DEV Community


WebGL month. Day 14. Intro to 3d

lesnitsky profile image Andrei Lesnitsky ・3 min read

Intro to 3d

This is a series of blog posts related to WebGL. New post will be available every day

GitHub stars
Twitter Follow

Join mailing list to get new posts right to your inbox

Source code available here

Built with

Git Tutor Logo

Hey 👋 Welcome to WebGL month. Today we're going to explore some important topics before starting to work with 3D.

Let's talk about projections first. As you might know a point in 2d space has a projection on X and Y axises.

In 3d space we can project a point not only on axises, but also on a plane

This is how point in space will be projected on a plane

Point projection

Display is also a flat plane, so basically every point in a 3d space could be projected on it.

As we know, WebGL could render only triangles, so every 3d object should be built from a lot of triangles. The more triangles object consists of – the more precise object will look like.

That's how a triangle in 3d space could be projected on a plane

Triangle projection

Notice that on a plane triangle looks a bit different, because vertices of the triangle are not in the plane parallel to the one we project this triangle on (rotated).

You can build 3D models in editors like Blender or 3ds Max. There are special file formats which describe 3d objects, so in order to render these objects we'll need to parse these files and build triangles. We'll explore how to do this in upcoming tutorilas.

One more important concept of 3d is perspective. Farther objects seem smaller

Imagine we're looking at some objects from the top


Notice that projected faces of cubes are different in size (bottom is larger than top) because of perspective.

Another variable in this complex "how to render 3d" equasion is field of view (what the max distance to the object which is visible by the camera, how wide is camera lens) and how much of objects fit the "camera lens".

Taking into account all these specifics seems like a lot of work to do, but luckily this work was already done, and that's where we need linear algebra and matrix multiplication stuff. Again, if you're not fluent in linear algebra – don't worrly, there is an awesome package gl-matrix which will help you with all this stuff.

Turns out that in order to get a 2d coordinates on a screen of a point in 3d space we just need to multiply a homogeneous coordinates of the point and a special "projection matrix". This matrix describes the field of view, near and far bounds of camera frustum (region of space in the modeled world which may appear on the screen). Perspective projection looks more realistic, because it takes into account a distance to the object, so we'll use a mat4.perspective method from gl-matrix.

There are two more matrices which simplify life in 3d rendering world

  • Model matrix – matrix containing object transforms (translation, rotation, scale). If no transforms applied – this is an identity matrix
1. 0, 0, 0,
0, 1, 0, 0,
0, 0, 1, 0,
0, 0, 0, 1,
  • View matrix – matrix describing position and direction of the "camera"

There's also a good article on MDN explaining these concepts

GitHub stars
Twitter Follow

Join mailing list to get new posts right to your inbox

Source code available here

Built with

Git Tutor Logo

Discussion (0)

Editor guide