New .NET Core 3, NuGet and GitHub support

by abenedik 22. October 2019 16:17

I am pleased to inform you that some significant changes to our libraries have happened.

Everything started with the announcement that .NET Core 3 will support WPF and WinForms application. That meant that Microsoft would finally upgrade its frameworks that are used to create most of the desktop applications.

My first port to the beta version of the .NET Core 3 was very promising and it looked like that it will be easy to provide day-zero support for the new framework. But when the release day approached and when some additional tests were done, then some problems begin to emerge. Though the main functionality of the Ab3d.PowerToys and Ab3d.DXEngine libraries was ported without any problems, the existing licensing mechanism did not work with the new compiler. 

Our libraries use the standard .Net licensing mechanism that use license.licx files - in case when this file is present, the .Net compiler calls the licensing code inside the library during the compilation of the project. The licensing code can generate a run-time license key that is embedded into the project. This then allows to run the project on cumputers where the library is not installed. The problem was that the compiler for .NET Core 3 did not call the licensing code. This meant that it was not possible to use the existing licensing mechanism to provide commercial licenses. What is more, some tools (obfuscator) also did not fully support .NET Core 3 assemblies at the time of the release.

Therefore a new licensing mechanism was needed. Besides the support for .NET Core 3, one of the main goals of the new licensing was also to allow distribution with NuGet (without private repositories). This required that a single dll should be used for the evaluation and for the commercial version.

If you have checked our web site recently, you may have noticed that it was already possible to download beta and release candidate versions of the Ab3d.PowerToys and Abd3.DXEngine. The new libraries support .NET Core 3 and have a new licensing mechanism. And today I am announcing that final versions of both libraries were released on NuGet.

Let me quickly describe the new licensing mechanism. It is super easy to use. When the library is used for the first time, a "Start evaluation" dialog is shown. This allows the user to start a 60-day evaluation of the library. In evaluation mode, all the features of the library can be used. The differences between running in evaluation and commercial mode are that in evaluation mode sometimes an evaluation watermark is shown and a dialog to show remaining evaluation days is shown once per day.

To activate a commercial version of the library, you do not need to change the dll, but you simply need to call a SetLicense method and pass a company name, license type and license text as parameters. For example, to activate Ab3d.PowerToys library, you need to add the following line to your project (it should be called before any Ab3d.PowerToys code is used):

Ab3d.Licensing.PowerToys.LicenseHelper.SetLicense(licenseOwner: "[CompanyName]",
                                                  licenseType: "[LicenseType]",
                                                  license: "[LicenseText]");

 

The same method can also be used to extend the evaluation period.

Note that the license text is not the same as the license key that was used until now. The difference is that the license text also need to include information until when the updates for the library are available. This is needed because everybody has access to the latest version of the libraries. So the licensing code needs to prevent using a commercial version that was released after the updates subscription has expired. Unfortunately, this will require the change of the license text after each license renewal. But on the other hand, the licensing code is cleaner and the distribution of the dlls is much simpler and done in a much more common way for the .Net ecosystem.

Of course, the current way of distributing evaluation and commercial versions with windows installer will still be available and fully supported in the future.

One of the advantages of using windows installer was that with the dlls it was also possible to install the sample projects for the libraries. This is not possible with NuGet distribution.

Again, there is a more conventional way in the .Net ecosystem to distribute sample projects. It is GitHub. So, when a NuGet package is installed with the Nuget Package Manager, a readme file is displayed. And the readme file shows the user a link to GitHub repositories with sample projects.

Currently, the following two repositories are available (contain solutions for standard .NET framework and for Core 3):

https://github.com/ab4d/Ab3d.PowerToys.Wpf.Samples

https://github.com/ab4d/Ab3d.DXEngine.Wpf.Samples

 

I am planning to add more repositories in the future.

I am also planning to add NuGet support for Ab2d.ReaderSvg, Ab2d.ReaderWmf and Ab3d.Reader3ds libraries.

 

Now each version of the library comes with many different variants - commercial, NuGet, core 3, etc. How do you know which one is which? This can be read from the revision number. If it is below 1000, then it is an evaluation version that was installed with windows installer; if it is between 1000 and 2000 then it is a commercial version that was installed with windows installer; if it is above 2000 then it has universal licensing and is distributed through NuGet. Also, the framework version is encoded into the revision - the last 3 digits tell you: if they are 35, then the library is compiled with .Net 3.5; 40 means it is compiled with .Net 4.0; 45 means .Net 4.5 and 300 means .NET Core 3.

 

Let me finish with the following question: should a WPF project be ported to .NET Core 3?

Here I would agree with Microsoft's recommendation: if your project is already completed and require only minimal maintenance, then leave it on a standard .Net framework. If the project is still heavily under development, then it is worth considering to migrate to .NET Core 3 for one of the next releases of your project. If you are starting a new WPF project, then it is recommended to use .NET Core 3.

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Ab3d.PowerToys | DXEngine

New major version of Ab3d.PowerToys released

by abenedik 26. June 2019 11:20

A new major version of the Ab3d.PowerToys library has been released!

The new version brings many new features, significantly improves performance in some cases and also fixes a few issues.

I am sure that most of you will find your own favorite feature or improvement in this version. For me, the most important addition is a new ModelScalarVisual3D class.

