Tag Archives: graphics

Vertical Sync and Antialiasing explained

SMART GAMING: Graphical tweaks to enhance your 3D gaming experience

THERE comes a time in every gamers life when he or she is forced to lower some graphical settings in order the play the hardware-intense game they have so longed for. Well I’ll be damned if I ever have to sacrifice my 1920×1080 resolution, texture quality and surround sound in order to play any game smoothly. If absolutely necessary, I find myself turning off vertical sync and lowering antialiasing – not really knowing what these do. So, if you’ve been pondering what these are yourself, here’s what each do in a nutshell.

Before we begin it is important to understand that all digitalised movement, whether it be in a computer game or a film, is created by several, rapidly displayed still frames (moving pictures) which we perceive as movement. Such perception differs from person to person, but generally 25 FPS (frames per second) is sufficient for the human eye to perceive smooth and fluid motion.

Antialiasing
antialiasing before and afterAs many of us know, all computer images are made up of thousands of colorful building blocks called pixels. These can created a step-effect along curved or diagonal lines – an effect known as aliasing.

What antialiasing therefore does is smooth out these jagged lines/edges by changing the surrounding pixels to varying shades of gray or colour in order to blend the sharp edges into the background.

More technically, antialiasing “… tells your graphics hardware how many pixel samples to take around the area to antialias – the higher the number, the more pixel samples are used to blend jagged lines, and hence the smoother the image will appear at the cost of greater processing power and hence lower performance.”
www.tweakguides.com

Because higher resolutions make use of more pixels to draw an image (which results in smoother curved lines and edges) antialiasing is most effective when playing a game using a lower resolution than intended.

It is important to note that antialiasing is a graphically intensive task which uses large amounts of video memory and can therefore dramatically reduce performance. This is why most games and graphics cards today offer different levels of antialiasing for you to enable (e.g. 2x, 4x, 8x and even 16x). Of course disabling antialiasing altogether will result in maximum performance.

Antialiasing types
There are different methods of antialiasing that fall under different guises depending on the 3D application being run. Antialiasing settings may be found under any of the following:

  • Multisampling
  • Supersampling
  • Coverage Sampling Antialiasing
  • Temporal and Adaptive Antialiasing (used by ATI graphics cards)
  • Quincunx, Transparency, and Gamma Correct Antialiasing (used by Nvidia graphics cards)

Each antialiasing setting may offer different tweaks but they generally all have the same effect. Experiment to see which effects you most prefer.

Solution
Antialiasing is useful for reducing the effect of jagged lines and edges, which are more prevalent at lower resolutions. The higher it is set, the smoother edges will be, but remember that this is a graphically intense process that may result is poorer performance. Also, if your resolution is set at the max, antialiasing can be disabled altogether without any loss in quality.

Vertical Sync
Gaming graphics cardVertical Synchronisation (also called Vertical Sync, or simply VSync for short) synchronises the actions of your graphics card with your monitor. In other words, VSync matches your monitor’s refresh rate or frequency with a 3D application’s frame rate or FPS. In other, other words, Vsync doesn’t allow your frame rate to exceed your monitor’s refresh rate and ensures that only whole frames are seen on-screen at any given time. The refresh rate (e.g. 60Hz) is how many times your screen can refresh itself in a single second.

When VSync is enabled
When VSync is enabled, your graphics card is forced to wait for your monitor to signal when it’s ready for a new frame before supplying a single whole frame, each and every time. Your FPS will become capped at a maximum equal to your monitor’s refresh rate. So if your refresh rate is the standard 60Hz for example, your frame rate can only reach a maximum of 60 FPS.

However, so long as your graphics card can always render a frame faster than your screen can refresh itself, enabling VSync will not reduce your average frame rate. All that will happen is that your FPS will be capped to a maximum equivalent to the refresh rate, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all. 60 FPS should be more than enough to play any game smoothly.

Graphical glitches only arise when your graphics card works significantly faster than your monitor. If your graphics card produces frames faster than what your screen can actually display at any one time, overlapping frames may occur. Having VSync enabled would eliminate this little nuisance.

When VSync is disabled
When vertical sync is disabled, your graphics card and monitor may, quite literally, go out of sync, and result in a graphical phenomenon called “tearing”. This results in onscreen images appearing to be slightly out of alignment or ‘torn’ in parts whenever there is any significant movement.

According to http://www.tweakguides.com “Tearing does absolutely no damage to your graphics card or monitor. It just highlights the physical limitation of your monitor in keeping up with the graphics card when the two aren’t synchronized.”

