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WebGL2 Matrix Naming

This post is a continuation of a series of posts about WebGL. The first started with fundamentals and the previous was about 3d cameras.

As the entire site has pointed out pretty much everything about WebGL is 100% up to you. Except for a few pre-defined names like gl_Position almost everything about WebGL is defined by you, the programmer.

That said there are some common or semi-common naming conventions. Especially when related to matrices. I don't know who first game up with these names. I think I learned them from NVidia's Standard Annotations and Semantics. That's a little more formal as it was a way to try to make shaders work in more situations by deciding on specific names. It's kind of out of date but the basics are still around.

Here's the list from my head

  • world matrix (or sometimes model matrix)

    a matrix that takes the vertices of a model and moves them to world space

  • camera matrix

    a matrix that positions the camera in the world. Another way of saying that is it's the world matrix for the camera.

  • view matrix

    a matrix that moves everything else in the world in front of the camera. This is the inverse of the camera matrix.

  • projection matrix

    a matrix that converts a frustum of space into clip space or some orthographic space into clip space. Another way of thinking about this is it's the matrix returned by your matrix math library's perspective and/or ortho or orthographic function.

  • local matrix

    when using a scene graph the local matrix is the matrix at any particular node on the graph before multiplying with any other nodes.

If a shader needs a combination of these they are usually listed right to left even though in the shader they'd be multiplied on the right. For example:

worldViewProjection = projection * view * world

The other two common things to do with a matrix are to take the inverse

viewMatrix = inverse(cameraMatrix)

And to transpose

worldInverseTranspose = transpose(inverse(world))

Hopefully knowing these terms you can look at someone else's shader and if you're lucky they used names that are close to or similar to these ones. Then you can hopefully derive what those shaders are actually doing.

Now let's learn about animation next.

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