Vertex Shader

The GPU rendering pipeline is split into programmable stages (vertex and fragment shaders) and hard-wired stages (“primitive assembler & rasterizer” and “output merger”).

Figure: Stages of the GPU rendering pipeline

Stages of the GPU rendering pipeline

You have to provide programs for the vertex and fragment shaders. Without them, OpenGL® ES cannot draw anything. The vertex shader operates on every vertex stored in the vertex array and performs various operations. The essential among them is applying a series of transforms to the vertices.

Figure: Spaces and transforms for vertex shader

Spaces and transforms for vertex shader

Object Space, World Space, and World Transform

Whereas the coordinate system used for creating an object is named object space, the virtual world containing all required objects is associated with the world space. The size, position, and orientation of an object in the world space are determined by what is called world transform. (OpenGL® ES calls this model transform.) Its main components are scaling, translation, and rotation. A distinct object has its own world transform. The following figure shows a world-transform example.

In the world space, many objects can exist. Among them, consider a teapot. In this example, its world transform is the combination of “rotation about the Y axis by 90 degrees” and “translation along the X axis by 7 units”.

Figure: Transformation of a teapot object

Transformation of a teapot object

View Space and View Transform

To capture the world, a virtual eye or camera is defined in the world space with 3 parameters:

  • EYE: eye position
  • AT: reference point which the eye looks at
  • UP: view up vector describing where the top of the eye points

The following figure shows how to create a new space, {EYE, u, v, n}, called view space.

Figure: Computing the view space

Computing the view space

There are 2 coordinate systems, world space and view space. Note that a point is given different coordinates in different spaces. Suppose that, as shown in the following figure, AT is located at the teapot’s mouth end (10,2,0) and EYE is at (18,8,0). Then, the teapot’s mouth end has the view-space coordinates (0,0,-10) whereas its world-space coordinates are (10,2,0).

The red dot is on the end of the teapot’s mouth. It has been taken as AT and so its u and v coordinates are 0. If EYE is located at (18,8,0), the distance between EYE and AT is 10 and so the red dot’s n coordinate is -10.

Figure: Different coordinates in different spaces

Different coordinates in different spaces

It becomes much easier to develop the rendering algorithms if all the world-space objects are newly defined in terms of the view space in the manner of the teapot’s mouth end. This is done by the view transform, which is defined as a translation followed by a rotation. The following view matrix applies to all objects in the world space.

Figure: View matrix

View matrix

View Frustum and Projection Transform

Because the world space is no longer needed, denote the basis of the view space by {x, y, z} instead of {u, v, n} simply because {x, y, z} is more familiar. In the view space, define how much of the space to see. For this, give 4 parameters:

  • fovy which stands for the field of view along the Y axis
  • aspect for the field of view’s aspect ratio
  • n for the distance from EYE to the ‘near clipping plane’
  • f for the distance from EYE to the ‘far clipping plane’

This set of 4 parameters defines a truncated pyramid whose apex is located at EYE, as shown in the following figure. It is called view frustum.

Figure: View frustum

View frustum

In the figure above, the teapot intersects the view frustum. The part of the teapot outside the view frustum needs to be clipped so that only the remaining is processed for display. Transform the view frustum to an axis-aligned box, and the transform is applied to all vertices in the view space, performing clipping with respect to the box. The transform is called projection transform. The following figure shows the result of the projection transform. The box has the dimension of 23 and its center is located at the origin. The clip space is assumed to be a left-hand coordinate system by convention.

Figure: Projection transform Mproj from the view space to the clip space

Projection transform from the view space to the clip space

The projection matrix is defined using the view frustum parameters, fovy, aspect, n, and f, as shown in the following figure.