In a nutshell, having VSync disabled in any game is the most trouble-free method of gaining the fastest possible performance as it allows your graphics card to operate unhindered. This also appears to be the best solution for games in which your frame rate is not very high.

Graphical synchronisation is really only a problem if your graphics card is new and potent whilst your screen is looking a little out-dated. It is not generally an issue for newer LCD screens (where a refresh rate of 60Hz is perfectly acceptable) but rather a remnant of older CRT monitor technology.

Solution
So, it seems that there are pros and cons regarding Vertical Sync. With it switched off, tearing can occur whenever your graphics card and monitor go out of sync (usually in fast-paced games), which can be really annoying. However, with VSync switched on, your FPS can often fall by up to 50% which is no laughing matter. This can be resolved on many systems by enabling Triple Buffering, however, this may affect your game’s performance further.

Many would recommend setting your VSync to ‘Application Preference’ in your graphics control panel and simply let your PC decide what’s best. It’s clear that there’s no obvious choice when it comes to VSync, but so long as you understand what it does, you can make an educated choice on a case by case basis.

Further reading
For a more in-depth explanation of how the internal bits of your PC operate and how to make the most out of graphical tweaks, this is a fantastical and simply written resource that explains it all: www.tweakguides.com

Related Post: A Dummies Guide to Overclocking

How to Photoshop your photos

*View this post in HD*

PHOTOSHOP 101: How to touch up your photography

Straighten skew pics

FOR most photos there should be some kind of visual clue that indicates whether a pic is skewed or not – such as a horizon in the background or something lying horizontally flat in the photo. Use a line guide to find the horizon and rotate the image until it’s straight. Go to “image” then “rotation” and play around until things are straightened out.

Crop your way to the good bits

If your image was rotated it may have left behind ugly looking black triangles in the corners. There is often also a lot of excess background in photographs which can all be cropped off using the most popular Photoshop tool – the Crop tool. Crop closely around your subject(s) using the tool and hit enter to perform a crop. Holding down ctrl+shift while cropping will keep things square.

Touching things up

The Clone Stamp tool is probably one of the most contested Photoshop tools as it can be used to change an image quite drastically. If there are a lot of similar looking objects or shapes that you want more of, simply clone them in. With the Clone tool selected, press alt+click over the object you want to clone. Alternatively, the Clone tool can be used to remove unwanted elements. Cloning the sky over storm clouds is a common example.

Photoshop Before and After pic

Photoshop Before and After

Photoshop tends to judge, so touch-up your human subjects

Heal your handiwork
If your image consists of close-up of a face, put your morals aside and get rid of any spots or blemishes using the spot healing tool. Zoom in close to achieve the best results and simply click on the spotty areas with this Spot Healing Brush selected. You can also use this tool to blend the edges of an altered subject to better fit with the rest of the background. It may appear as if you’re erasing the background, but worry not.

Drawing and blurring details

Using the line or paint tools to fill in details is not recommended as things can get messy pretty quickly. Trying to draw freehand using a mouse rather than your own trusty digits is a whole different story. However, if you do decide to add in a little detail be sure to use the Blur tool afterwards to soften the edges. This will also replicate the look of the original photo.

The quick and easy way

Photoshop takes a lot of practice to master as there are literally hundreds of things you can do to your photos. But if you are a little pressed for time or bewildered by all the tools there is a very quick touch-up method. Open your pic(s), go to “image”, “adjustments” and select “auto levels” (ctrl+shift+L). Viola!

– Article adapted from the December issue of Stuff magazine

More Online Tips & Tricks

The Samsung NC10 netbook

REVIEW: Small ‘n sexy netbook for geeks on the move

Samsung NC10 netbookIT’S never good to be dependent on something for your happiness or well-being. Some people are dependent on cigarettes and caffeine, others on soap operas, and some on digital products. I am dependent on my computer. Whether I’m connecting with friends and family on the Internet, escaping into the world of gaming, or keeping myself entertained with movies or TV series, it is all dependent on my home entertainment system – my PC. Without it, without my daily fix of computing, I reckon I would be a rather miserable sod.

What’s sadder than being dependent on this machine are my efforts to pack my bulky desktop PC into whatever size bag or box I have in order to take it with me whenever I go off somewhere for a few days. The simple solution is to buy myself a laptop. Unfortunately laptops haven’t yet become the technology of yesteryear and therefore do not fall within my pitiful budget.

But then, just before I was about to mail my doubtful Christmas wish-list off to Santa near the end of last year, an alternative was born…

The ultra-mobile netbook
The netbook is a type of basic laptop that can perform most of the same functions as any fully-qualified PC with the exception of advanced programming. One can think of a laptop as a glorified netbook. The main benefit is that it’s a lot cheaper, and slimmer too.

