Practical and Robust Stenciled Shadow Volumes for Hardware-Accelerated Rendering

Cass Everitt, Mark J. Kilgard
NVIDIA Corporation
arXiv:cs/0301002 [cs.GR] (6 Jan 2003)


   author={Everitt}, C. and {Kilgard}, M.~J.},

   title={“{Practical and Robust Stenciled Shadow Volumes for Hardware-Accelerated Rendering}”},

   journal={ArXiv Computer Science e-prints},


   keywords={Computer Science – Graphics, Computer Science – Computational Geometry, I.3.6, I.3.1},




   adsnote={Provided by the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System}


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Twenty-five years ago, Crow published the shadow volume approach for determining shadowed regions in a scene. A decade ago, Heidmann described a hardware-accelerated stencil buffer-based shadow volume algorithm. Unfortunately hardware-accelerated stenciled shadow volume techniques have not been widely adopted by 3D games and applications due in large part to the lack of robustness of described techniques. This situation persists despite widely available hardware support. Specifically what has been lacking is a technique that robustly handles various “hard” situations created by near or far plane clipping of shadow volumes. We describe a robust, artifact-free technique for hardware-accelerated rendering of stenciled shadow volumes. Assuming existing hardware, we resolve the issues otherwise caused by shadow volume near and far plane clipping through a combination of (1) placing the conventional far clip plane “at infinity”, (2) rasterization with infinite shadow volume polygons via homogeneous coordinates, and (3) adopting a zfail stencil-testing scheme. Depth clamping, a new rasterization feature provided by NVIDIA’s GeForce3, preserves existing depth precision by not requiring the far plane to be placed at infinity. We also propose two-sided stencil testing to improve the efficiency of rendering stenciled shadow volumes.
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