This tutorial discusses one way to render quadratic Bézier curves and splines in Unity. This is the first of a few tutorials that demonstrate useful functionality of Unity that is not directly associated with shaders; thus, no shader programming is required and all the presented code is in JavaScript.

There are many applications of smooth curves in computer graphics, in particular in animation and modeling. In a 3D game engine, one would usually use a tube-like mesh and deform it with vertex blending as discussed in Section “Nonlinear Deformations” instead of rendering curves; however, rendering curved lines instead of deformed meshes can offer a substantial performance advantage.

## Contents

### Linear Bézier CurvesEdit

The simplest Bézier curve is a linear Bézier curve for from 0 to 1 between two points and , which happens to be the same as linear interpolation between the two points:

You might be fancy and call and the Bernstein basis polynomials of degree 1, but it really is just linear interpolation.

### Quadratic Bézier CurvesEdit

A more interesting Bézier curve is a quadratic Bézier curve for from 0 to 1 between two points and but influenced by a third point in the middle. The definition is:

This defines a smooth curve with that starts (for ) from position in the direction to but then bends to (and reaches it for ).

In practice, one usually samples the interval from 0 to 1 at sufficiently many points, e.g. and then renders straight lines between these sample points.

### Curve ScriptEdit

To implement such a curve in Unity, we can use the Unity component `LineRenderer`

. Apart from setting some parameters, one should set the number of sample points on the curve with the function `SetVertexCount`

. Then the sample points have to be computed and set with the function `SetPosition`

. This is can be implemented this way:

```
var t : float;
var position : Vector3;
for(var i : int = 0; i < numberOfPoints; i++)
{
t = i / (numberOfPoints - 1.0);
position = (1.0 - t) * (1.0 - t) * p0
+ 2.0 * (1.0 - t) * t * p1
+ t * t * p2;
lineRenderer.SetPosition(i, position);
}
```

Here we use an index `i`

from 0 to `numberOfPoints-1`

to count the sample points. From this index `i`

a parameter `t`

from 0 to 1 is computed. The next line computes , which is then set with the function `SetPosition`

.

The rest of the code just sets up the `LineRenderer`

component and defines public variables that can be used to define the control points and some rendering features of the curve.

```
@script ExecuteInEditMode()
#pragma strict
public var start : GameObject;
public var middle : GameObject;
public var end : GameObject;
public var color : Color = Color.white;
public var width : float = 0.2;
public var numberOfPoints : int = 20;
function Start()
{
// initialize line renderer component
var lineRenderer : LineRenderer =
GetComponent(LineRenderer);
if (null == lineRenderer)
{
gameObject.AddComponent(LineRenderer);
}
lineRenderer = GetComponent(LineRenderer);
lineRenderer.useWorldSpace = true;
lineRenderer.material = new Material(
Shader.Find("Particles/Additive"));
}
function Update()
{
// check parameters and components
var lineRenderer : LineRenderer =
GetComponent(LineRenderer);
if (null == lineRenderer || null == start
|| null == middle || null == end)
{
return; // no points specified
}
// update line renderer
lineRenderer.SetColors(color, color);
lineRenderer.SetWidth(width, width);
if (numberOfPoints > 0)
{
lineRenderer.SetVertexCount(numberOfPoints);
}
// set points of quadratic Bezier curve
var p0 : Vector3 = start.transform.position;
var p1 : Vector3 = middle.transform.position;
var p2 : Vector3 = end.transform.position;
var t : float;
var position : Vector3;
for(var i : int = 0; i < numberOfPoints; i++)
{
t = i / (numberOfPoints - 1.0);
position = (1.0 - t) * (1.0 - t) * p0
+ 2.0 * (1.0 - t) * t * p1
+ t * t * p2;
lineRenderer.SetPosition(i, position);
}
}
```

To use this script **create** a **Javascript** in the **Project Window**, double-click it, copy & paste the code above, save it, create a new empty game object (in the main menu: **GameObject > Create Empty**) and attach the script (drag the script from the **Project Window** over the empty game object in the **Hierarchy Window**).

Then create three more empty game objects (or any other game objects) with different(!) positions that will serve as control points. Select the game object with the script and drag the other game objects into the slots **Start**, **Middle**, and **End** in the **Inspector**. This should render a curve from the game object specified as “Start” to the game object specified as “End” bending towards “Middle”.