This year Samsung jumped on board with the release of the Samsung NC10 into the global netbook market. This little beauty is small, light and incredibly functional, and is a stylish alternative to existing netbook products.

Samsung NC10 netbookSamsung says that the NC10 was developed with the needs of the “kinetic elite” in mind, with the idea of achieving “more on the move.” Somewhat like my pop-idol, Pixie Bennett, the NC10 is ultra-compact and rather attractive, and would probably not be looked down on by any laptop opponents. It may be small, but it sure is talented.

Weighing in at 1.33kgs, with a screen size of just 10.2″, the NC10 is one of the world’s lightest netbooks. A 6 cell battery lights up its WSVGA (1024 x 600) SuperBright non-Gloss LED screen, which is fuelled by an ergonomic notebook PC-style keyboard. This little mobile powerhouse can provide up to 8 hours of mobile computing.

One would expect such a lightweight computer to break if shouted at too hard, however, Samsung assures us that the NC10’s robust Protect-o-Edge chassis has undergone no less than 54 “grueling” quality assurance tests, ranging from rapid temperature change to electrical surges.

Anti-bacterial keyboard
The NC10 keyboard is something a little special. Manufacturers use impressive-sounding ‘Silver Nano Technology’ to coat the keyboard with incredibly small, nano-sized silver ion powder, which makes it impossible for bacteria to live and breed. Theoretically, 99.9% of bacteria are successfully eliminated within 24 hours and the netbook remains relatively bacteria free.

I cleaned my keyboard once by removing all the keys and found more than one colony of mutated and overweight bacteria breeding and evolving beneath my fingertips. It wasn’t pretty. I’m all for silver ion powder.

Power and performance
The NC10’s brain may be small, but it’s not stupid. Its processor is Intel’s smallest and lowest power processor to date – the Intel Atom™, which enables the NC10 to deliver real computing power at a fraction of the weight, size and cost. Samsung suggests that incorporating Windows XP Home coupled with an 80-160GB hard disk, the NC10 sets a new standard in price / performance for netbooks.

The NC10’s Intel Atom™ processor is specifically designed to deliver an amazing Internet experience using netbooks. Based on an entirely new microarchtiechture, the Intel Atom™ processor increases energy efficiency to extend battery life, while delivering enhanced mobile performance and increased system responsiveness. 

The NC10 offers impressive networking and Internet capabilities. It boasts a range of advanced communications technologies, including Atheros 802.11b.g wireless LAN for fast Internet access, a 10/100 Ethernet LAN and optional Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. It also incorporates an integrated 1.3 mega pixel digital motion camera – allowing video-conferencing or live messaging.

Other features include a 3 in 1 multi-memory card reader, a VGA connection, mic in, headphone out and 3 x USB ports. These should allow one to easily transfer pictures, movies and data to and from virtually any modern camera, peripheral or audio-visual device, as well as a user-friendly way to get onto the web, access emails and social networks.

The Samsung NC10 has been on the market since March this year and is available from R 5499 incl vat.

SAMSUNG NC10 SPECIFICATIONS

  • Processor: Intel Atom™ N270 processor (1.6GHz, 533MHz)
  • Operating System: Genuine Microsoft Windows XP Home (SP3)
  • Memory: DDR2 533 MHz 512MB – 1GB
  • LCD: 10.2″ WSVGA (1024 x 600) Non-gloss SuperBright© LED backlit
  • HDD: 80GB / 120 GB / 160GB (5400 rpm S-ATA)
  • Optical Drive:  –
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 graphics core
  • Wireless LAN:  Atheros 802.11b.g
    Bluetooth 2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate
    LAN 10/100 Ethernet
  • I / O Ports: 3-in-1 Card Reader (SD, SDHC, MMC)
    – 3 x USB 2.0
    – 1 x Headphone-out
    – 1 x Mic in
    – 1 x Integrated Mic
    – 1 x VGA Port
    – 1 x RJ45 (LAN)
  • Multimedia: 1.3 Mega Pixel Web Camera
  • Battery Life: 3 Cell Lithium ion (up to 3.5 hours); 6 Cell Lithium ion (up to 8 hours)
  • Keyboard: 84 Keys (Europe, Others), 17.7mm Pitch (93% size of Notebook KBD)
  • Speakers: 2 speakers with enclosure (1.5 Watt x 2 )
  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 261.0 mm (W) x 185.5 mm (D) x 30.3 mm (H)
  • Weight: 1.19 kg (incl. 3 cell battery); 1.33 kg (incl. 6 cell battery)
  • Warranty: 1 Year International Collect and Return

Related Review: The Samsung R610 notebook

Would you get with GetMo?

