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ENB 110 Shadow Comparisons


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#1 stoppingby4now

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 06:01 AM

ENB 110 Shadow Comparisons
I downloaded ENB 110 and started playing around with the various shadow quality settings and ended up taking screenshots in three locations. The screenshots consist of every shadow quality level from low to ultra, and with ENB off (disabled) and on (enabled). All tests are performed on an nVidia graphics card.

I also have no shadow tweaks applied for the purpose of these tests, as I wanted to compare vanilla quality before heading down that road. You can also download enbshadows.7z which has the PNG image files for comparing locally.

Location 1
These screenshots were taken slightly up the mountain path as you are heading towards Bleak Falls Barrow. These first two screenshots compare ENB on and off, and shadow quality set to low.

Shadows Low Comparison

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On low quality, shadows are very blocky and lack definition as can be seen by the increased darkness within the tree branches and the lack of sunlight peering between branches on the right hand side. With ENB enabled, you can see an immediate change in the edges of shadows as they become smoother. But, if you look closely, the shadow edges are extremely pixelated, and is very noticeable on the ground shadows to the right. Examining the tree branches show pixelation of shadows on the foliage.

Shadows Medium Comparison

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There is a very noticeable improvement to shadow definition when going up to medium, as they lighten up to reveal more detail, though they are still very blocky. But once ENB is enabled, the pixelation on the edges virtually disappears. The definition of the shadows still isn't great, but they definitely are smoother.

Shadows High Comparison

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Jumping to high shadow quality shows a greater increase in edge definition of the shadows on the ground, giving a much better representation of the tree branches that are causing them. When enabling ENB, the finer detail is lost, but they are much smoother. Unfortunately screenshots don't quite do this justice, as you need to see the shadows in movement to appreciate the effect. You can still tell a blocky quality when watching them move, but it's not near as much of an eye sore as vanilla.

Shadows Ultra Comparison

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When taking only the screenshot into account, the visual quality between high and ultra really isn't that much. The biggest difference that can be seen is when looking at trees in the background in the upper left hand side of the image. In this case, shadow details on those distant trees is increased, as well as the ground shadow around the trunks. When ENB is enabled, there is a slight darkening of shadows on the tree branches directly in front of the character, but overall there is no real noticeable difference between high and ultra quality.

While the screenshots show a lot of fine detail lost even at high and ultra quality, they are slightly misleading. You need to watch the shadows in movement to get a real sense for how ENB is effecting them. I also noticed that on low and medium quality, there was a lot of shimmering on grass in open fields. When setting to high quality, the shimmering was significantly reduced.
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#2 stoppingby4now

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 06:01 AM

ENB 110 Shadow Comparisons

Location 2

These screenshots are in Whiterun near the main gate. This was mainly to show the differences on a solid shadow produced by a building.

Shadow Low Comparison

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Typical blocky shadows in vanilla, and less definition than will be seen in higher quality levels. When enabling ENB, there is a lot of definition loss as it smooths the shadows out. Still a lot of pixelation as was seen on the trees, but not quite as noticeable as the shape of the shadow isn't as dramatic.

Shadow Medium Comparison

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With vanilla shadows, there is an immediate increase in sharpness on the straight edges of the shadow, and they are better defined. ENB does a pretty good job of smoothing the shadows without losing too much of the shape.

Shadow High Comparison

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Now we see even sharper shadows in vanilla, which also accentuates the blocky nature of them on some of the edges. I think ENB does a really good job with these types of shadows, as the overall shape of the shadow is mostly left in tact, while the edges are very noticeably smoothed out.

Shadow Ultra Comparison

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Much like when comparing the tree shadows, virtually no difference is seen here when jumping to Ultra. There is a slight variation when enabling ENB, but it's not something that you are going to notice in game. Based on the two locations so far, I don't see ultra providing anything extraordinary, with or without ENB. Shadow tweaks may reveal more differences.
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#3 stoppingby4now

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 06:01 AM

ENB 110 Shadow Comparisons

Location 3

Another location inside Whiterun, this time examining the shadows produced by the lattice work surrounding the Gildergreen tree.

Shadow Low Comparison

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Very blocky shadows as we have come to expect from a low setting in Vanilla, and again ENB causes a lot of pixelation. The detail of the lattice work in the shadows is nearly lost, and is only vaguely recognizable.

Shadow Medium Comparison

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Jumping to medium, the detail in the lattice work shadows becomes much more recognizable with ENB enabled. The edges of the shadow from the high beams is smoothed out rather well.

Shadow High Comparison

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As usual, jumping to high quality makes the shadows sharper in Vanilla. Again, ENB does a great job in smoothing out the shadows at this quality setting. When compared to medium, ENB retains a lot more of the shadow structure while keeping the edges smooth which is very noticeable on the high beam shadow.

Shadow Ultra Comparison

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Again, no major gains in either Vanilla or with ENB enabled.
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#4 stoppingby4now

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 06:36 AM

ENB 110 Shadow Comparisons

Conclusion

Testing will need to be done tweaking shadow settings to see if there are any significant gains in shadow quality with ENB enabled. I also spent some time running around the landscape outside of Whiterun, and the biggest annoyance factor for me was a big increase in shimmering from the shadows with low quality shadows, and to a slightly lesser degree with medium quality. The shimmering was significantly reduced when jumping to high quality.

