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Physically-based shading upcoming in Unity 5.0

March 20, 2014 in Technology | 3 min. read
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Unity’s new Standard Shader is physically-based for higher visual quality, a more intuitive workflow for artists and faster iteration. And  to answer popular question - yes, we want this shader to be available to all Unity users including Unity Free.

Get an overview of the highlights from our video:

Our Physically-based shader has been maturing for quite a while. It is built on ideas we first developed for our Butterfly Effect production which have then been pushed further to become an integral part of how Unity 5.0 is built.

Much of what makes Unity special is the user experience. Therefore, it was crucial for us to develop the shader’s interface in collaboration with its actual users, so we iterated closely with top industry artists at all stages of development. We also worked with companies that specialise in capturing physical material data. We wanted to get the flow right, be intuitive and artist-friendly, and choose solid standards to make this future-proof. We are happy with the results and we hope you’ll be as well.

So… tell me about the shader.

Physically-Based Shading

PBS is the emerging industry-standard for 3D-authoring tools used in major film productions. It allows for a very large amount of freedom with intuitive rules.

No matter what textures or material values you choose, your object will look as you would expect in the real world and will react correctly to changes in lighting. Stronger highlights are usually smaller, objects tend to be reflective at grazing angles, etc.

One shader to rule them all

Our PBS can recreate many different materials, from stone and wood to metals and plastics, with control over blending within the same user interface.

As an artist there is far less browsing and guessing through the shader tree; just choose the new Standard Shader and tweak it to your heart’s desire for looks and performance.


Adaptive shading

The shader interface has texture slots that control the shader’s behaviour. Adding and removing textures re-programs the shader so it only contains code needed for the slots that are used. It is, essentially, the “pay as you go” of shading.

If a slot requires additional controls for tweaking, those will appear when the slot is used, and will stay out of sight otherwise. For instance, it will only be possible to tweak the normal map’s strength, if you actually have a normal map. This way the UI remains lean and doesn’t get cluttered with controls you don’t need.

Fully integrated

PBS can’t function optimally unless other systems are designed to support it. To that end, Unity 5.0 features native HDR workflow, better cubemap tools and more sophisticated ways of capturing lighting information in the scene, amongst other things. Everything you need to make Physically-Based Shading shine is built in!

Physically-based shading is just one of the new features upcoming in Unity 5, and we’re really looking forward to sharing it with you. You can read more about the new Unity 5 features here.

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March 20, 2014 in Technology | 3 min. read
Topics covered