GetMo South Africa — SA’s newly formed multimedia platform, is being dubbed as the country’s first all-in-one online digital entertainment service.

A nationwide live music launch tour (to promote GetMo) was held in August, and saw leading South African artists perform 34 free shows at schools, universities and venues in seven cities across the country.

According to company director, Jehan Mackay, “GetMo offers South Africa a wide range of entertainment including music, movies, mobile content and more. The service is available to both mobile and PC users, making it South Africa’s first multi-platform all-in-one digital entertainment service.”

Getmo logo

There is no doubt that the digital entertainment landscape is changing fast, as are users of mobile and PC products. What GetMo aims to accomplish, according to Mackay, is to give South African’s fast and reliable access to value-for-money digital entertainment anywhere at anytime.

In addition to music and movies, GetMo offers consumers online access to ringtones, graphics, video clips, music videos, games and more, all from the same online service, says Klaus Renkl, GetMo Country Manager for SA.

Yet how good is this service in comparison to existing ones? Although there may not be many others that are uniquely South African and offer as much, who gets to decide who SA’s top artists are? I’m a big appreciator of local content, yet truthfully GetMo just didn’t seem to offer much that excited me.

*The following is from a Q+A with the peeps behind GetMo

CONTENT & QUALITY:
The content available on getmo.com is aggregated from the major music labels, as well other major or independent entertainment content owners and game developers. GetMo claims to be able to support all content types and encourages independent filmmakers, designers, creators and the like to make their content available.

The developers aim to set the highest quality standards, especially when it comes to mobile content. According to Mackay, “we demand the highest technical complexity to ensure that each content item works on each mobile handset”.

PRICING:
Whereas most other digital entertainment services offer a pay-as-you-use model, GetMo includes a unique all-you-can-eat service, which allows customers limitless amounts of entertainment on any device they choose for a constant monthly fee.

Consumers can either look out for various GetMo Club Card options (available free of charge and bundled with other products), purchase items directly via credit card on an item-by-item basis, or purchase GetMo Club Cards which allows unlimited access to content for one or more months.

UNIQUENESS:
What is rather appealing about the GetMo product site is that it offers pre-listening sessions, previews, movie trailers, descriptions and other metadata around the items available. This really helps make informed choices and helps ensure that consumers get exactly what they want.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of GetMo is its use of peer-to-peer distribution technologies, which allows users to share files between each other legally. According to Mackay:

“Our legal P2P (peer-to-peer) technology also allows us to use the individual hard drives of PC owners to help distribute large files more effectively (known as the bittorrent principle). This advanced technology has often been misused for illegal file sharing. However, we have designed and approved a platform that enables a legal service without losing any of the benefits.”

If you have ever heard of a nifty file-sharing program called Bearshare, GetMo uses pretty much the same principle. One is able to choose what files on their PC to share across the internet and is able to download zillions of files from others. It used to be entirely illegal and several existing loopholes allow it to remain so. How GetMo manages (or will mange) to keep it all kosher is something I’m waiting to see.

GRIPES:
I’ve been in possession of a Zen Vision mp4 player for about two weeks now. It comes with an introduction CD which includes a Britney Spears music video and some idea on what the games (which are considered as “mobile”) are like, but has no software. One needs to visit their site to download the required software (i.e. the GetMo media suite), which is a 47 meg download required if one wants to share media files with others across an internet network.

To be honest I haven’t felt the urge to use my GetMo media suite or download anything off the website. I am quite keen to get a few movies though. Unfortunately all the videos available so far are cheap Bollywood productions, which is possibly due to the fact that GetMo South Africa is owned by Arvato Middle East Sales (AMES). I’m not much of a fan of Bollywood.

Otherwise if music videos, ‘mobile’ games, wallpapers and ringtones are what you want, there is quite a good collection of those. I’ve been quite content with using my Zen vision as an mp3 player, flash stick and alarm clock (no software required! It’s all a matter of copy and paste).

I’ve also tried converting my favorite shows and movies into mp4 files to see how those tickle my fancy on the tiny screen without too much success. One can download trial versions of several mp4 converters, but these either only convert the first few minutes of a video file or bomb out after a couple of weeks. The full versions of such converters go for between $25 – $30.

Does anyone know of a free, full-version mp4 converter available for download?? Otherwise I guess it’s back to illegal file-sharing!

For more information visit www.getmo.com

PS: if your in the market for an mp4 player, and have some cash to spend, go for the ipod nano – you won’t regret it!