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xLODGen Terrain Settings Compare

compare textures lod gen guide settings screenshots

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#46 TechAngel85

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 12:36 AM

Just like Bethesda did for the vanilla Fallouts LOD textures, I strongly suggest to leave the gamma and brightness alone and instead use a proper noise texture.

The thing is the results are completely different using noise vs b/g adjustments. You can see that in the compares posted. With just baseline xLODGen and noise, the blending is not good and there is noticeable tiling. With brightness and/or gamma, the results are better blending without losing anything else that is noticeable to me.

Now I realize this may very will be Cathedral Landscapes fault due to the design of their provided LOD and noise textures. I have tried to brighten their noise texture to achieve the same results that xLODGen produces to no avail. It always lost detail from lack of contrast and being too white. Whatever blackmagic xLODGen is doing provides superior results for blending their LOD and noise textures without losing the contrast of the noise.
  • Image 1: Cathedral Landscape (CL)'s pre-made LOD
  • Image 2: xLODGen with brightness=8 gamma=0 / generated with CL's provided LOD Textures and Noise
  • Image 3: xLOGGen with brightness=0 gamma=1.25 / generated with CL's provided LOD Textures and Noise
  • Image 4: xLODGen B/G=0 / generated with CL's provided LOD Textures / Noise is CL's brightened in Photoshop
  • Image 5: Same as image 4 but Noise was inverted and second attempt to brighten in Photoshop
STEP-01.pngSTEP-01-LODQCustom-B8.png STEP-SE228.pngSTEP-SE226.pngSTEP-SE227.png

As you can see the xLODGen with brightness far better blend with Cathedral Landscapes provided textures. With no brightness or gamma, and only the noise (brightened) the results are washed. If this is indeed the case being a "Cathedral thing", I would highly urge you to discuss it with them on Discord or somewhere so Jonny will understand what he needs to fixed (or whoever did their LOD for them). As it is, we're simply going to have to forego recommendations so that we get the desired results with their textures. Else we drop their mod from the STEP SE Guide and add in 5 more to replace it with less superior results, which is obviously not desirable for us to do.  :ermm:

#47 sheson

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 02:25 PM

That all makes sense, since CL uses different landscape textures for terrain LOD texture generation - to simulate grass. Obviously they can not match the full landscape textures perfectly. It seems very likely brightness/gamma was used to correct the LOD textures a tiny bit to make the blending match very well with the existing CL noise texture. I suggest to find out the exact xLODGen settings that were used to replicate the results without editing the CL noise texture.

If the same landscape textures are used to generate terrain LOD and in-game brightness, gamma should not be used and instead an appropriate noise texture to have perfect blending.
 
It seems there is a misunderstanding what I mean by the full terrain to terrain LOD texture blending, since the screenshots do not really show it. It is the circle around the center cell that blends from the full terrain textures to the terrain LOD diffuse textures (that area is still inside the uGrids and it seems only for that the terrain LOD diffuse mipmaps are used). Unfortunately the normal map terrain LOD textures are not used for that blending.
 
Here is how the vanilla Special Edition blending looks. Once can clearly spot the uGrids edge.
 
1. Improved snow enabled
2. Improved snow disabled.
 
tWiRYtZ.pngQFEhyut.png

Edited by sheson, 21 August 2020 - 02:29 PM.

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#48 z929669

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 07:54 PM

If the brightness settings are left alone, the LOD textures generated by xLODGen match the splatted full textures perfectly - if the "improved" snow shader is turned off this also applies to the snow sections.

If the results seems off, it is only because Bethesda decided for Skyrim to mess around with the brightness/gamma of the vanilla LOD textures that required a special noise texture to darken it again, With the famous results that vanilla terrain LOD texture can be very different in the snow sections, especially for Skyrim Special Edition.

Just like Bethesda did for the vanilla Fallouts LOD textures, I strongly suggest to leave the gamma and brightness alone and instead use a proper noise texture.

I saw you mentioned this in the doc as well as a couple of other reminders in your posting. I think that I intuitively understand the reasoning, but I couldn't explain it intelligibly other than that I suspect the noise pattern (granularity, black/white 'steepness', etc) is important. Could it be that the compares I posted, which are not using any LOD gen but for terrain (all else is vanilla or replacers ... no object LOD gen included), may be compensating for vanilla object LOD brightness? In other words, if I was showing those compares using DynDOLOD object LOD, would they be darker, too and match the terrain better without brightness correction?



