Integrating Oodle Texture in your Engine

Oodle Texture RDO should integrate into your engine very easily. It just replaces the BCN encoder you were using previously, and you magically get BC1-7 textures that compress much smaller. There are a couple issues you may wish to consider which I'll talk about here.

(Integrating BC7Prep is rather different; see BC7Prep data flow here. Essentially BC7Prep will integrate like a compressor, you ship the runtime with a decompressor; it doesn't actually make texture data but rather something you can unpack into a texture. BC7Prep is not actually a compressor, it relies on your back-end compressor (Kraken or zip/deflate typically), but it integrates as if it was.)

Caching output for speed and patches

You may wish to cache the output of Oodle Texture BCN encoding, and reuse it when the source content hasn't changed, rather than regenerate it.

One reason is for speed of iteration; most likely you already have this system in some form so that artists can run levels without rebaking to BCN all the time. Perhaps you'd like to have a two-stage cache; a local cache on each person's machine, and also a baked content server that they can fetch from so they don't rebake locally when they encounter new levels.

Oodle Texture RDO encodes can be slow. You wouldn't like to have to rebake all the BCN textures in a level on a regular basis. We will be speeding it up in future versions and probably adding faster (lower quality) modes for quicker iteration, but it will never be realtime.

Caching can also be used to reduce unnecessary patch generation.

Oodle Texture guarantees deterministic output. That is, the same input on the same version of Oodle Texture, on the same platform, with the same options will make the same output. So you might think you can rely on there being no binary diff in the generated output to avoid patches.

The problem with that idea is it locks you into a specific version of Oodle Texture. This is a brand new product and it's not a good idea to assume that you will never have to update to a new version. Newer versions *will* make different output as we improve the algorithms. Relying on there being no binary diff to avoid making patches means never taking updates of Oodle Texture from RAD. While it is possible you could get away with this, it's very risky. It has the potential of leaving you in a situation where you are unable to update to a better new version because it would generate too many binary diffs and cause lots of patching.

It's much safer to make your patches not change if the source content hasn't changed. If the source art and options are the same, use the same cached BCN.

With these considerations, the cache should be indexed by : a hash of the source art bits (perhaps Meow hash ; not the file name and mod time), the options used (such as the lambda level), but NOT the Oodle Texture version.

Lambda for texture types depends on your usage context

It's worth thinking a bit about how your want to expose lambda to control quality for your artists. Just exposing direct control of the lambda value per texture is probably not the right way. A few issues to consider :

You should make it possible to tweak lambda across the board at a later date. It's very common to not know your size target until very late in development. Perhaps only a month before ship you see your game is 9 GB and you'd like to hit 8 GB. You can do that very easily if you have a global multiplier to scale lambdas. What you don't want is to have lots of hard-coded lambda values associated with individual textures.

We try to make "lambda" have the same approximate meaning in terms of visual quality across various texture types, but we can only see how that affects error in the texels, not in how they are shown on screen. Transformations that happen in your shader can affect how important the errors are, and lambda should be scaled appropriately.

For example say you have some type of maps that use a funny shader :

fetch rgb
color *= 2
in that case, texel errors in the map are actually twice as important as we think. So if you were using lambda=40 for standard diffuse textures, you should use lambda=20 for these funny textures.

Now doubling the color is obviously silly, but that is effectively what you do with maps that become more important on screen.

Probably the most intuitive and well known example is normal maps. Normal maps can sometimes massively scale up errors from texel to screen, it depends on how they are used. If you only do diffuse lighting in smooth lighting environments, then normal map errors can be quite mild, standard lambda scaling might be fine. But in other situations, for example if you did environment map reflections with very sharp contrast (class case is like a rotating car with a "chrome" map) then any errors in normals become massively magnified and you will want very little error indeed.