The ModelScalarVisual3D is a control that provides a simple way for the user to scale a selected 3D model - it is a usual control in almost all 3D modeling applications. This way the Ab3d.PowerToys library provides all three standard transformation controls: translation (with ModelMoverVisual3D), rotation (with ModelRotatorVisual3D) and scale (with ModelScalarVisual3D). There is also a new "Ducks lake" sample that demonstrates the usage of all three:

Ducks lake sample with translate, rotate and scale transformation controls

Another very nice new feature that I really like is support for rendering 3D streamlines. 3D streamlines are 3D lines that represent a flow of water or air with different colors. Streamlines are used many times to show simulation results or show sensor data. With Ab3d.PowerToys library they can be shown with an updated TubePathMesh3D class. The class is created with a collection of 3D positions that define the tube positions. With the new version, it is now possible to also specify texture coordinates for each tube path position. This way it is possible to assign a texture with a color gradient to the TubePath and use the texture coordinates to specify which color should be shown for each tube path position.

3D streamlines samples created with textured tube lines

TubePath always shows a cylindrical tube along the specified path. But if you want to show some other shape along a path, then you can use an updated CreateExtrudedMeshGeometry method (in Ab3d.Meshes.Mesh3DFactory namespace). Previously it was possible to extrude a 2D shape into a 3D object only by providing a single 3D vector. Now you can provide a list of 3D positions and the new method will extrude the 2D shape along the provided positions.

Extrude a custom 2D shape along a 3D path

Many of you have already tried to create a custom 3D mesh with defining custom positions, triangle indices and texture coordinates. The "best friend" for this task is a piece of paper and a pencil. This way you can draw the 3D object schema to a paper and then number the positions. This makes it much easier to see the position indexes that will form the object triangles. For those users, the new version of Ab3d.PowerToys is introducing a new "best friend": MeshInspectorOverlay control. It is a control that is derived from Canvas and can show position indexes, triangle indexes and orientation of positions in each triangle. You just add the MeshInspectorOverlay control to your visual tree (it should be added after the Viewport3D control and should occupy the same space), then assign MeshGeometry3D and Camera properties and after that the mesh details will be written on top of the 3D object. 

If you are interested in MeshInspectorOverlay then I would like to remind you about the Ab3d.Utilities.Dumper class. This class defines many methods that can be used at design time in Visual Studio Immediate window to show many details about objects used in 3D scene. For example, its Dump method can show many details about a MeshGeometry3D, Model3D or Matrix3D. That method is also defined as an extension method on those classes. There is also a DumpHierarchy extension method that can be used on Model3D, Visual3D or even Viewport3D. Try them.

Most of the samples under "Objects 3D" have been updated and can now show 3D model details with using the MeshInspectorOverlay. Here is a screenshot of MeshInspectorOverlay sample that also shows many of its properties:

MeshInspectorOverlay shows position indexes, triangle indexes and orienations of triangles

There are also some other nice new features. But let me now describe some of the performance improvements.

If you are using Boolean operations, then you will be happy to learn that this part of the library has been significantly improved. Boolean operations require a generation of Constructive solid geometry (CSG) objects where polygons in one CSG object are split based on the polygons in another CSG object. This process can create an insane amount of objects. Optimizing the creation of objects in the latest version has significantly improved the performance. What is more, if you are doing multiple Boolean operations on a single 3D object, you can now preserve the internal CSG object between all the operations (before new CGS was created each time). This can provide an even bigger speed-up. But, please do not be too excited, Boolean operations are still very complex and slow operations.

Another significant performance improvement has been done to improve getting the 3D line that is the closest to the mouse position. If you are using only Ab3d.PowerToys and WPF to render 3D lines, then this is not very relevant because showing many 3D lines in such a scenario is much more limiting that getting the closest line. But when using Ab3d.DXEngine, it is possible to show hundreds of thousands of 3D lines and in such extreme scenarios, it is essential that the code that gets the closest 3D line is fully optimized. This was achieved with heavy inlining and reordering of the code in the critical path. What is more, the methods in the LineSelectorData class have been updated in such a way that now it is possible to call them in multiple threads (for example with using Parallel.For). This way you can achieve massive performance gains.

The code in LineSelectorData was also updated to correctly handle the cases when 3D lines cross the camera's near plane (line goes behind the camera). In this case, the closest line was not always correctly calculated. Because this requires special handling of the 3D line, there is also a new Line3DTo2D method on the camera class (besides the Point3DTo2D and Rect3DTo2D methods).

There are also some other fixes available. To get the full list of new features and changes see the Ab3d.PowerToys versions history.

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Ab3d.PowerToys

New version of Ab3d.PowerToys and Ab3d.DXEngine with multi-threaded rendering

by abenedik 20. February 2019 16:10

I am very happy to inform you that new versions of our 3D libraries have been published.

The greatest new feature of this release is that the Ab3d.DXEngine now supports multi-threaded rendering. This can provide an amazing performance boost - in some cases, the time required to render one frame has been reduced by more than 4 times = 400% improvement.

This version also adds support for showing object outlines and provides a few improvements and additional options for rendering instanced objects. It also fixes a few bugs, especially with some hit testing use cases.

The main focus of the new Ab3d.PowerToys library version is on improved camera controller. This should prevent problems with mouse rotation and movement when using custom rotation or zoom position. There is also a new QuickZoom zooming mode that provides a very fast and precise zooming option for the user.