As it stands, I believe the best quality/performance setting to be medium, and though I didn't capture any useful statistics, I could "feel" the improvement in performance. When set to low, the quality of the shadows just isn't there and the pixealation causes a lot of visual problems. For best quality, I find no reason to go beyond high without further testing with shadow tweaks. With more testing, some custom settings may improve shadow quality further while keeping performance reasonable.

One last item to note, is that when shadow draw distance is lowered, the shadows don't "pop" in when using ENB, but rather are smoothed in. It's noticeable, but not near as annoying.
 
UPDATE 1: After exploring a bit beyond the locations I tested shadows in, I'm getting a lot of texture shimmering, which to me is more annoying than blocky shadows. Not sure yet if there are any settings that will help that.
 
UPDATE 2: Good catch by Vond in this post. Looks like ENB 110 is disabling AA.
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#5 frihyland

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 12:31 PM

Thanks for this stopping, btw what are your enb settings? are you just using the default ini and fx settings?
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#6 stoppingby4now

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 12:59 PM

Thanks for this stopping, btw what are your enb settings? are you just using the default ini and fx settings?

I've been using this preset which disables all effects except Bokeh DOF (though I disabled DOF for the purpose of testing shadows). I did add the new shadow specific variables to the enbseries.ini file though.

Under [EFFECT] added:
EnableDetailedShadow=true

Under [SHADOW] added:
ShadowCastersFix=false
ShadowQualityFix=true
DetailedShadowQuality=1
UseBilateralShadowFilter=true
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#7 z929669

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 10:50 PM

It shows that ENB works, that's for sure. Low sucks though with ENB. Med is quite good ...

#8 stoppingby4now

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 02:05 AM

Yeah, medium for less defined(more solid)/non moving shadows is actually pretty darn good with ENB when you are just playing and not scrutinizing them. Shadows from people look good as well. The two biggest differences between medium and high is that you still get a sense for the blockiness of the shadows much more with medium than you do with high, and high maintains the structure of the shadow a lot better (but it's mainly only noticeable on moving shadows from trees, foliage and people). If you're playing to enjoy the game rather than examining the shadows at every turn, it will be a great setting with great performance.

The one thing where I do see a noticeable visual quality that is hard for me to ignore on lower settings is with grass. But, I believe part of this is that the current version of the drivers are breaking AA which is re-introducing a lot of texture shimmering. Once this issue is resolved (hopefully), I'll take more screenshots in the same areas and compare.
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#9 stoppingby4now

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 03:13 AM

And now I present to you, MEGA-AWESOME shadows using ENB. The following screenshots are of the same three locations as above. Including the screenshots of high quality shadows as previously taken for comparison. The change in appearance is due to me having a vanilla install. The previous images were shot with SRO textures and RCRN.

Location 1

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Location 2

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Location 3

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To get these shadows, do the following:

  • Launch Skyrim Launcher, and in Options set the shadow quality to medium. Close the options menu, and close the Skyrim Launcher.
  • Edit SkyrimPrefs.ini and modify the following values:
iShadowMapResolutionSecondary=4096
iShadowMapResolutionPrimary=4096
iShadowMapResolution=4096

You can keep set fShadowDistance=8000.0000 to increase shadow view distance, but the shadows will blur closer to you. Enjoy amazing shadows!
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#10 Bealdwine

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 04:33 AM

All this shadow, and potentially parallax, ENB goodness is starting to make me drool. But I would need some specific performance figures before considering any further post-processing (all I have now is SMAA with RLwC). Having only in this recent install scraped up a playable FPS I have to consider even a 3-5 fps loss unacceptable just for more eye candy.

Having said that shadow quality (or lack of it :P ) is certainly an immersion issue, especially the terrible blocky on-character self shadowing that refuses to be turned off :(
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#11 stoppingby4now

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 05:14 AM

@Bealdwine I'm attaching the enbseries.ini file that I use if you want to try it out. Everything is disabled except shadows. I'd be curious to hear what the performance is like on your machine. Grab ENB 0.111, and you only need the d3d9.dll and enbinjector.ini files from the WrapperVersion folder, and then this enbseries.ini file.   If you do try this out, be sure to set it to Read Only.

Attached Files


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#12 MadWizard25

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 05:23 AM

Absolutely gorgeous shadows on the second attempt, thanks so much for this! You've convinced me to give the ENB series a shot again, specifically only the shadow injector. Well, once im happy with my skyrim setup. A little worried about fps loss compared to running on vanilla high settings though.
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#13 Bealdwine

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 05:34 AM

Thanks sb4n, I'll give that a try after I get some sleep :)
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#14 stoppingby4now

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:40 AM

Another thing worth noting with these tweaks, is that when the sun position updates, the shadow transition is 100% smooth. NO flickering of the shadows at all. This is absolutely amazing to witness.
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#15 z929669

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 03:21 PM

I'll give it a shot too sometime this year :P


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