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Rendering Paths

Unity supports different RenderingThe process of drawing graphics to the screen (or to a render texture). By default, the main camera in Unity renders its view to the screen. More info
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Paths
. You should choose which one you use depending on your game content and target platform / hardware. Different rendering paths have different performance characteristics that mostly affect Lights and Shadows. See render pipeline for technical details.

The rendering path used by your project is chosen in Graphics Settings. Additionally, you can override it for each CameraA component which creates an image of a particular viewpoint in your scene. The output is either drawn to the screen or captured as a texture. More info
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.

If the graphics card can’t handle a selected rendering path, Unity will automatically use a lower fidelity one. For example, on a GPU that can’t handle Deferred ShadingA rendering path that places no limit on the number of lights that can affect a GameObject. All lights are evaluated per-pixel, which means that they all interact correctly with normal maps and so on. Additionally, all lights can have cookies and shadows. More info
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, Forward RenderingA rendering path that renders each object in one or more passes, depending on lights that affect the object. Lights themselves are also treated differently by Forward Rendering, depending on their settings and intensity. More info
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will be used.

Deferred Shading

Deferred Shading is the rendering path with the most lighting and shadow fidelity, and is best suited if you have many realtime lights. It requires a certain level of hardware support.

For more details see the Deferred Shading page.

Forward Rendering

Forward is the traditional rendering path. It supports all the typical Unity graphics features (normal maps, per-pixel lights, shadows etc.). However under default settings, only a small number of the brightest lights are rendered in per-pixel lighting mode. The rest of the lights are calculated at object vertices or per-object.

For more details see the Forward Rendering page.

Legacy Deferred

Legacy Deferred (light prepass) is similar to Deferred Shading, just using a different technique with different trade-offs. It does not support the Unity 5 physically based standard shaderA built-in shader for rendering real-world objects such as stone, wood, glass, plastic and metal. Supports a wide range of shader types and combinations. More info
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.

For more details see the Deferred Lighting page.

Legacy Vertex Lit

Legacy Vertex Lit is the rendering path with the lowest lighting fidelity and no support for realtime shadows. It is a subset of Forward rendering path.

For more details see the Vertex Lit page.

NOTE: Deferred rendering is not supported when using Orthographic projection. If the camera’s projection mode is set to Orthographic, these values are overridden, and the camera will always use Forward rendering.

Rendering Paths Comparison

Deferred Forward Legacy Deferred Vertex Lit
Features
Per-pixel lighting (normal maps, light cookies) Yes Yes Yes -
Realtime shadows Yes With caveats Yes -
Reflection ProbesA rendering component that captures a spherical view of its surroundings in all directions, rather like a camera. The captured image is then stored as a Cubemap that can be used by objects with reflective materials. More info
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Yes Yes - -
Depth&Normals Buffers Yes Additional render passes Yes -
Soft Particles Yes - Yes -
Semitransparent objects - Yes - Yes
Anti-Aliasing - Yes - Yes
Light Culling MasksAllows you to includes or omit objects to be rendered by a Camera, by Layer.
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Limited Yes Limited Yes
Lighting Fidelity All per-pixel Some per-pixel All per-pixel All per-vertex
Performance
Cost of a per-pixel Light Number of pixelsThe smallest unit in a computer image. Pixel size depends on your screen resolution. Pixel lighting is calculated at every screen pixel. More info
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it illuminates
Number of pixels * Number of objects it illuminates Number of pixels it illuminates -
Number of times objects are normally rendered 1 Number of per-pixel lights 2 1
Overhead for simple scenesA Scene contains the environments and menus of your game. Think of each unique Scene file as a unique level. In each Scene, you place your environments, obstacles, and decorations, essentially designing and building your game in pieces. More info
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High None Medium None
Platform Support
PC (Windows/Mac) ShaderA small script that contains the mathematical calculations and algorithms for calculating the Color of each pixel rendered, based on the lighting input and the Material configuration. More info
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Model 3.0+ & MRT
All Shader Model 3.0+ All
Mobile (iOS/Android) OpenGL ES 3.0 & MRT, Metal (on devices with A8 or later SoC) All OpenGL ES 2.0 All
Consoles XB1, PS4Sony’s eighth generation video game console.
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All XB1, PS4, 360 -

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