Let me first provide some additional details about the new multi-threading capabilities. The following graph shows the total time that is needed to render one frame where the number of used background threads is shown on the x axis:

Ab3d.DXEngine multi-threading performance improvements graph

The data was created by the new benchmark test that is now part of the Ab3d.DXEngine samples. It shows the rendering 160.000 (!!!) boxes without using instancing (each is defined by its own SceneNode object). The test was executed on Intel i7 6700K CPU (4 cores with hyperthreading) and NVIDIA 1080 GTX graphics card. As you can see the new multi-threading capabilities can provide 4 times the performance of a single threaded rendering. It is also incredible that now it is possible to render so many individual objects with almost 60 FPS (55 FPS in this test).

When describing the results I need to tell that those results were achieved with using DirectXOverlay PresentationType. This means that the 3D scene is rendered on top of the WPF content - in this case the graphics card can render the scene in the background and when the rendering is completed it can show the rendered image. This means that the Ab3d.DXEngine does not need to wait for the graphics card to finish rendering. On the other hand, when DirectXImage is used as a PresentationType, the 3D scene is composed with other WPF objects (other WPF objects can be seen through the scene and other WPF objects can be shown on top of the 3D scene). But for this to work, the Ab3d.DXEngine needs to wait until the graphics card finishes rendering the scene and this significantly increases the total rendering time. In case of using multi-threading this means that Ab3d.DXEngine can issue all the DirectX state changes and draw calls much faster compared to a single threaded rendering. But this also means that the time to wait for the graphics card to finish rendering increases significantly. Therefore the performance improvements are not as great as with DirectXOverlay, but still, the scene with 160.000 boxes can be rendered almost 3 times faster - see graph:

Ab3d.DXEngine multi-threading performance improvements graph

So, if you are rendering complex 3D scenes with many objects, you can expect great performance gains just with upgrading to a new Ab3d.DXEngine version. What is more, when rendering many 3D objects the CPU is usually the bottleneck of the whole process. But with greatly increasing throughput of the CPU, the graphics card can become the bottleneck. And because the performance of the graphics cards increases significantly with each new graphics card version, it is possible to further improve the performance with upgrading the graphics card (upgrading CPU to a new version usually do not provide such benefits).

Note that multi-threading only helps when the scene contains many 3D objects - in this case many DirectX commands needs to be executed. When you are rendering only a smaller number of objects but that objects are very complex with a lot of triangles or when you are using object instancing to render many 3D objects, then the new multi-threading will not have any significant effect.

It is also worth mentioning that increasing the number of used CPU cores does not improve performance indefinitely. The tests have shown that for most use cases it is not worth using more the 8 cores. Therefore the Ab3d.DXEngine initially uses all the cores but not more than 8. This value is defined by DXScene.MaxBackgroundThreadsCount property (note that it counts only the background threads so value 7 means that 8 cores will be used: 1 main thread + 7 background threads).

To get more information about multi-threading in Ab3D.DXEngine you can read the online help for MaxBackgroundThreadsCount.

 

This new version also provides some improvements and additional options for rendering instanced objects. The most useful new option is to render the same instance data (same DirectX instance buffer) with using different InstancedMeshGeometry3DNode objects and providing different StartInstanceIndex and InstancesCount values for each InstancedMeshGeometry3DNode object. This way it is possible to hide multiple parts of the instanced objects without changing the instance buffer (which is a costly operation). A new sample that demonstrates that also shows how to override the color of the shown instances - this can be useful for showing selected objects with different color again without changing the instances data.

Let me also provide a few additional details about the new possibility to show object outlines. The following screenshot will illustrate what this means:

Ab3d.DXEngine with object oulines

As you see the new outlines can be used to provide great visual feedback to the user about the selected objects. The trick is that the outlines are visible through other 3D objects. To provide support for that, the Ab3d.DXEngine comes with a new ExpandPostProcess and a new sample that demonstrates how to alter the rendering process to render the object outlines.

The new version of Ab3d.DXEngine also adds support for showing object edges with using a sobel algorithm (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sobel_operator). The following screenshot shows an example of that:

Ab3d.DXEngine with sobel edge detection post process

 

There are also some other very important improvements and fixes. For a full list of changes see the history web page:

Ab3d.DXEngine versions history

Ab3d.PowerToys versions history

 

In this version of Ab3d.PowerToys I also wanted to update the version of the third-party Assimp importer (imports 3D objects from many file formats). Because the official release is from December 2017 I went to GitHub and get the latest source. I compiled the source into native libraries. But after doing some tests I have found out that some of the 3D files were not imported correctly. Therefore I did not publish the new version. So this release comes with the official version (from December 2017) and also with a newer version that was published with the previous version with Ab3d.PowerToys (from May 2018).

Finally, I would like to say that I am following the .Net framework development news with great interest. Especially the part that with .Net Core 3 it will be possible to build WPF and WinForms apps. I have already tried to compile the Ab3d.PowerToys and Ab3d.DXEngine libraries with the preview version of the .Net Core 3 and they have both compiled fine and also run very well. This means that when an official version of .Net Core 3 will be released it will be also possible to get both Ab3d.PowerToys and Ab3d.DXEngine libraries compiled for that framework.

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Ab3d.PowerToys | DXEngine

A critical update for Ab3d.DXEngine and a minor hotfix for Ab3d.PowerToys published

by abenedik 17. October 2018 17:07

I would like to inform you that a critical update for Ab3d.DXEngine and a minor hotfix for Ab3d.PowerToys has been published.

The critical problem that occurred in the previous version was that on high DPI settings the new hit testing did not work in all use cases. If a user was using the new hit testing it may appear that the mouse was offset by some amount. This is now fixed. If you were using the previous version 3.0., then please update the library to the version 3.1.

