I'm currently trying to implement shadow maps in my graphics framework.
I ran into an issue with depth calculations I wasn't able to solve myself (yet). I did a lot of testing and debugging and think I finally localized the problem.

To get the position in light-projection space I do this in the vertex shader:

float4 worldPosition = mul(input.position, worldMatrix)
output.lightPosition = mul(worldPosition, lightViewProjectionMatrix);

Note that I premultiplied the view and projection matrix on CPU.

To calculate the corresponding uv coordinates I'm doing the following in the pixel shader:

float2 shadowCoords;
shadowCoords.x =  input.lightPosition.x / input.lightPosition.w / 2.0f + 0.5f;
shadowCoords.y = -input.lightPosition.y / input.lightPosition.w / 2.0f + 0.5f;

This appears correct too, as I used the sampled value as surface colors and it went exactly as expected.

Now I want to calculate the depth (in relation to the light of course) of the current pixel. The corresponding code:

float depth = input.lightPosition.z / input.lightPosition.w;

(input.lightPosition is the float4 I output in the vertex shader as shown above)
However, this apparently gives wrong results. If I use this depth as surface color (disabling any lighting) I get
enter image description here, which is obviously wrong. Note that the point light is right above the black line.

Now, if I use input.position (which is calculated by multiplying the camera viewprojection-matrix with the world position) to calculate the depth, I get correct results.

I figured this has to be caused by semantics. input.position is using SV_POSITION, while input.lightPosition used POSITION0 (I also tried TEXCOORD0 without success). I verified this by modifying the DepthmapShader and got different results when using SV_POSITION instead of POSITION0. If you need more information I'll happily post them.

Now for the final question: What semantic do I have to use to properly calculate the depth? As SV_POSITION is already in use for the actual screen position I can't use that. Or do I have some general missconception? I just can't wrap my head around what's happening and would be glad if someone could help me out.

For the sake of completeness, here's my Depthmap-Shader:

struct VertexInputType {
    float4 position : POSITION;

struct PixelInputType {
    float4 position : SV_POSITION;
    float4 depthPosition : POSITION0;

PixelInputType DepthmapVertexShader(VertexInputType input)
    PixelInputType output;

    input.position.w = 1.0f;

    float4 worldPosition = mul(input.position, worldMatrix);
    output.position = mul(worldPosition, viewProjectionMatrix);
    output.depthPosition = output.position;

    return output;

float4 DepthmapPixelShader(PixelInputType input) : SV_TARGET
    float depth = input.depthPosition.z / input.depthPosition.w;
    float4 color = {depth, depth, depth, depth };
    return color;

Edit: I'm constructing the view-projection matrix like that (in response to Tim's answer) (Snippet is located inside of the PointLight class):

XMVECTOR dir = XMLoadFloat3(&XMFLOAT3(0, 0, 1));
XMVECTOR up = XMLoadFloat3(&XMFLOAT3(0, 1, 0));
XMVECTOR pos = XMLoadFloat3(&Location);   

XMMATRIX proj = XMMatrixPerspectiveFovLH(XM_PIDIV2, 1.f, 0.1f, 1000.f);
XMMATRIX view = XMMatrixLookToLH(pos, dir, up);

return view*proj;

Is this valid? Or do I have to do something else? As Tim mentioned it projects on a plane. How should I setup the matrix (and how would I write the depth information to texture for the case that this procedure changes?)? (Bonus question: Is there a way to do a 360° shadow map with a single matrix?)


I think the problem lies with lightViewProjectionMatrix, by the looks of things it calculates depth from a plane containing the point light, double check your projection matrix if it actually projects to a point.

Otherwise the depth seems to be calculated correctly, it's not supposed to be linear gradient as you'd might expect because you typically want more accuracy closer to you. And seeing as you export the depth as an rgba-value means you're limited to 8 bits and only 255 different depths, you should return it as an r-value, that way you have 32 bits with 2^32 different depths and much, MUCH higher accuracy.

Important to note though:

With modern Direct3D(10+) when creating shadowmaps you don't manually calculate depth, instead you set a new z-buffer, render the scene from the perspective of the light as normal but skip the pixel shader and later you read from that z-buffer. This lets the GPU optimize in ways you can't.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll adress the issues about 32 bit accuracylater, but thanks for pointing it out. I added the snippet where I generate the matrix to the question with additional information. \$\endgroup\$ – LukeG Dec 14 '15 at 22:13

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