Figure: Projection matrix

Projection matrix

Vertex Shader Input and Output

The vertex shader runs for each vertex of the polygon mesh. Its main inputs are attributes and uniforms:

  • Attributes: Per-vertex data provided in a vertex array
  • Uniforms: Read-only values, such as the transform matrix, to be uniformly applied to the vertices

Figure: Input and output of the vertex shader

Input and output of the vertex shader

The following code shows an example vertex shader. The shader language is C-like but provides specialized types. For example, mat4 is a 4x4 matrix and vec3 is a 3D vector. The following vertex shader example has 5 input values: viewProjMat and worldMat are ‘uniforms’ described by the keyword uniform, whereas position, normal, and texCoord are ‘attributes’ described by the keyword attribute.

uniform mat4 viewProjMat; /* 4x4 matrix for view + projection transforms */
uniform mat4 worldMat; /* 4x4 matrix for world transform */

attribute vec3 position;
attribute vec3 normal;
attribute vec2 texCoord;

varying vec3 v_normal;
varying vec2 v_texCoord;

    gl_Position = viewProjMat * worldMat * vec4(position, 1.0);
    v_normal = mat3(worldMat) * normal;
    v_texCoord = texCoord;

The output of the vertex shader must include the built-in variable, gl_Position, which stores the clip-space vertex position. This is the only required output of the vertex shader. Optional output variables are described with the keyword varying. The output usually includes vertex normal and texture coordinates. In the above example, the object-space vertex normal is transformed to the world space and output to v_normal. On the other hand, the texture coordinates, texCoord, is simply copied to v_texCoord.

Shader and Program Objects

Using a vertex or fragment shader stored in a file, create a shader object:

  1. Load its source code into the OpenGL® ES program.
  2. Create a new shader object using the glCreateShader() function, which takes either the GL_VERTEX_SHADER or GL_FRAGMENT_SHADER attribute and returns the ID of the shader object.
  3. Store the source code into the shader object using the glShaderSource() function with the vertex or fragment shader’s source code and the shader object ID.
  4. Compile the shader object using the glCompileShader() function.

Using the shader objects, create the program object:

  1. Use the glCreateProgram() function, which takes no parameters and simply returns the ID of a new program object.
  2. Give the shader and program object IDs to the glAttachShader() function, which attaches the shader object to the program object.
  3. Link the program object using the glLinkProgram() function.
  4. Invoke the glUseProgram() function to use the program object for rendering.

Uniforms and Attributes in OpenGL® ES

Consider a dynamic environment, where the scene objects continuously move. In the example vertex shader, worldMat must be updated per frame. On the other hand, viewProjMat must be updated if the eye moves. The OpenGL® ES program must update and provide them for the vertex shader. For this purpose, first find the uniform locations that have been determined during the link phase. Given a uniform name in the shader, the glGetUniformLocation() function returns its location (denoted by an integer) in the program.

/* mProgram denotes the program object */
GLint mWHandle = glGetUniformLocation(mProgram, "worldMat")

Then, use the glUniformMatrix4fv() function to load the uniform with the updated matrix, worldMat. A list of functions for loading various uniforms is available and is collectively named glUniformXXX(), representing a set of variations including the glUniform3f() and glUniformMatrix4x3fv() functions.

Next, consider the attributes.

The vertex and index arrays for a polygon mesh are stored in the CPU memory, which is often called client memory. For rendering a mesh, make a drawcall. For every drawcall, the arrays have to be ‘copied’ from the client memory to the GPU memory.

Instead of resending the arrays every time a mesh is drawn, a more efficient way is to cache the data in the GPU memory. The arrays are transferred only once, and the rendering is done from the GPU memory cache. To achieve this, use vertex buffer objects (VBO).

There are 2 types of buffer objects in OpenGL® ES:

  • Array buffer object represents the vertex array and is specified by GL_ARRAY_BUFFER.
  • Element array buffer object represents the index array and is specified by GL_ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER.

To create and bind VBOs:

  1. Use the glGenBuffers() function to ask for n buffer objects and receive them in buffers. In general, n is 2: one for vertices and the other for indices.
  2. Use the glBindBuffer() function, where the first parameter is either GL_ARRAY_BUFFER or GL_ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER. This specifies what the buffer is used for. The glBindBuffer() function call creates a VBO.
  3. The buffer object is filled with data using the glBufferData() function, where the first parameter is either GL_ARRAY_BUFFER or GL_ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER and the third parameter points to the vertex or index array.

