Variance shadow maps propose a way to soften shadow edges by allowing the use of standard filtering methods such as hardware linear interpolation and gaussian blur directly on shadow maps. The results are convincing and many options are available to tune the quality / performance ratio.

**Concept**

The variance shadow map technique have a statistical approach to shadow filtering. The problem is formulated this way: *For a given point with a depth z, what is the percentage of points in a filtered shadow map that have a depth superior or equal to this z*. The answer to this can be found with the Chebyshev inequality:

is the percentage of points that will fail the depth test.P()is the depth.xis the fixed depth we are comparing to. σ2 is the variance (the standard deviation squared).tµis the mean.

The first important observation is that we are considering our shadow map to be filtered so after the filtering the depth value will become the *mean***. **Now, we need to find how to retrieve the variance from a filtered shadow map. For this we need to remember that the variance can also be expressed as the *mean of squares* minus the *squared mean***.**

σ2 =E[x2]- µ2

Knowing this, if we store the *depth squared* into our shadow maps, this value will become the *mean of squares *after filtering. Now that we know how to get all the terms needed for this inequation let’s see how the implementation will look like.

**Basic implementation (opengl)**

For the implementation I will assume that you already have basic shadow maps working. If you don’t, this tutorial is a very good starting point. So I will only highlight the implementation changes specific to VSM.

The first thing we need to change is the type of attachment for our shadow FBO. Since our depth pass now need to record both the depth and the squared depth we will attach a texture of type GL_RGB16F_ARB. Also, our depth attachment is not a texture but a RenderBuffer.

glGenFramebuffers(1, &frameBuffer); glBindFramebuffer(GL_FRAMEBUFFER, frameBuffer); glGenTextures (1, &textureID); glBindTexture(GL_TEXTURE_2D, textureID); glTexImage2D(GL_TEXTURE_2D, 0, GL_RGB16F_ARB, 1024, 1024, 0, GL_RGB, GL_FLOAT, 0); glFramebufferTexture2D(GL_FRAMEBUFFER, GL_COLOR_ATTACHMENT0, GL_TEXTURE_2D, textureID, 0); glGenRenderbuffers(1, &depthBuffer); glBindRenderbuffer(GL_RENDERBUFFER, depthBuffer); glRenderbufferStorage(GL_RENDERBUFFER, GL_DEPTH_COMPONENT, 1024, 1024); glFramebufferRenderbuffer(GL_FRAMEBUFFER, GL_DEPTH_ATTACHMENT, GL_RENDERBUFFER, depthBuffer);

Don’t forget to disable the compare function from your shadow map texture parameters and to switch your sampler from *sampler2DShadow* to *sampler2D*:

//glTexParameteri(mGLTexturetype, GL_TEXTURE_COMPARE_MODE, GL_COMPARE_REF_TO_TEXTURE); //glTexParameteri(mGLTexturetype, GL_TEXTURE_COMPARE_FUNC, GL_LESS);

The shader for your depth pass will look like this:

vec4 recordDepth() { float depth = gl_FragCoord.z; float moment2 = depth * depth; return vec4(depth, moment2, 0.0, 0.0); }

The you compute the percentage of shadow using the Chebyshev inequality this way:

vec4 shadowCoordNDC = vShadowCoord / vShadowCoord.w; vec2 moments = texture2D(ShadowMap, shadowCoordNDC.xy).rg; if (distance <= moments.x) return 1.0; float variance = moments.y - (moments.x * moments.x); variance = max(variance, 0.0000005); float d = shadowCoordNDC.z - moments.x; float shadowPCT = variance / (variance + d*d);

Note that since we are not using the GLSL *textureProj* function, we need to apply the division by *vShadowCoord.w* ourself to transform to normalized device coordinate.

**Results and options**

*(All results are rendered with a 1024×1024 shadow map)*

**No filtering**

**Linear interpolation**

**Linear interpolation and 5×5 Gaussian blur**

**Linear interpolation and 5×5 Gaussian blur, floor value**

**Linear interpolation and 5×5 Gaussian blur, floor value**

**Linear interpolation and 5×5 Gaussian blur, 32bit texture**

**Far away, no correction**

**Far away, anisotropic filtering**

## Limitations and improvements

*shadowPCT*value. In GLSL this can be done using the

*smoothstep*function. To do so you can modify your shadow shader this way:

//float p_max = variance / (variance + d*d); float p_max = smoothstep(0.20, 1.0, variance / (variance + d*d));

**References**

www.punkuser.net—vsm_paper.pdf

fabiensanglard.net—shadowmappingVSM