#49 z929669

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 08:01 PM

Now I realize this may very will be Cathedral Landscapes fault due to the design of their provided LOD and noise textures. I have tried to brighten their noise texture to achieve the same results that xLODGen produces to no avail. It always lost detail from lack of contrast and being too white. Whatever blackmagic xLODGen is doing provides superior results for blending their LOD and noise textures without losing the contrast of the noise.

  • Image 1: Cathedral Landscape (CL)'s pre-made LOD
  • Image 2: xLODGen with brightness=8 gamma=0 / generated with CL's provided LOD Textures and Noise
  • Image 3: xLOGGen with brightness=0 gamma=1.25 / generated with CL's provided LOD Textures and Noise
    • This is Z's image, not mine, looks like Majestic's provided DynDOLOD textures are active. They aren't in mine but terrain is the same.
  • Image 4: xLODGen B/G=0 / generated with CL's provided LOD Textures / Noise is CL's brightened in Photoshop
  • Image 5: Same as image 4 but Noise was inverted and second attempt to brighten in Photoshop

RE 'image 3': Any image I provided isn't going to be a direct compare against your own. Way too many factors are introducing diffs between the two. I never had any DynDOLOD 'resource' mods active in my compares (only for LOD gen), so my compare labels are accurate (no other diffs among the compares). Any diff is due to software/hardware diffs. You should generate the gamma 1.25 LOD yourself and replace image 3.



#50 z929669

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 08:12 PM

If the same landscape textures are used to generate terrain LOD and in-game brightness, gamma should not be used and instead an appropriate noise texture to have perfect blending.

  • So then the CL mod is providing LOD assets (LODGEN Textures for v3) that may have a b/g correction applied, so they appear darker than they would otherwise?
  • Is it redundant to activate these assets during terrain LOD gen?
  • Should we even be using LODGEN assets provided by other mods?

EDIT: So I generated terrain LOD again using new optimized settings as described above but without any gamma correction. I did this with and without the CL xLODGen add-on active, and the results are way too dark either way. As Tech mentioned, changing the noise map brightness helps, but not as well as the gamma correction on the LOD itself. My testing reveals that the color of xLODGen-generated landscape LOD does not match the landscape (see terrain on ground in foreground vs LOD in the very first image in this post). I've tried everything I can think of, and the only way to get the correct terrain blending is to 1) use the CL mod's native LOD or 2) do xLODGen with the b/g correction. (The Majestic Mountains optional landscape pack for lightside also corrects).

 

If xLODGen is using the base terrain landscape texture to produce the LOD, then why is it so much darker than the base texture as seen in the foreground mentioned above? Again, only a lightened noise map fixes ... CL noise map, flat noise map, vanilla noise map, SRO noise map are all too dark.

 

Also, I don't understand what you are getting at here:

It seems there is a misunderstanding what I mean by the full terrain to terrain LOD texture blending, since the screenshots do not really show it. It is the circle around the center cell that blends from the full terrain textures to the terrain LOD diffuse textures (that area is still inside the uGrids and it seems only for that the terrain LOD diffuse mipmaps are used). Unfortunately the normal map terrain LOD textures are not used for that blending.

 

... how does this relate to darkened terrain LOD? I was talking about blending with the rocks and other objects rather than terrain fill --> LOD blending ... and from those images, it would seem that the diffuse mipmapping causes the foreground to possibly appear darker rather than the reverse.



#51 z929669

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 08:21 PM

Time/Money prevents me from consolidating everything LOD into what would basically be a dissertation worthy of a degree. Ask me anything at any time though to clarify.

I get it. Projects grow and change over time, and the developer shouldn't document the prerequisite info (and mis-info)

Documentation is very difficult to upkeep for a single project, much less a suite of them ... That's what we try to do so that people like you can focus on the raw doc and the software ;)



#52 TechAngel85

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 01:21 AM

That all makes sense, since CL uses different landscape textures for terrain LOD texture generation - to simulate grass. Obviously they can not match the full landscape textures perfectly. It seems very likely brightness/gamma was used to correct the LOD textures a tiny bit to make the blending match very well with the existing CL noise texture. I suggest to find out the exact xLODGen settings that were used to replicate the results without editing the CL noise texture.

