging together modular blocks. Each block is well defined with a single function that is easy to test, improve, and maintain. This is how Scriptable Render Pipelines work. Not only is this easier for developers using Unity, it also allows us to add new blocks to the engine’s toolbox so you the user can quickly have access to new rendering advancements.

In 2018.1 we have included 2 rendering pipelines for users. Not only are these usable right out of the box, they can serve as reference for developers building their own render pipelines.

  • Lightweight Rendering Pipeline - A pipeline designed for mobiles and platforms without compute shader capability.
  • High Definition Rendering Pipeline - A modern high fidelity renderer for developing games for platforms that support Shader Model 5.0 (DX11 and above).

Lightweight Rendering Pipeline

The LT RP is designed to be fast and scale well to lower end hardware. It’s a forward based renderer and scales well from mobile, to VR, to PC.

The Lightweight Pipeline is a Scriptable Render Pipeline available with Unity 2018.1. It performs a single-pass forward rendering with light culling per-object with the advantage that all lights are shaded in a single pass. Compared to the vanilla Unity forward rendering, which performs an additional pass per pixel light, using the LT pipeline will result in less draw calls at the expense of slightly higher shader complexity.

The pipeline supports at most 8 lights per-object and only supports a subset of built-in Unity  rendering features. A feature comparison table of Lightweight Pipeline vs stock Unity pipeline can be found here.

HD Rendering Pipeline

The high definition render pipeline is a Scriptable Render Pipeline available with Unity 2018.1 (Experimental). The HDRP is a modern rendering pipeline designed with PBR, linear lighting, HDR lighting in mind. It’s built with a configurable hybrid Tile/Cluster deferred/Forward lighting architecture.

HDRP adds several features over built-in Unity with improved options for lights, reflection probes, standard materials. It also provides advanced material like Anisotropy, Subsurface scattering, and Clear Coating. Advanced lights, like Area lights, are also supported.

If you are using the 2018.1 beta please come to the forums to discuss the SRP API and the pipelines we have been developing.

Post-processing Stack v2

The Post-processing stack has been improved to feature higher quality effects, automatic volume blending with a powerful override stack and a flexible framework to write and distribute your own custom effects.

It's compatible with the Lightweight, HD and built-in rendering pipelines.

Unity Shader Graph

Authoring shaders in Unity has traditionally been the realm of people with some programming ability. In 2018 we are changing this!

Shader Graph enables you to build your shaders visually. Instead of hand writing code, you create and connect nodes in a graph network. The graph framework gives instant feedback on the changes, and it’s simple enough that new users can become involved in shader creation.

The Shader Graph system is designed to work with both the LT and HD render pipelines, can be extended to work with any custom render pipeline, and has an open architecture that allows for custom nodes to be written.

Grab the latest beta to check out these features and more. In the coming weeks we’ll be writing about these systems in greater detail so you can make the most out of them.

January 18, 2018 in Engine & platform | 4 min. read

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