Chapter 3

Chapter Objectives

After reading this chapter, you'll be able to do the following:

  • View a geometric model in any orientation by transforming it in three-dimensional space
  • Control the location in three-dimensional space from which the model is viewed
  • Clip undesired portions of the model out of the scene that's to be viewed
  • Manipulate the appropriate matrix stacks that control model transformation for viewing and project the model onto the screen
  • Combine multiple transformations to mimic sophisticated systems in motion, such as a solar system or an articulated robot arm
  • Reverse or mimic the operations of the geometric processing pipeline

Chapter 2 explained how to instruct OpenGL to draw the geometric models you want displayed in your scene. Now you must decide how you want to position the models in the scene, and you must choose a vantage point from which to view the scene. You can use the default positioning and vantage point, but most likely you want to specify them.

Look at the image on the cover of this book. The program that produced that image contained a single geometric description of a building block. Each block was carefully positioned in the scene: Some blocks were scattered on the floor, some were stacked on top of each other on the table, and some were assembled to make the globe. Also, a particular viewpoint had to be chosen. Obviously, we wanted to look at the corner of the room containing the globe. But how far away from the scene - and where exactly - should the viewer be? We wanted to make sure that the final image of the scene contained a good view out the window, that a portion of the floor was visible, and that all the objects in the scene were not only visible but presented in an interesting arrangement. This chapter explains how to use OpenGL to accomplish these tasks: how to position and orient models in three-dimensional space and how to establish the location - also in three-dimensional space - of the viewpoint. All of these factors help determine exactly what image appears on the screen.

You want to remember that the point of computer graphics is to create a two-dimensional image of three-dimensional objects (it has to be two-dimensional because it's drawn on a flat screen), but you need to think in three-dimensional coordinates while making many of the decisions that determine what gets drawn on the screen. A common mistake people make when creating three-dimensional graphics is to start thinking too soon that the final image appears on a flat, two-dimensional screen. Avoid thinking about which pixels need to be drawn, and instead try to visualize three-dimensional space. Create your models in some three-dimensional universe that lies deep inside your computer, and let the computer do its job of calculating which pixels to color.

A series of three computer operations convert an object's three-dimensional coordinates to pixel positions on the screen.

  • Transformations, which are represented by matrix multiplication, include modeling, viewing, and projection operations. Such operations include rotation, translation, scaling, reflecting, orthographic projection, and perspective projection. Generally, you use a combination of several transformations to draw a scene.
  • Since the scene is rendered on a rectangular window, objects (or parts of objects) that lie outside the window must be clipped. In three-dimensional computer graphics, clipping occurs by throwing out objects on one side of a clipping plane.
  • Finally, a correspondence must be established between the transformed coordinates and screen pixels. This is known as a viewport transformation.

This chapter describes all of these operations, and how to control them, in the following major sections:

  • "Overview: The Camera Analogy" gives an overview of the transformation process by describing the analogy of taking a photograph with a camera, presents a simple example program that transforms an object, and briefly describes the basic OpenGL transformation commands.
  • "Viewing and Modeling Transformations" explains in detail how to specify and to imagine the effect of viewing and modeling transformations. These transformations orient the model and the camera relative to each other to obtain the desired final image.
  • "Projection Transformations" describes how to specify the shape and orientation of the viewing volume. The viewing volume determines how a scene is projected onto the screen (with a perspective or orthographic projection) and which objects or parts of objects are clipped out of the scene.
  • "Viewport Transformation" explains how to control the conversion of three-dimensional model coordinates to screen coordinates.
  • "Troubleshooting Transformations" presents some tips for discovering why you might not be getting the desired effect from your modeling, viewing, projection, and viewport transformations.
  • "Manipulating the Matrix Stacks" discusses how to save and restore certain transformations. This is particularly useful when you're drawing complicated objects that are built up from simpler ones.
  • "Additional Clipping Planes" describes how to specify additional clipping planes beyond those defined by the viewing volume.
  • "Examples of Composing Several Transformations" walks you through a couple of more complicated uses for transformations.
  • "Reversing or Mimicking Transformations" shows you how to take a transformed point in window coordinates and reverse the transformation to obtain its original object coordinates. The transformation itself (without reversal) can also be emulated