If the same landscape textures are used to generate terrain LOD and in-game brightness, gamma should not be used and instead an appropriate noise texture to have perfect blending.
 
It seems there is a misunderstanding what I mean by the full terrain to terrain LOD texture blending, since the screenshots do not really show it. It is the circle around the center cell that blends from the full terrain textures to the terrain LOD diffuse textures (that area is still inside the uGrids and it seems only for that the terrain LOD diffuse mipmaps are used). Unfortunately the normal map terrain LOD textures are not used for that blending.
 
Here is how the vanilla Special Edition blending looks. Once can clearly spot the uGrids edge.
 
1. Improved snow enabled
2. Improved snow disabled.
 
tWiRYtZ.pngQFEhyut.png

I actually think you can see that line in my snow shot...or it's just the LOD line with CL's snow textures. We do recommend turning off the snow shader. For what little it improves, it seems to break twice as much. The testing for that is around here somewhere. Btw, the Cathedral Landscape's xLODGen settings are pinned on their Landscape channel, if you want to check them out. I had those reflected in the STEP SE Guide already until Z got to playing.  ^_^ We're now back closer to their settings, though I haven't checked to see if Z's updated that Guide with them yet.

 

RE 'image 3': Any image I provided isn't going to be a direct compare against your own. Way too many factors are introducing diffs between the two. I never had any DynDOLOD 'resource' mods active in my compares (only for LOD gen), so my compare labels are accurate (no other diffs among the compares). Any diff is due to software/hardware diffs. You should generate the gamma 1.25 LOD yourself and replace image 3.

I haven't had time.  ::P: Too wiped when I get home from work. I just want to veg out. Haha!  :turned:



#53 sheson

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 04:36 AM

Vanilla object LOD never has changed gamma/brightness. The textures match the source textures they are derived from. AFAIK other than the snow LOD material shaders, no after effect is applied to object LOD that brightens or darkens it like the noise texture is onto the terrain LOD textures. Object LOD generation never modifies the textures. There is nothing in CK/xLODGen/DynDOLOD LOD generation that darkens or brightens object LOD textures. Object LOD is created straight from the LOD resources that are installed.

 

It is only Skyrim and its CK that for some reason creates modified terrain LOD textures which do not match the full terrain, which is then rather badly compensated for with an off-set noise texture. No idea what lead to this method. It is most noticeable for anything with snow. No such things happen with FNV, FO3, FOV4.

 

xLODGen does not generate too dark or too bright textures if the gamma/brightness is left alone. It generates textures that have the same color and brightness as the source textures, just how the full landscape textures are rendered in the game. It is the noise texture that makes things too dark or too bright in the game. It has to be right with the flat noise, unless there is another obscure INI setting changing the lighting of the full textures like improved snow does. Again, I have no idea why the vanilla LOD textures have their brightness/gamma raised only to be darkened again by a off-set noise texture. It obviously does not work very well or look good - somehow typical Bethesda. None of this is done in the Fallout games.

 

Blending is a method to fade from one texture to another. Blending only happens between full terrain textures and terrain LOD diffuse textures as shown in the screenshots above. There is no blending between terrain and objects, full or LOD. They are discreet meshes and textures that happen to be placed next to each other. Some object LOD uses object LOD textures that are more or less just shrunk (and 2x2 tiled) versions of the same landscape textures that terrain uses. Since object LOD uses unmodified textures, terrain LOD textures should not be modified either, so that a landscape textures and ts derived terrain and object LOD textures all still match. E.g. the top of a green grass dirtcliff (and its object LOD) matches the green grass terrain (and its terrain LOD) around it.

 

So, if terrain LOD textures are generated from the same landscape textures that are also used in the game, then an appropriate noise texture should be used that does not off-set overall brightness while also leaving gamma/brightness settings alone so the source textures are not wrongly modified. Just like object LOD, it is best to not modify the texture so they match well. If the terrain full textures and the terrain LOD texture match well, the blending well the blending can be perfect - with the appropriate noise texture.