The Ab3d.DXEngine also comes with a few other improvements and new features. One of them allows using a texture when rendering instanced objects. When using textures with transparency, do not forget to set the UseAlphaBlend property on the InstancedMeshGeometryVisual3D to true. Also, in the case of rendering semi-transparent instances, they need to be sorted so that those farther away from the camera are rendered first (are defined first in the InstancesData array).

The other new feature is that MeshObjectNode can now render meshes with multiple SubMeshes defined. This means that you can create one giant vertex buffer and one index buffer and then use SubMeshes to define which triangles in those two buffers will be rendered with which material. This provides an optimal way for the graphics card to render objects. What is more, it is very easy and super fast (almost at no cost) to change which triangles use which material or to change a material.

This was already used by the DXEngine when a frozen Model3DGroup was rendered - in this case DXEngine combined all the meshes into one single vertex and index buffer and then defined SubMeshes for each used material. Now, this can be also achieved manually with using MeshObjectNode and SubMeshes. 

There are two new samples that demonstrate that. One shows a simple animation that changes SubMesh properties. The other new sample shows an efficient way of selecting a part of a mesh with changing its color. Usually, this is done with moving the selected triangles from the original mesh into a new mesh. The new mesh is then shown with the selected material. For complex meshes this is very inefficient. When using SubMeshes the same effect can be achieved with almost no performance cost. 

Efficient material animation with using SubMeshes

 

There is also a new sample that shows how to efficiently create huge height maps. The easiest way to show height maps is to use HeightMapVisual3D object from Ab3d.PowerToys library. But when creating huge height maps, this approach is very inefficient because it requires a lot of memory and takes long time to initialize (first MeshGeometry3D is created for WPF 3D objects and then this is converted into DirectX buffers). The new sample shows how to directly create DirectX buffers and then show the height map with created buffers.

This shows that Ab3d.DXEngine is build to provide great support for the most demanding and complex DirectX use cases. And all that power can be used from the .Net application.

The full list of changes can be found in DXEngine versions history page.

 

As mentioned before, the Ab3d.PowerToys also got a minor hotfix. This fixes two issues. The first one was that in case of using OrthographicCamera and negative NearPlaneDistance value, then some 3D lines may not be rendered. Another fix improves the FitIntoView method when there are no WPF 3D objects in the scene (there are only DXEngine SceneNodes objects).

What is more, the new version of Ab3d.PowerToys comes with an improved SceneEditor sample. The new version of the sample shows how to create a simple 3D scene editor where the user can create 3D boxes and spheres, move them around and edit their positions. The following image shows a screenshot from that sample:

SceneEditor sample

If you are using OrthographicCamera and are manually setting the NearPlaneDistance, then it is recommended to update to the latest version v8.2.6863.

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Ab3d.PowerToys | DXEngine

PBR support and many other new features in new versions of Ab3d.DXEngine and Ab3d.PowerToys

by abenedik 29. August 2018 22:48

I am very excited to finally release a new major version of the Ab3d.DXEngine library and a new big release of the Ab3d.PowerToys library.

The list of major new features includes support for Physically Based Rendering (PBR), significantly improved hit-testing, better shadow rendering and many other performance and usability improvements. The new version also uses the latest version of SharpDX (v4.2).

The following image is showing the new Physically Based Rendering in action:

Pistol model rendered with PBR material with Ab3d.DXEngine

Standard materials define diffuse color, specular color and specular power.   In most cases this allows rendering quite realistic 3D scenes. But because this lighting model is using many simplifications it cannot provide a very realistic rendering. To solve that, some bright minds dug into the lighting physics and based on what is really going on a Physically Based Rendering (PBR) was "born". In this lighting model the major two properties that define how material is shown are metalness and roughness. Metalness distinguishes between metallic and non-metallic objects. This has the major effect on how much light is reflected and how much is absorbed and returned as diffuse light. Roughness defines how clearly the environment is reflected and how big and bright the specular shiness is.

In PBR it is possible to use textures to define different metalness and roughness values for different parts of the model. This can be nicely seen in the image above where the wooden parts or the pistol are rendered differently from the metallic parts because they have different metalness values.

The following image shows sample models with different metalness and roughness values:

models with different metalness and roughness values

Besides metalness and roughness, the PhysicallyBasedMaterial in Ab3d.DXEngine also supports base color (diffuse color), emissive map, ambient occlusion map and normal map (also called bump map).

Another great new feature of the new version of Ab3d.DXEngine is much better support for hit testing. Hit testing is used for all the interactions of the mouse or touch with the 3D objects. In hit testing, a ray is created from the mouse or touch position and then the ray is checked against the 3D scene and the hit objects are returned. In previous versions of the library all the hit testing was done by using hit testing build into WPF. This worked well in most cases. But it was not able to use it for optimized SceneNode objects that were not created from WPF objects because those objects were not "visible" from WPF. Also, hit testing on instanced objects required that WPF 3D objects were created for each instance. This greatly increased initialization time and memory usage.

The new version of Ab3d.DXEngine how includes its own hit testing code that supports all types of SceneNode objects. What is more, the new code works much faster than the hit testing code in WPF. It can do hit testing on instanced objects without creating 3D objects for each instance. When hit testing a mesh, each triangle in the mesh needs to be tested against the 3D ray. Because some meshes can have hundreds of thousands of triangles, this can take some time. But the new Ab3d.DXEngine can also very efficiently hit test such meshes. In that case an oct-tree structure (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octree) is used to group the triangles in the mesh into small nodes. This way only a fraction of the total number of triangles needs to be checked. This provides enormous performance benefits. The following screenshot shows how oct-tree is used to divide a teapot object:

Teapot divided by oct-tree structure

Another significant performance improvement is related to the use of the IsVisible property. This property is defined by all the objects that are derived from the BaseVisual3D objects from Ab3d.PowerToys library. This includes most of the Visual3D objects (BoxVisual3D, SphereVisual3D, ect.), all 3D line Visual3D and some other objects.