### Quadratic Bézier SplinesEdit

A quadratic Bézier Spline is just a continuous, smooth curve that consist of segments that are quadratic Bézier curves. If the control points of the curves were chosen arbitrarily, the spline would neither be continuous nor smooth; thus, the control points have to be chosen in particular ways.

One common way is to use a certain set of user-specified control points (green circles in the figure) as the control points of the segments and to choose the center positions between two adjacent user-specified control points as the and control points (black rectangles in the figure). This actually guarantees that the spline is smooth (also in the mathematical sense that the tangent vector is continuous).

### Spline ScriptEdit

The following script implements this idea. For the j-th segment, it computes as the average of the j-th and (j+1)-th user-specified control points, is set to the (j+1)-th user-specified control point, and is the average of the (j+1)-th and (j+2)-th user-specified control points:

```
p0 = 0.5 * (controlPoints[j].transform.position
+ controlPoints[j + 1].transform.position);
p1 = controlPoints[j + 1].transform.position;
p2 = 0.5 * (controlPoints[j + 1].transform.position
+ controlPoints[j + 2].transform.position);
```

Each individual segment is then just computed as a quadratic Bézier curve. The only adjustment is that all but the last segment should not reach . If they did, the first sample position of the next segment would be at the same position which would be visible in the rendering. The complete script is:

```
@script ExecuteInEditMode()
#pragma strict
public var controlPoints : GameObject[] = new GameObject[3];
public var color : Color = Color.white;
public var width : float = 0.2;
public var numberOfPoints : int = 20;
function Start()
{
// initialize line renderer component
var lineRenderer : LineRenderer =
GetComponent(LineRenderer);
if (null == lineRenderer)
{
gameObject.AddComponent(LineRenderer);
}
lineRenderer = GetComponent(LineRenderer);
lineRenderer.useWorldSpace = true;
lineRenderer.material = new Material(
Shader.Find("Particles/Additive"));
}
function Update()
{
// check parameters and components
var lineRenderer : LineRenderer =
GetComponent(LineRenderer);
if (null == lineRenderer || controlPoints == null
|| controlPoints.length < 3)
{
return; // not enough points specified
}
// update line renderer
lineRenderer.SetColors(color, color);
lineRenderer.SetWidth(width, width);
if (numberOfPoints < 2)
{
numberOfPoints = 2;
}
lineRenderer.SetVertexCount(numberOfPoints *
(controlPoints.length - 2));
// loop over segments of spline
var p0 : Vector3;
var p1 : Vector3;
var p2 : Vector3;
for (var j : int = 0; j < controlPoints.length - 2; j++)
{
// check control points
if (controlPoints[j] == null ||
controlPoints[j + 1] == null ||
controlPoints[j + 2] == null)
{
return;
}
// determine control points of segment
p0 = 0.5 * (controlPoints[j].transform.position
+ controlPoints[j + 1].transform.position);
p1 = controlPoints[j + 1].transform.position;
p2 = 0.5 * (controlPoints[j + 1].transform.position
+ controlPoints[j + 2].transform.position);
// set points of quadratic Bezier curve
var position : Vector3;
var t : float;
var pointStep : float = 1.0 / numberOfPoints;
if (j == controlPoints.length - 3)
{
pointStep = 1.0 / (numberOfPoints - 1.0);
// last point of last segment should reach p2
}
for(var i : int = 0; i < numberOfPoints; i++)
{
t = i * pointStep;
position = (1.0 - t) * (1.0 - t) * p0
+ 2.0 * (1.0 - t) * t * p1
+ t * t * p2;
lineRenderer.SetPosition(i + j * numberOfPoints,
position);
}
}
}
```

The script works in the same way as the script for Bézier curves except that the user can specify an arbitrary number of control points. For closed splines, the last two user-specified control points should be the same as the first two control points. For open splines that actually reach the end points, the first and last control point should be specified twice.

### SummaryEdit

In this tutorial, we have looked at:

- the definition of linear and quadratic Bézier curves and quadratic Bézier splines
- implementations of quadratic Bézier curves and quadratic Bézier splines with Unity's LineRenderer component.

### Further ReadingEdit

If you want to know more

- about Bézier curves (and Bézier splines), the Wikipedia article on “Bézier curve” provides a good starting point.
- about Unity's LineRenderer, you should read Unity's documentation of the class LineRenderer.