The OpenGL® ES program shown in the following example creates 2 VBOs:

glGenBuffers(2, &VBO);
glBindBuffer(GL_ARRAY_BUFFER, /* Target */
             VBO[0]); /* Buffer */
glBufferData(GL_ARRAY_BUFFER, /* Target */
             sizeof(vertices), /* Size */
             vertices, /* Data */
             GL_STATIC_DRAW); /* Usage */

glBufferData(GL_ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER, sizeof(indices),
             indices, GL_STATIC_DRAW));

The vertex array is often described as an “array of structures”, where a structure contains a set of attributes: position, normal, and texCoord in the example shader.

Figure: Array of vertex structures

Array of vertex structures

Such a structure must be presented to the shader. For this purpose, the OpenGL® ES program first invokes the glEnableVertexAttribArray() function to enable each parameter. After that, the glVertexAttribPointer() function is called. In this function, the first parameter denotes the parameter index, the second specifies the number (1, 2, 3, or 4) of components per parameter, fifth specifies the byte distance between the consecutive parameters of the same kind, and the sixth points to the first occurrence of the parameter in bytes. The OpenGL® ES program shown in the following example details position, normal, and texCoord parameters.

int stride = sizeof(VertexStruct); /* VertexStruct with 3 attributes */
int offset = 0;

/* Position attribute */
glEnableVertexAttribArray(0); /* Position index = 0 */
glVertexAttribPointer(0, /* Index */
                      3, /* Size */
                      GL_FLOAT, /* Type */
                      GL_FALSE, stride, (GLvoid*)offset);

offset += sizeof(vec3); /* For accessing normal */
glEnableVertexAttribArray(1); /* Normal index = 1 */
glVertexAttribPointer(1, 3, GL_FLOAT, GL_FALSE, stride, (GLvoid*)offset);

offset += sizeof(vec3); /* For accessing texCoord */
glEnableVertexAttribArray(2); /* texCoord index = 2 */
glVertexAttribPointer(2, 2, GL_FLOAT, GL_FALSE, stride, (GLvoid*)offset);


All parameters and uniforms are now available. If you have a good fragment shader, you can draw a polygon mesh. For rendering a polygon mesh, you can make a drawcall. There are 2 options:

  • glDrawArrays() for non-indexed mesh representation
  • glDrawElements() for indexed mesh representation

Assuming that you have only the vertex array for the low-resolution sphere, the glDrawArrays() function is invoked. In the following example, the first parameter specifies what kind of primitives to render. Valid values include, for example, GL_POINTS, GL_LINES, GL_TRIANGLES, and GL_TRIANGLE_FAN. The second parameter specifies the starting index “in the vertex array”. The last parameter specifies the number of vertices to be drawn.

glDrawArrays(GL_TRIANGLES, /* Mode */
             0, /* First */
             144); /* Count */

When you have both the vertex array and index array, the glDrawElements() function is invoked. The first parameter is the same as in the glDrawArrays() function. The second parameter specifies the number of elements “in the index array”. The third parameter specifies the type of the values in the indices. It must be GL_UNSIGNED_BYTE or GL_UNSIGNED_SHORT. The last parameter points to the offset in bytes into the storage allocated by the glBufferData() function.

glDrawElements(GL_TRIANGLES, /* Mode */
               144, /* Count */
               GL_UNSIGNED_SHORT, /* Type */
               0); /* Indices */

GLView Example

The following example code presents how to use OpenGL® ES APIs in the callbacks of the GLView. In the init_glview() callback function, compile and link the shaders, and create VBOs.

