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Chapter 5

Three.js: A 3D Scene Graph API

Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 introduced 3D graphics using OpenGL 1.1. Most of the ideas covered in those chapters remain relevant to modern computer graphics, but there have been many changes and improvements since the early days of OpenGL. In the remaining chapters, we will be using WebGL, a modern version of OpenGL that is used to create 3D graphics content for web pages.

WebGL is a low level language—even more so than OpenGL 1.1, since a WebGL program has to handle a lot of the low-level implementation details that were handled internally in the original version of OpenGL. This makes WebGL much more flexible, but more difficult to use. We will soon turn to working directly with WebGL. However, before we do that, we will look at a higher-level API for 3D web graphics that is built on top of WegGL: three.js. There are several reasons for starting at this high level. It will allow you to see how some of the things that you have learned are used in a modern graphics package. It will allow me to introduce some new features such as shadows and environment mapping. It will let you work with a graphics library that you might use in real web applications. And it will be a break from the low-level detail we have been dealing with, before we move on to an even lower level.

You can probably follow much of the discussion in this chapter without knowing JavaScript. However, if you want to do any programming with three.js (or with WebGL), you need to know JavaScript. The basics of the language are covered in Section A.3 in Appendix A.

Contents of Chapter 5:

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