I read most of the chapters of this book so far and I must say this is the best book I have ever seen on effects programming. It was much easier for me to understand specific techniques by reading a real text instead of flipping through numerous power point slides.
Although I have done some work with shaders before, I found Wolfgang's introduction at the beginning of the book very useful.
One of my favourite chapters is Dean Calver's chapter "Vertex Decompression in a Shader". Using this technique is a must to save valuable memory bandwidth. I think this chapter alone is worth the money to buy the book. I can't name all the excellent articles here, but I want to highlight a few:
Per-Pixel lighting for a skinned mesh is not trivial. You can find a great explanation of this in "Character Animation with Direct3D Vertex Shader" by David Gosselin. Additionally this article shows you how to combine keyframe animation with a skeleton based animation, which might be useful to combine an animated face (keyframe animation) with a skeleton based animation of the body (this seems to be used in a few upcoming games).
Kim Pallister explains optimization techniques, that helps you to optimize your shaders so that they run on older hardware. This techiques are also useful on the newest hardware.
Jason L. Mitchells chapter on Image processing gives you a lot of ground to think about post-processing shaders, which are useful to get a look like a 50's TV set or to get a heat signature. He shows numerous ways to influence the overall look and feel of your game by using filter, egde detection and mathematical morphollogy.
One of the very handy tips is written by Steffen Bendel. He shows how to smooth fonts in a very simple and efficient way on pixel shader hardware. This is very useful for displaying fonts. You can implement this feature in minutes in your engine. Steffen's chapter "Smooth Lighting with ps.1.4" shows one of the most interesting ways to improve lighting quality in a game engine.
Kenneth Hurley's chapter "Photorealistic Faces with Vertex and Pixel Shaders" shows step-by-step, how to prepare art in a way, that the result looks photorealistic and it explains each line in the source code needed to produce photo realistic faces with the help of vertex and pixel shaders in real-time. The article comes with the source of the necessary tools (diffuse cube map generator, a texture mapping cylindrical wrapper (MAX Plugin)) and an example program. Kenneth shows how to achieve this effect in 2 passes on multitexturing capable hardware by using sphere maps.
Getting into the field of "Non-Photorealistic Rendering with Vertex and Pixel Shaders" is not trivial. Blockbusters like MotoGP, Wreckless, Cel Damage, Jet Set Radio Future show how non-photorealistic rendering can influence the atmosphere in a game. Jason L. Mitchell and Drew Card gives you a detailed explanation on how to do these kind of techniques in real-time.
A collection of very useful "Texture Perturbation Effects" is shown by John Isidoro, Guennadi Riguer, and Chris Brennan from ATI. They show how to produce clouds, fire, and glass in a very efficient way in the pixel shader.
The chapters on "Rendering Ocean Water", "Rippling Reflective and Refractive Water", "Chrystal/Candy Shader" and "Bubble Shader" show some of the neat tricks used in the ATI nature demo. The example programs didn't make it into the book, but you can get them with source now from the ATI web-site.
Another one of my favourite articles is the one written by Philippe Beaudoin and Juan Guardado "A Non-Integer Power Function on the Pixel Shader". This article deals with the lack of color precision on first generation shader hardware. It shows a way how to overcome this problem by using a cool algorithm.
Ádám Moravánszky shows how to use bump maps together with BRDF rendering. If you ever thought about implementing this technique, you can see why Ádám is one of the shader wizards.
Using 3D textures to store data for games is a technique that is getting more and more common with newer hardware. Evan Hart shows how to use 3D textures in an efficient way in games.
Martin Kraus is a member of the Visualization and Interactive Systems Group at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. This group developed a bunch of new techniques in volume graphics. He shows some very nice examples on what you can do with 3D textures on current hardware. It is interesting to read about their advanded techniques to use 3D textures very efficiently.
It is not a trivial task to design an efficient graphics engine, that uses shaders to show breath-taking visuals. Ingo Frick the technical director of Massive Development explains in "Visualization with the Krass Engine", how they designed the Krass engine to get an efficient shader implementation. This engine is used in several upcoming european game titles (Aquanox Revelation, Spellforce et all.).
The last chapter by Bart Sekura shows, how to build up a complete shader driven graphics engine, that is capable to read in Quake 3 and Return to Castle Wolfenstein levels and to display them. You can find the full source with a thorough explanation in this book.
I would like to recommend this book to everyone, who is interested in real-time graphics programming...