 

The terrain LOD textures included in CL blends very well if improved snow is disabled. Since they use special textures for LOD generation only, it makes sense that they used the xLODGen gamma/brightness to fine tune the results. That is probably quicker than to create different versions of the special textures for LOD generation only in an image program to find the correct balance. Obviously this means, the noise texture included in CL is made specifically for specific xLODGen settings and the special textures for LOD generation only.

 
To replicate the results of CL, you need to use the same resources (special textures for LOD generation only and noise) and the same xLODGen settings that were used to generate the terrain LOD textures included in the mod. If any of the things is changed, the results will be different.


Edited by sheson, 22 August 2020 - 09:08 AM.

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#54 TechAngel85

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 12:53 PM

It seems there is a misunderstanding what I mean by the full terrain to terrain LOD texture blending, since the screenshots do not really show it. It is the circle around the center cell that blends from the full terrain textures to the terrain LOD diffuse textures (that area is still inside the uGrids and it seems only for that the terrain LOD diffuse mipmaps are used).

So the diffuse mipmaps are actually used. Good to know.

EDIT:
Updated my third image in the compare set above with my own image.



#55 TechAngel85

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 03:04 PM

Trying to narrow our settings further, I think it would be best to add some brightness with the gamma for Cathedral. The colors aren't too far off between landscape and LOD, besides when it comes to snow... Volcanic tundra LOD is also a bit too dark.

Images are with Z's posted "new optimal settings but gamma at 1.25 and no brightness. I also generated with Diffuse mipmaps checked since Sheson said they are used.

STEP-SE229.pngSTEP-SE230.pngSTEP-SE231.pngSTEP-SE232.png



#56 z929669

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 06:01 PM

I think he said that mips are only used within uGridsToLoad and only for diffuse. After that, they aren't used for either (basically most LOD if I'm not mistaken).
 

Image 3 looks much better in comparison to the rest now :)

 

I don't think we need brightness but a small increase to gamma to about 1.26/7.

 

What I'd really like to understand it what the hell is happening to the LOD textures in Skyrim SE xLODGen ... I understand what sheson is saying, but I have really tried everything: no noise, light noise, flat noise (yes, still too dark but without ... noise, so you see tiling on a too-dark LOD in comparison to source)... the LOD textures simply do not have the same color hue or brightness as the source textures (as seen in foreground of that first shot in Tech's an my compares previously). Also, xLODGen doesn't incorporate any active noise textures into the result. If any noise texture is active/inactive, the xLODGen result is the same.



#57 sheson

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Posted 23 August 2020 - 11:00 AM

If not generating mipmaps saves VRAM and nobody notices any other visual or performance issues I would tend towards not generating them.

 

Noise.dds is applied in the game. There is always the vanilla noise.dds in Skryim - Textures5.bsa it will fall back to.

 

For Skyrim, textures\landscape\dirt02.dds is the default landscape texture which is used as default base layer. In the outer parts it is the only texture for an entire terrain LOD diffuse texture file. Which makes it is easy to compare the input with the output.

 

For example, tamriel.4.28.48.dds should be using just the one texture. It will have the size set for the Default Size drop down, so for comparison tests you might want to set it to he same resolution as the LOD diffuse size.

 

If you wanted to manually create a terrain LOD texture with the single layer: a cell in Skyrim uses 24*24 tiles by default. LOD level 4 has 4x4 cells, which means a Tamriel.4.*.*.dds terrain LOD texture has 96x96 tiles. If the terrain LOD texture is 256x256 pixels, it means a single full dirt02.dds texture is shrunk to 2.666 pixels and repeated 96 times.

 

DXT1/3/5 compression can shift colors quite a bit if comparing directly in an image program. This is countered pretty well by using dithering in TexConv when converting the uncompressed output of XLODGen to the final texture. Maybe consider generating with 888/BC7 to compare results. Generally I would always go with DXT1 for smaller file size though.


Edited by sheson, 23 August 2020 - 11:02 AM.

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#58 z929669

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Posted 23 August 2020 - 11:38 AM

This is all good to know. I will take a closer look at your examples. Thanks for the input.

 

EDIT: I have tested with/without mipmaps for generating terrain LOD (compares earlier in this thread), and cannot see any difference. I also did not detect any consistent VRAM diff with/without, so we are not recommending them.





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