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What Are the Best Tips for OpenGL® Development?

Eugene P.
Eugene P.

There are many OpenGL® development tips, most often dealing with tricks that can be used to increase the speed of rendering a scene and, subsequently, increasing the frame rate for interactive and animated applications. Other tips focus on achieving the best quality from the OpenGL® library and having consistent results where there might be a chance for some variation. The actual OpenGL® development setup also can be an area where small improvements or research could make a large difference. Overall, OpenGL® development requires an adequate amount of learning and information before a project begins, good testing as the program progresses and, ultimately, a large amount of user testing before publication.

The first OpenGL® development tip, especially for programmers just starting down the three-dimensional (3D) programming path, is to understand exactly how OpenGL® works. Beyond just knowing the names of functions to call and what certain parameters do, the underlying math needs to be understood. Depending on the application, this could be as simple as some algebra and geometry or could become as advanced as knowing trigonometry or being able to decipher a binary space partition. The extensive use of matrix math and transformations means an insufficient understanding of these concepts could cause development to slow to a halt as bugs and glitches go unseen or become unsolvable.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Before beginning any OpenGL® development, the tools being used should be decided on. Using a consistent integrated development environment (IDE), 3D modeler and texture wrapper can cut down on the need for intermediary conversion programs later, as well as providing a consistent stream of data and files that do not vary by implementation. The target platform, if there is one, also should be decided on. There are some special versions of OpenGL® that have been targeted for mobile devices, and the abstract programming interface (API) for these differs from those made for a computer or console system.

Beyond understanding the math used, another area to study for streamlined OpenGL® development is how the library itself performs a function. Small aspects, such as which material channel to use for alpha colors to make a polygon transparent, are not always obvious and can lead to results that might seem unpredictable. There are a number of nuances involved in how the OpenGL® library works that are most often learned as they arise, but they still need to be understood.

Finally, the OpenGL® development library has been around for a long time, and many of the core elements have remained uniform throughout the newer versions. This means it might not be necessary to re-invent the wheel when beginning a new project, because there might already be another higher-level library in existence that will provide usable functionality. These wrapper libraries or frameworks generally allow the construction of scene graphs, or provide animation timing and management for interactive 3D applications. Using an establish framework can help to reduce the amount of time spent coding repetitive base functions and allow more time for focusing on content and program logic.

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      Woman doing a handstand with a computer