(note that even in the "very little error" case you should still use Oodle Texture RDO, just set lambda to 1 for near lossless encoding; this can still save quite a lot of size with no distortion penalty; for maximum quality you should almost always still be doing RDO in near-lossless mode, not turning it off)

We (RAD) can't just say that "normal maps should always be at 1/2 the lambda of diffuse maps". It really depends on how you're using them, how high contrast the specular lighting is. What really matters is the error in the final image on screen, but what we measure is the error level in the texture; the ratio of the two is how you should multiply lambda :

lambda multiplier = (texture error) / (screen error)

This kind of error magnification depends mainly on the type of map (normals, AO, gloss, metalness, translucency, etc.) and how your engine interprets them. If we think of diffuse albedo as the baseline, the other maps will have errors that are 75% or 200% or whatever the importance, and lambda should be scaled accordingly.

I suggest that you should have a lambda scaling per type of map. This should not be set per texture by artists, but should be set by the shader programmer or tech artists that know how maps feed the rendering pipeline.

In the end, the way you should tweak the map-type lambda scaling is by looking at how the errors come out on the screen in the final rendered image, not by looking at the errors in the texture itself. The transformations you do between texel fetch and screen effect how much those texel errors are visible.

Aside from the per-map-type lambda scaling, you probably want to provide artists with a per-texture override. I would encourage this to be used as little as possible. You don't want artists going through scaling every lambda because they don't like the default, rather get them to change the default. This should be used for cases where almost all the textures look great but we want to tweak a few.

Per-texture scaling can be used to tweak for things that are outside the scope of what we can see inside the texture. For example if the texture is used on the player's weapons so it's right in your face all the time, perhaps you'd like it higher quality. Another common case is human faces are much more sensitive to the human observer, so you might want them to be at higher quality.

I think a good way to expose per-texture scaling is as a percentage of the global map-type lambda. eg. you expose a default of 100% = a 1.0 multiplier, artists can slide that to 50% or 200% to get 0.5 or 2.0x the map-type lambda. So perhaps you set something up like :

global map type default lambdas :

diffuse/albedo lambda = 30
normal maps lambda = 10
AO lambda = 30
roughness lambda = 40

then an artist takes a specific normal map
because it's for a car, say
and slides the "rate reduction %" from "100%" down to "50%"

so it would get a lambda of 5

then late in dev you decide you want everything to be globally a bit smaller
you can go through and tweak just the global map type lambdas and everything adjusts

Delay baking and format choices

It's best practice to delay baking and format choices until right before the BCN encode, and do all the earlier steps at maximum precision.

For example don't hard-code the BCN choice; some older engines specify BC1 for diffuse and "DXT5n" (BC3) for normals. Those are the not the formats you want in most modern games, you probably want BC7 for diffuse and BC5 for normals. It's probably best in your tools to not directly expose the BSN choice to artists, but rather just the texture type and let your baker choose the format.

Oodle Texture is designed to be a very low level lib; we don't do a lot of texture processing for you, we only do the final RGB -> BCN encode step. We assume you will have a baker layer that's just above Oodle Texture that does things like mip maps and format conversions.

Normal maps require special care. If possible they should be kept at maximum precision all the way through the pipeline (from whatever tool that made them up to the Oodle Texture encode). If they come out of geometry normals as F32 float, just keep them that way, don't quantize down to U8 color maps early. You may decide later that you want to process them with something like a semi-octahedral encoding, and to do that you should feed them with full precision input, not quantized U8 values that have large steps. 16 bit maps also have plenty of precision, but with 16 bit integers ensure you are using a valid quantizer (restore to center of quantizer bucket), and the correct normalization (eg. signed float -1.0 to 1.0 should correspond to S16 -32767 to 32767 , -32768 unused). Our BC4/5 encoders are best fed S16 or U16 input.

Delaying quantization to a specific type of int map lets you choose the best way to feed the BCN encoder.

In the Oodle Texture SDK help there's an extensive discussion in the "Texture Mastering Guide" on choosing which BC1-7 and some tips on preparing textures for BCN.

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