/* OpenGL ES initialization callback */
static void
init_glview(Evas_Object *glview)
    /* Set OpenGL ES state color to black */
    glClearColor(0.0f, 0.0f, 0.0f, 1.0f);

    appdata_s *ad = (appdata_s *)evas_object_data_get(glview, "ad");

    if (!ad->initialized) {
        init_shader_program(ad); /* Compile and link shader */
        create_vbo(ad); /* Create vertex buffer object */
        ad->texture = create_texture(ad->win, "tizen_noalpha.png");

        ad->initialized = EINA_TRUE;

    /* Initialize application variables */

static void
init_shader_program(appdata_s *ad)
    const char *p;

    p = vertex_tex_shader;
    ad->vtx_shader = glCreateShader(GL_VERTEX_SHADER);
    glShaderSource(ad->vtx_shader, 1, &p, NULL);

    p = fragment_tex_shader;
    ad->fgmt_shader = glCreateShader(GL_FRAGMENT_SHADER);
    glShaderSource(ad->fgmt_shader, 1, &p, NULL);

    ad->program = glCreateProgram();
    glAttachShader(ad->program, ad->vtx_shader);
    glAttachShader(ad->program, ad->fgmt_shader);


    ad->idx_a_position = glGetAttribLocation(ad->program, "a_position");
    ad->idx_a_tex = glGetAttribLocation(ad->program, "a_tex");

    ad->idx_wvp = glGetUniformLocation(ad->program, "u_wvpMatrix");
    ad->idx_tex = glGetUniformLocation(ad->program, "u_texSampler");


static void
create_vbo(appdata_s *ad)
    glGenBuffers(1, &ad->vbo_vertex);
    glGenBuffers(1, &ad->vbo_color);
    glGenBuffers(1, &ad->vbo_texture);

    glBindBuffer(GL_ARRAY_BUFFER, ad->vbo_vertex);
    glBufferData(GL_ARRAY_BUFFER, sizeof(cube_vertices), cube_vertices,
    glVertexAttribPointer(ad->idx_a_position, 3, GL_FLOAT, GL_FALSE,
                          3 * sizeof(float), 0);

    glBindBuffer(GL_ARRAY_BUFFER, ad->vbo_texture);
    glBufferData(GL_ARRAY_BUFFER, sizeof(cube_texs), cube_texs,
    glVertexAttribPointer(ad->idx_a_tex, 2, GL_FLOAT, GL_FALSE,
                          2 * sizeof(float), 0);


    glGenBuffers(1, &ad->vbo_index);
    glBindBuffer(GL_ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER, ad->vbo_index);
    glBufferData(GL_ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER, sizeof(cube_indices),
                 cube_indices, GL_STATIC_DRAW);

In the draw_glview() callback, calculate the world, view, and projection matrices and then pass the combined matrix to the vertex shader through the glUniformXXX() function. When all uniforms are passed to the shader, the OpenGL® ES drawcall is made.

/* OpenGL ES drawing callback */
static void
draw_glview(Evas_Object *glview)
    appdata_s *ad = (appdata_s *)evas_object_data_get(glview, "ad");
    float world[16], viewproj[16];
    float aspect;

    if (!ad)


    aspect = (float) ad->glview_w / (float) ad->glview_h;

    /* View matrix is the identity matrix */
    view_set_perspective(viewproj, 60.0f, aspect, 1.0f, 20.0f);

    translate_xyz(world, 0.0f, 0.0f, -2.5f);
    rotate_xyz(world, ad->xangle, ad->yangle, 0.0f);

    multiply_matrix(ad->wvp, viewproj, world);


    glUniformMatrix4fv(ad->idx_wvp, 1, GL_FALSE, ad->wvp);

    glBindTexture(GL_TEXTURE_2D, ad->texture);
    glUniform1i(ad->idx_tex, 0);

    glDrawElements(GL_TRIANGLES, cube_indices_count, GL_UNSIGNED_SHORT, 0);

  • Dependencies
    • Tizen 2.4 and Higher for Mobile
    • Tizen 2.3.1 and Higher for Wearable