Using the ISF Editor To Create GLSL Generators and FX

Download the latest ISF Editor to follow along with this tutorial.

The ISF Editor displaying the Random Shape generator.

When creating new ISF based generators and FX for use in VDMX or other supported applications, one of the most useful tools is the free ISF Editor. In this video tutorial we'll be looking at the basics of using the ISF Editor to create a basic generator and FX.

While you can use any text editor to work with ISF files, the ISF Editor includes several useful features such as:

  • Live preview of output from the shader.
  • Create new ISF shaders from a useful starter template.
  • Use movies, images, Syphon, and camera inputs as test feeds for FX.
  • Publishes final output to Syphon for live use or preview in other applications.
  • Render generator ISF files out as movie files.
  • Error message display for debugging.
  • Preview any render pass for debugging multi-pass shaders.
  • Imports (some) shaders from GLSL Sandbox and Shadertoy.

Before getting started, you may also find it useful to load the ISF Specification page in another web browser window as a reference.


In the first section of this tutorial we will create a simple ISF based FX starting from the “New ISF file” option in the File menu.

Using this menu option creates a new ISF based FX with a pass-thru template that includes an example of each input variable type.

For this walk through we will create a simple FX that demonstrates two basic image transformations: moving a pixel and modifying its color.


For the second part of this tutorial we will import an existing shader from GLSL Sandbox, add our own custom parameters, animate a property using the automatic TIME variable and then export it as a movie file.

The first step is to choose the “Import from GLSL Sandbox” option in the File menu and entering the link from the website. The automatically created ISF file will be saved to “~/Library/Graphics/ISF” where applications such as VDMX will find it.

For shaders that are too intensive to play in real-time, or for creating a demo reel for the web, the “Render to movie...” option in the File menu can be used to export a movie file that can be played instead.

For situations where the ISF Editor can not automatically import shaders from other sites, try consulting the notes for manually converting shaders on the ISF Specification page.


Tips and Notes:

Debug messages can be found in the Error console.

Preview individual render passes in viewer window.

Export ISF generators as movies.

Receive from and publish back to Syphon.

Use any text editor to work with ISF files.

http://www.interactiveshaderformat.com/ has more example ISF files to get started.