For many years, light mapping has been the basis for cost-effective yet realistic lighting. In WebGL applications like 3D configurators, however, this is rarely the case, as the creation of Lightmaps requires third-party modeling applications with complex workflows to beacon textures.

All this is changing today with the introduction of the Runtime Lightmap generation into the PlayCanvas engine.

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This feature is now available to all users via the PlayCanvas Editor.

How does it work?

Lightmaps are additional textures that contain precalculated light information that is applied to models at runtime. This means that instead of expensive per-pixel lighting, you can precalculate static lighting that is incredibly affordable to render on the GPU.

The Lightmapping solution is specifically designed to meet the needs of the internet. The Lightmapper is designed to be unique among both native and WebGL engines. The PlayCanvas engine generates all lightmaps at the start of the application. In a few milliseconds, all the textures required for static lighting will be created to make your scene run smoothly across all devices.

What`s good?

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Switch between Lightmapped and Dynamic lighting modes to see for yourself. On a MacBook-Pro or newer mobile device like a Nexus or iPhone 6, the lightmapped scene runs at 60 fps. Using real-time dynamic lighting, 5 filtered shadow maps need to be evaluated, seriously impacting performance.

This new feature allows WebGL developers to create beautifully lit 3D scenes that run in all browsers from low-end mobile to high-end desktop. Not only does your application run smoothly on your phone, it also loads incredibly fast.

Ease of use.

Lightmapping tools are built right into the editor. To get started, all you have to do is click a few checkboxes on their light and model components and press the beacon button.

Features, features, features.

Of course there are also all bells and whistles that make Lightmapper easy to use. HDR Light Maps are created to make everything look good. You can combine your static and dynamic lighting to get the best of both worlds. Your models will even up unpacked automatically if you haven`t created Lightmap UVs yet.