When you want to hide an object, it is very convenient to just set IsVisible to false. To show the object again, you can just set IsVisible back to true. What happened behind the scenes was that the object that was hidden was removed from the 3D scene. When IsVisible was set back to true, the object was added back to the 3D scene. This meant that when complex objects were hidden and shown, all the DirectX resources were disposed and then created again. So this quite common operation was not as fluent as it should be.

The new version of Ab3d.DXEngine greatly improves that because now setting the IsVisible property to false does not change the 3D scene but just marks the object to be skipped when rendered. This way hiding and showing an object is now an instantaneous action.

To provide advanced IsVisible processing to any Model3D object and not only objects derived from BaseVisual3D, the new Ab3d.PowerToys library provides a new ContentVisual3D object. For example, ContentVisual3D can be used to show or hide a 3D object that is read from a file (usually defined with a Model3DGroup).

The new IsVisible processing also has a disadvantage that I need to mention here. Because the 3D scene is not changed when IsVisible is set to false, this means that DXEngine will not render the object, but it will be still present in the WPF 3D objects tree. Therefore, if you are using WPF hit testing, you might get a hit result on an object that is actually not shown. The easiest way to solve that is to use hit testing from DXEngine. You can also filter the hit objects by checking if they are derived from BaseVisual3D and then checking the value of IsVisible property. It is also possible to disable the new IsVisible processing.

If you are using PixelsVisual3D to render many pixels, you will be happy to hear that now it is possible to specify a different color and a different size for each of the pixels. Also, pixels can be quickly hidden with setting pixel's alpha color value to 0 or size to 0.

Another bigger change with DXEngine is that the SharpDX library that is used as a managed DirectX wrapper has been updated from v4.0.1 to v4.2. This means that you will need to update this library. You can get the new version from NuGet or from the same folder as the DXEngine library.

Among other new things there are also a few new very interesting samples. One of them is demonstrating how to very efficiently use object instancing to animate many objects. The following screenshot is showing a real-time animation of one million (!) 3D arrows that runs at 60 fps:

Animating 1 million 3D arrows with instancing in Ab3d.DXEngine

Another screenshot shows the same sample with less arrow and a different camera angle:

Animating 3D arrows with instancing in Ab3d.DXEngine

The trick to doing such an animation is to construct the correct transformation matrix (instance's world matrix) that transforms the 3D arrow mesh so that it points in the correct direction.  Because this may not be very easy to understand, there is another new sample that teaches you step by step how to create such matrices - here is a screenshot from that sample:

Instancing matrices guide

This knowledge is very important for performance because it teaches you how to use instancing for scenarios that you may not think of. And using instancing instead of many simple objects is in many cases the most beneficial performance improvement that you can do.

Because there are many WinForms users of Ab3d.DXEngine, I have updated the WinForms samples project and added code that shows new efficient ways to use the rendering engine. The samples also got new code comments.

 

So far I have been mostly wringing about Ab3d.DXEngine. But also the Ab3d.PowerToys library got tons of new features and capabilities.

One of the most important new one is that the library now comes with the new version of Assimp importer (http://www.assimp.org or https://github.com/assimp/assimp). This means that many new file formats are supported - the new list of supported file formats that can be imported is really long: .3d, .3ds, .3mf, .ac, .ac3d, .acc, .amf, .ase, .ask, .assbin, .b3d, .blend, .bvh, .cob, .csm, .dae, .dxf, .enff, .fbx, .glb, .gltf, .hmp, .ifc, .ifczip, .irr, .irrmesh, .lwo, .lws, .lxo, .md2, .md3, .md5anim, .md5camera, .md5mesh, .mdc, .mdl, .mesh, .mesh.xml, .mot, .ms3d, .ndo, .nff, .obj, .off, .ogex, .pk3, .ply, .pmx, .prj, .q3o, .q3s, .raw, .scn, .sib, .smd, .stl, .stp, .ter, .uc, .vta, .x, .x3d, .x3db, .xgl, .xml, .zgl.

Also, the list of file formats you can export to has been extended significantly. You can now export to the following file formats: dae, x, stp, obj, obj, stl, stl, ply, ply, 3ds, gltf, glb, gltf, glb, assbin, assxml, x3d, fbx, fbx, 3mf.

If you were already using Assimp importer and would like to switch to a new version, note that the new version has different native libraries requirements. See the comments in the samples or the Ab3d.PowerToys.Assimp.chm help file for more info.

There are also many other features or improvements. For example, if you were using WireGridVisual3D to show a wire grid, you will be happy to hear that now it is possible to define different major and minor grid lines. This makes the grid much nicer and required a minimal change in the code.

 

To get a full list of changes, see the Ab3d.PowerToys versions history web page.

Also, check the Ab3d.DXEngine versions history.

Commercial users can get the new version from their User Account web page. Others can download the new evaluation version. The best way to know more about the new features is to check the new samples projects. As always, the new samples are marked with NEW icon and the samples that are significantly updated with UP icon.

 

Let me finish with a few words about my future plans. 

One of the things that I would like to implement as soon as possible is to create a special version of the dll that could be distributed through NuGet and would provide evaluation and commercial version. This would also allow me to move the samples to the GitHub.

