BOOK REVIEW: GPU Gems 3 Is Highly Developed


GPU Gems 3 cover

I do not work much with three-dimensional graphics—the only 3-D software I have any experience with is Strata 3D CX and I have no hands-on experience programming GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) graphics such as the ones you see in video games and physics simulations. However, I’ve just slogged my way through GPU Gems 3, the latest in the best-selling GPU Gems series, and found it to be an excellent book—thorough, well-designed, well-produced, and expertly written.

DESIGNED FOR HARD-CORE GPU PROGRAMMERS

This book is built to last. It sports a glossy hardcover and 950 pages, so it looks sharp and feels solid. It would be perfect as a university textbook, where wear and tear is commonplace. GPU Gems 3 is designed for heavy reading: chapters and sections are all numbered for easy reference, headings and code references are in unique typefaces and are therefore distinct from the body text, and there are quite a few illustrations throughout the book that are clear and match the accompanying content well. Some books I review have too many illustrations or not enough, or don’t use them well, but GPU Gems 3 does a good job.

DENSE CONTENT

Don’t expect to use this book to learn how to create GPU graphics—it takes a great deal of math and physics knowledge to understand what is going on in GPU Gems 3. Here’s a paragraph from page 325:

If a focused white laser light illuminates a surface and the total amount of light reflected back (considering every point on the surface) is less than (1, 1, 1) (that is, unit white light), then some of the light is absorbed by the surface. The total reflected amount, (r, g, b) , is the diffuse color of the material (or the total diffuse reflectance R subscript d). This can be computed for known diffusion profiles by integrating over all distances r > 0.

The rest of the book is full of mathematical equations, specialized terminology (“voxelization,” anyone?) and complex diagrams. GPU Gems 3 showcases the latest in GPU techniques and applications, so this stuff is not for beginners. I’m not even sure this book is for intermediate users. If you’re a GPU expert you will enjoy the book much more, because the techniques are cutting-edge and the contributors are top-notch (they come from companies like Adobe, Electronic Arts, Microsoft Research and NVIDIA as well as several universities).

GPU Gems 3 also comes with a DVD with chapter samples, application demos and other goodies. There are some GPU requirements of course (Shader Model 4.0-class or newer, some projects require other things like Microsoft Visual Studio, OpenGL and DirectX) but note that many demos are for Windows on a PC and some chapters don’t come with the full source code.

CONCLUSION

When I was first getting into Flash, one of the books that really got me excited was New Masters of Flash by New Riders. Some of the techniques were well over my head but they did things with Flash I had never seen before and made me curious and excited. GPU Gems 3 is a very similar book: developed and written for experts and hard-core graphics professionals, very well-written and well-designed but not for novices. If you fit the “GPU expert” definition and have the chops to back it up then this book will be a wonderful addition to your library. It’s not a cheap book but the quality construction, packed content and included DVD make it worth the money.

GPU Gems 3
Rating: 9/10

Published by Addison-Wesley Professional
Price $69.99