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Rendering Paths

Unity supports different Rendering 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 on the Graphics window. Additionally, you can override it for each Camera.

If the graphics card can’t handle a selected rendering path, Unity automatically uses a lower fidelity one. For example, on a GPU that can’t handle Deferred Shading, Forward Rendering 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 shader.

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
Per-pixel lighting (normal maps, light cookies) Yes Yes Yes -
Realtime shadows Yes With caveats Yes -
Reflection Probes Yes Yes - -
Depth&Normals Buffers Yes Additional render passes Yes -
Soft Particles Yes - Yes -
Semitransparent objects - Yes - Yes
Anti-Aliasing - Yes - Yes
Light Culling Masks Limited Yes Limited Yes
Lighting Fidelity All per-pixel Some per-pixel All per-pixel All per-vertex
Cost of a per-pixel Light Number of pixels 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 scenes High None Medium None
Platform Support
PC (Windows/Mac) Shader 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, PS4 All XB1, PS4, 360 -
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