I also have a few ideas on how to provide some solutions to improve performance in some commonly used scenarios. I also want to update the support for Oculus Rift (also with help from some customer provide support for Avatars) and add support for OpenVR. And there are many other great new things waiting on my todo list.

 

So stay tuned...

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Ab3d.PowerToys | DXEngine

New version of Ab3d.DXEngine and Ab3d.PowerToys bring support for normal mapping and many other great new features

by abenedik 6. December 2017 23:26

I am happy to inform you that a great new update of main 3D libraries is available.

This time most work was done to improve the Ab3d.DXEngine - DirectX rendering engine.

 

The highlights of the new version are:

  • Added support for normal mapping (also called bump mapping).
  • Added rendering 3D lines with patterns (enables rendering of dashed and dotted 3D lines).
  • Improved texture loading with support for loading DDS files.
  • Improved Assimp importer that can now also read and play keyframe and skinned animations from many 3D file formats (including fbx and dae).

 

DirectX 11 normal or bump mapping with DXEngine

Normal mapping is now supported with a new MultiMapMaterial class. This material defines a list of maps or textures where for each map its usage type is defined. This way it is possible to define a material with diffuse, normal, specular and also environment map. A drawback of the current version is that shadow rendering is not yet supported where rendering objects with MultiMapMaterial .

 

Dashed and dotted 3D lines with Abd3.DXEngine

3D lines rendering is greatly improved in this version of Ab3d.DXEngine. There is now a new ILinePattern interface that defines LinePattern, LinePatternScale and LinePatternOffset properties. This not only allows rendering dashed and dotted lines but with changing LinePatternOffset it also provides an option to animate the dashed lines - for example, to show a way or direction. Also, this version now supports full hardware acceleration of rendering connected 3D lines (polylines). This means that you do not need to use special properties to render connected 3D lines as disconnected 3D lines anymore.

 

What is more, both Ab3d.DXEngine and also Ab3d.PowerToys now have a new MitterLimit property that defines when a sharp line connection is turned into beveled (cut) line connection.

 

Skeletal animation with Ab3d.PowerToys

3D models can be read into your application with using Assimp importer library that can read data from almost any 3D file format. But until now only static models can be imported. The only way to play animations was to use Ab3d.Reader3ds library and play animations stored with 3ds files. But the new version of Ab3d.PowerToys.Assimp library supports reading keyframe and also skinned animations. There is also a new AssimpAnimationController that can play both keyframe and skinned animations. This way it is possible to read animations from almost any 3D file format that support storing animation data.

 

Optimized point cloud DirectX rendering with Ab3d.DXEngine

A lot of work was also dedicated to providing an efficient way of rendering many millions of pixels - the so-called point clouds. The new OptimizedPointMesh class can optimize rendering of huge point clouds in two ways. First, it can determine which parts of point cloud are visible to the camera. Second, on the visible parts it can check the following positions and if they would be rendered so close together that the distance on the screen would be less then one pixel, they are rendered only once as only one pixel. Those two optimizations can in most of the cases provide huge performance improvements (but still, investing in a high-end graphics card is the most efficient way to deliver substantial performance gains).

 

When 3D models with very detailed textures (for example 4096 x 4096) are loaded, the texture initialization can take quite a lot of time and memory. Most of the time and memory is used to create mipmaps of the texture. Those are required to get efficient color sampling on the graphics card. To improve this, modern 3D games use DDS texture formats. This file format is optimized for the graphic card and also alredy include mipmaps.

 

The new version of Ab3d.DXEngine provide a few easy ways to load DDS textures instead of standard png or other files. This can significantly improve load time.

 

There are also many other improvements and fixes. The following is the full list of changes:

Ab3d.DXEngine v2.3:

