Screen Space Multi-Colored Fog - Unity Shader

Screen Space Multi-Colored Fog

This is how the shader will end up looking :
screen space colored fog
screen space colored fog
This shader is completely an image effect hence the title - 'Screen Space'. This method allows a great deal of control on how the fog will be rendered. The main concept explored here is the use of the 'Depth Texture' which is basically the value of the distance of a pixel from the camera.
The concept of a 'Depth Texture' is also needed to implement effects like SSAO, Soft Particles, Translucency and many more.
Here is the colour ramp used :
color ramp for fog shader
colour ramp
So let's start by looking at the properties :
 _MainTex ("Texture", 2D) = "white" {}
 _ColorLookUp("Fog Colour Look Up", 2D) = "white"{}
 _FogSpread("Fog Spread", Float) = 10.0
As we except from an image effect shader there will always have a '_MainTex' input which the what the camera sees.
Additionally we have two more properties declared :
1) _ColorLookUp which is a texture that we provide.
2) _FogSpread which a float which is used to manipulate how the fog looks (will go into detail later)
Now we will go through how they were declared in CG PROGRAM.
/*1*/sampler2D _MainTex;
/*2*/sampler2D _CameraDepthTexture;
/*3*/sampler1D _ColorLookUp;
/*4*/half _FogSpread;
/*5*/#define IF(a, b, c) lerp(b, c, step((fixed) (a), 0));
  1. we declared _MainTex as sampler2D as usual
  2. declaring the use of the depth texture of the camera with _CameraDepthTexture ( Unity internal sampler )
  3. the colour look up texture that we will provide to provide colour to the fog, It is only 1D a  texture. An image that is 1 pixel in height and having width of 1 or more pixels is a 1D texture.
  4. declare _FogSpread as a half ( less precision than float but better for optimization )
  5. creating a macro called 'IF', This statement will be replaced with what is following it. Here 'IF' takes in 3 parameters :- a, b & c. Those parameters will be placed according to where those show up in the statement. The parameter 'a' will be replaced by whatever was passed to 'IF' as the first parameter and so on.
It's time for the juicy fragment shader that does all the heavy lifting :
fixed4 frag (v2f i) : SV_Target
 /*1*/fixed3 col = tex2D(_MainTex, i.uv);
 /*2*/float zsample = SAMPLE_DEPTH_TEXTURE(_CameraDepthTexture, i.uv);
 /*3*/float depth = Linear01Depth(zsample);
 /*4*/depth = clamp(depth * _FogSpread, 0, 1) * IF(depth < 1.0, 1, 0);
 /*5*/col *= tex1D(_ColorLookUp, depth);
 return fixed4(col,1.0);
Let's break it down :
  1. assigning the value of the _MainTex ( view from camera ) to a variable called 'col'.
  2. now we sample the depth information and assign that value to a float called 'zsample'
  3. we now normalize the depth value so that the depth info will be restricted between 0 and 1. Closer distance will have value of 0 and farther away things tend towards 1. This is platform dependent, so sometimes depth value will be inverse. You just have to subtract 1 with the normalized depth value if that is the case.
  4. here we multiply the depth value with our _FogSpread value. Larger _FogSpread values brings the end value of the fog colour much closer to the camera. So you can tweak this value to see what suits your scene. We are also checking if the depth value is less than 1.0 and if so the fog gets rendered as usual but if depth >= 1.0 then we return 0 so the entire depth value becomes 0, Thereby preventing the fog from being rendered. We have this in place to allow the skybox to be unaffected by the fog, If we remove this statement the skybox will be affected by the fog as well.
  5. we just multiply the depth colour with our original pixel colour from our camera.
Let's move on to making the C# file that goes along with this.
using UnityEngine;
[ExecuteInEditMode, ImageEffectAllowedInSceneView, RequireComponent(typeof(Camera))]
public class ScreenSpaceColouredFog: MonoBehaviour
    public Material mat;
    private void OnRenderImage(RenderTexture src, RenderTexture dest)
        Graphics.Blit(src, dest, mat);
That's it! Hope you learnt something. Support Bitshift Programmer by leaving a like on Bitshift Programmer Facebook Page and be updated as soon as there is a new blog post.
If you have any questions that you might have about shaders or unity development in general don't be shy and leave a message on my facebook page or down in the comments.
For the entire source code, go : HERE
For more Shader development tutorials, go : HERE
For Unity development tutorials, go : HERE