  • Implemented rendering materials with diffuse, normal (bump) and specular texture. Note: does not work yet with shadow rendering.
  • Added MultiMapMaterial that can be used to render material with diffuse, normal, specular and environment reflection texture.
  • Added DXAttributeType.MeshTangentArray that can be set to the MeshGeometry3D with SetDXAttribute extension method and allows attaching tangent array to MeshGeometry3D
  • Added Ab3d.DirectX.Utilities.MeshUtils.CalculateTangentVectors method (can be used calculate tangents on the CPU for objects that are rendered with normal / bump map)
  • Added support for rendering 3D lines with custom pattern. This allows rendering dashed and dotted lines (only for disconnected 3D lines; not for poly-lines):
  • Added ILinePattern interface with properties that define line pattern: LinePattern, LinePatternScale and LinePatternOffset.
  • Implemented ILinePattern with LineMaterial object.
  • Added LinePattern, LinePatternScale and LinePatternOffset to DXAttributeType. This way it is possible to specify line pattern parameters on LineVisual3D objects with using SetDXAttribute extension method.
  • Added support for rendering connected 3D lines (PolyLineVisual3D, etc.) with full hardware acceleration. Note that lines with arrows are not rendered with full hardware acceleration.
  • Changed default value of DXScene.RenderConnectedLinesAsDisconnectedLinesThicknessLimit from 3 to 0 - so connected lines that are thinner than 3 are not rendered as disconnected lines by default.
  • Added IPolyLine interface with IsPolyLine and MiterLimit properties.
  • Updated LineMaterial to implement IPolyLine interface.
  • Improved time and memory consumption when reading textures.
  • Added Ab3d.DirectX.TextureLoader.LoadShaderResourceView method that can be used to load textures from standard image files (png, jpg, tiff, gif, bmp) and from DDS files.
  • Added Ab3d.DirectX.TextureLoader.CreateShaderResourceView method that can create ShaderResourceView from texture stored in byte array (for cases when bitmap is read from a stream).
  • Added static bool LoadDdsIfAvailable field to WpfMaterial. When LoadDdsIfAvailable us true, then the texture loader will check if there is a DDS file with the same name but dds file extension. In this case the DDS file will be loaded. Using dds files can greatly improve required load time and memory usage.
  • Added static CreateTexture2D method to WpfMaterial that creates a ShaderResourceView from the specified WPF BitmapSource.
  • Created OptimizedPointMesh class that can be used to show point cloud and can dynamically reduce the number of rendered positions to improve rendering performance.
  • Make CalculateCameraPlanes on DXScene public. The method calcualates zNear and zFar values for the specified camera.
  • Added ParentNodeChanged and ResourcesInitialized events to SceneNode.
  • Added ForegroundRenderingQueue to DXScene. This is a new rendering queue that is rendered after GeometryRenderingQueue but before TransparentRenderingQueue.
  • Set default values of ReadZBuffer and WriteZBuffer properties on PixelMaterial to true.
  • Removed ScreenSpaceLineNode constructors that takes both isPolyLine and LineMaterial as parameters - IsPolyLine values is now provided only by LineMaterial parameter (when it implements the IPolyLine interface).
  • Added CustomRenderableNode and CustomRenderablePrimitive. Those two SceneNode classes simplify using custom rendering logic to render 3D objects with providing a callback method that is called to render the 3D object (used can call Draw calls on DirectX device in the callback method).
  • Added DXAttribute OnSceneNodeCreatedAction. Its value can be set to a callback method defined by an Action<SceneNode>. The callback method is called after a SceneNode is created from the WPF object.
  • Added DXAttribute OnDXResourcesInitializedAction. Its value can be set to a callback method defined by an Action<object>. The callback method is called after the specified DXEngine's resource is initialized and DirectX resource objects are created.
  • Fixed problems when color from PixelEffect is used to render 3D lines instead of the color defined in the LineColor property (and vice-versa).
  • Added dpiX and dpiY parameters to DXView.RenderToBitmap method (they default to 96 but can be changed by the user).

Breaking changes:

  • Renamed Ab3d.DirectX.ContexStatesManager class to Ab3d.DirectX.ContextStatesManager to fix spelling of the class.

Apart from samples that demonstrate new functionality the following samples are also added or improved:

  • Added BackgroundObjectsCreation sample that shows how it is possible to initialize 3D objects on the background thread so that when they are shown the UI thread is not blocked for a longer time.
  • Added Frustum culling sample. The sample shows how to determine which 3D objects are visible in the camera view. 
  • Improved WinForms sample to show how to use DXViewportView in WinForms with SharpDX.RenderForm. Using DXViewportView in WinForms application allows easy conversion of samples from Ab3d.DXEngine and Ab3d.PowerToys to WinForms application.

 

Ab3d.PowerToys v8.1

  • Added MiterLimit property to PolyLineVisual3D, MultiPolyLineVisual3D, RectangleVisual3D and LineArcVisual3D (all lines derived from BasePolyLineVisual3D). The MiterLimit value specifies when the mitered line joint is changed into beveled line joint.
  • Added support to read 3D lines from obj files with ReaderObj. Before lines can be read, the ReaderObj.ParentModelVisual3D property must be set. Lines color is get from material's diffuse color (or ReaderObj.DefaultMaterial). Line thickness is always set to 1.
  • Improved XInputCameraController when to continuously move up or down when the DPad buttons are pressed and when MoveVerticallyWithDPadButtons is true  (before user needed to release the button and press again)
  • Added support for ModelUIElement3D objects when calling ModelUtils.GetBounds and ModelIterator.IterateGeometryModel3DObjects methods
  • Added CurrentFrameNumber property to AnimationController
  • Changed type used for FrameNumber in animation classes from int to double.
  • Fixed Ab3d.Utilities.Dumper.GetMatrix3DText to correctly use the specified indentText and newlineText
  • Added static FormatMatricesHorizontally method to Ab3d.Utilities.Dumper class
  • Fixed Camera.GetMousePositionOnPlane method when using OrthographicCamera and when camera's Offset is not zero (Offset is changed when camera is moved).
  • Added a new constructor to Ab3d.Utilities.Plane class that takes a position on a plane and plane's normal.
  • Added GetClosestPointOnPlane method to Ab3d.Utilities.Plane class
  • Added GetPerspectiveScreenSize, GetOrthographicScreenSize, GetPerspectiveWorldSize and GetOrthographicWorldSize to Ab3d.Utilities.CameraUtils
  • Added GetWorldSize and GetScreenSize to BaseCamera
  • Added static bool ImmediatelyLoadTextureFiles field to MaterialTypeConverter to control how the BitmapImages are created (can prevent locking the read file because file is in use). See comments for the field for more info.
  • Line3DFactory.CreatePolyLine3D method was renamed into Line3DFactory.CreateMultiPolyLine3D for those overrides that takes a List of Point3DCollection objects
  • Added protected OnMouseMove, OnMouseButtonUp, OnMouseButtonDown and OnMouseWheel to MouseCameraController. This make it possible to use MouseCameraController in WinForms application (with SharpDX.RenderForm).
  • Improved performance of calling AlignWithCamera on TextBlockVisual3D

Breaking changes:

  • Changed Ab3d.Utilities.Plane class to use a more standard a*x + b*y + c*z + d = 0 equation instead of a*x + b*y + c*z = d. If you are creating Plane object with a, b, c and d parameters, then you will need to flip the sign of the d parameter.

Assimp:

  • Added support to read bones and skeleton information.
  • Added support to play keyframe and skeletal animation (use Ab3d.Assimp.AssimpAnimationController that is defined in Assimp folder in main Ab3d.PowerToys samples project).
  • Set name of the created WPF materials from names defined in the file. The material's name can be read with material.GetName extension method (defined in Ab3d namespace).
  • Added GetAssimpMeshForGeometryModel3D, GetWpfMaterialForAssimpMaterial and GetAssimpMaterialForWpfMaterial to AssimpWpfConverter.

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Ab3d.PowerToys | DXEngine

Model Boolean operations, improved camera control and many other new features in new major version of Ab3d.PowerToys

by abenedik 4. August 2017 20:41

I am happy to announce that a major new version of Ab3d.PowerToys and a new version of Ab3d.DXEngine have been released today. 

This is by far the biggest update in the history of Ab3d.PowerToys library. It brings many great new features and improvements. The following are some of the main new features:

  • added support to rotate camera around selected 3D position (or around 3D position behind mouse cursor),
  • added zoom to mouse position or custom 3D position,
  • added support for controlling camera with 3D mouse (from 3dconnexion) or game controller,
  • added slice tool to cut 3D models with a plane,
  • added Boolean operations for 3D models,
  • added support for keyframe camera and object animations,
  • added TextBlockVisual3D to easily show text with border on a 3D plane,
  • added support for showing object edge lines instead of triangle wireframe.

 

Let’s describe those features with more details and with some screenshots.

The following image shows a screenshot from a sample that demonstrates camera rotation around custom position:

 

In the previous version of Ab3d.PowerToys it was only possible to rotate around the Viewport3D’s center position. Zooming in and out was also possible only to the center position. With the new version it is very easy to specify custom rotation and zooming position. It is also possible to rotate around or zoom into the position under the mouse cursor. As you can see from the image, it is also possible to show a marker that shows around which position the cameras is rotated. This marker can be fully customized.

Good camera control is at the heart of a good user experience. And to make the camera control great for even the most demanding users, it is now possible to add support for 3D mouse from 3DConnexion. This allows experienced users to be much more productive and to control the camera in the best possible way.

Ab3d.PowerToys now includes two new very powerful utilities to manipulate 3D models.

The first new utility allows slicing 3D models into 2 parts with specifying a custom slice plane. The following image shows a simple robot arm model that was sliced with this tool:

 

Another utility allows creating 3D models with using Boolean operations on 3D models. The following screenshot shows the available operations and their results:

 

The next screenshot shows two sample models created with subtracting various models from a box model:

 

The right object also shows texture on a 3D model. The texture coordinates for that model were calculated with new texture generation algorithms – in this sample a cubic projection was used.

The previous image also shows another new feature of the new library – showing text with border on a 3D plane model. For example the “Subtract” text was created with the following XAML:

<visuals:TextBlockVisual3D Position="-150 -45 100" PositionType="Center"
                           Text="Subtract" Foreground="Yellow" Background="Black" 
                           BorderBrush="White" BorderThickness="1" TextPadding="5 3"
                           Size="80 30" UpDirection="0 0.3 -1"/>

Showing 3D text is now really very easy. The TextBlockVisual3D object provides many options to customize the look of the text and the border. The following image shows a screenshot from a sample that shows usage of many of the TextBlockVisual3D properties: 

 

The new version also adds great support for camera and model animations. This allows creating nice camera transitions from one view to another.

To improve support for CAD like applications, the new version adds support for showing object edge lines. When object wireframe was shown in previous version, it always showed 3D lines for the triangles that define the 3D models. In the new version it is possible to show only 3D lines on the edges of objects. This shows a much better representation of the object to the user. Edge lines support is added to all standard 3D models from the library and also to ReaderObj and Assimp library so the imported 3D models can be also shown with edge lines (if the 3D file format support polygons and not only triangles). The following image shows standard 3D models with edge lines:

 

The samples project has also been improved. It has many very interesting new samples. For example one shows how to create billboards – rectangles with text or images that are always oriented towards the camera. The other shows how to select 3D lines with moving the mouse close to the line (not onto the lines which can be problematic in case of thin lines). 

Also note the NEW and UP icons in the list of samples for new and updated samples. To get a better understanding of the sample, check the sample description and comments in code behind.

There are also many other new features, improvement and bug fixes. For a full list of changes see the version history web page.

 

Some of the new features of Ab3d.PowerToys also require an updated Ab3d.DXEngine. If you want to get full hardware accelerated rendering of edge lines, then you need a new version of Ab3d.DXEngine. 

The new version can also improve sharpness of rendered 3D scene with setting UseLayoutRounding property on DXViewportView to true. This should prevent putting the rendered image to sub-pixel boundaries.

Another change in the new version Ab3d.DXEngine is that it now uses the latest version of SharpDX library – version 4.0.1. This also means that you will need to update the references to SharpDX. You can use the one from NuGet or the dll-s that are supplied with Ab3d.DXEngine. In case you used version 2.6.3 before, you will also need to add reference to SharpDX.Mathematics assembly.

 

I really hope that the versions of the libraries will serve you well and allow you to easily add great new features to your applications that will amaze your customers.

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Ab3d.PowerToys | DXEngine