Tag Archives: resolution

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 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.”

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.

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.

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

First Android phone in SA

MTN has teamed up with HTC distributor Leaf International Communications to launch the HTC Dream mobile handset. This mobile device is the first in South Africa to make use of the new open source Android operating system, which is owned by one of the world’s best known brands, Google.

The HTC Dream gives users one-touch access to their favourite Google products such as Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube. Unlike other operating systems that treat search functionality as an “extra”, the entire Android operating system was moulded around the core of search functionality.

HTC Dream

The software is completely open source and allows users to download a host of free applications as well as customise every facet of the HTC Dream – from the dialler, browser and photo viewer, to the core applications normally locked into the operating system.

“MTN is proud to be the first operator in South Africa to offer its customers a revolutionary smartphone that will change the way we use mobile technology,” says Donovan Smith – General Manager of Consumer Segments at MTN SA

The HTC Dream features a large, sensationally crisp 3.2-inch (8.1 cm) display with a resolution of 320X480. The touch-sensitive screen navigation is finger-friendly and super intuitive. The display switches from portrait to landscape mode when the keyboard is opened. It has a sliding five-row QWERTY keyboard that comes with a set of six navigation buttons.

The HTC Dream includes a GPS receiver and a microSD card slot that supports storage capacities of up to 16GB. The device comes standard with a 1GB microSD card. A fast, full web browser brings the power of the web to your phone and displays up to eight web pages simultaneously to open networks.

All applications integrate seamlessly with one another, alert you to events occurring in other applications and allow you to switch in and out of functions while on a call.

“The HTC Dream with Android will cater for any type of user whether you are a university student or the CEO of a company. By giving our customers instant access to Google services, we are ensuring that MTN sets the pace with innovative and convenient product offerings in both the local and African telecoms market,” says Smith

In view of the advanced data capabilities and applications offered on the HTC Dream, MTN is offering it to customers on the MTN AnyTime 350 package for R529 per month, which includes R350 worth of airtime and 100MB worth of data per month. With MTN’s new broadband offer, once the inclusive 100MB is used up, customers can buy as many additional data bundles as they need.


The reality of the virtual – part I

As computer-processing power increases and even more realistic graphics are developed, the simulated environments produced by virtual reality systems will become even more believable than some already are.

I’ve always believed that, besides war, gaming (more generally – the entertainment industry) brings about the most innovative technological developments. In fact, the technology developed from military uses of virtual reality is finding application in several walks of life. For example:

  • Medical students are now operating on virtual patients rather than dissecting real, organic-smelling people
  • Architects are taking people on virtual tours of their dream home before finalising the design
  • I won’t even mention that heights that virtual reality gaming has reached
  • Business people are attending conferences and social events without having to board a plane
  • Chat rooms today mean much more than just email notice boards, which were all the rage a few years back
  • In this day and age consumers are even able to shop in 3D stores from the comfort of their armchair or beanbag

Twenty years ago few imagined that personal computers would soon be found in almost every home, classroom and office. In twenty years time, virtual reality may be just as central to our lives. Immersing ourselves in a virtual environment of our choice may become as commonplace as turning on the old television.

I’ve always had an interest in virtual reality. I wanted to know more about it. So I searched the interwebs to see what’s currently available on the market. Here are the cheapest and most expensive (i.e. most advanced) stuffs I came across:

The VisionDome
The VisionDome volume 5At the cutting edge of vitual reality – the VisionDome is a kind of half egg-shell that up to 45 people can sit/stand in and watch some pretty intense television, or lose themselves in some very life-like games.

At 5-meters in diameter, the V5 (the latest in the VisionDome family) provides a massive screen area and comfortable seating to give larger audiences a truly immersive and incredible experience.

It boasts a maximum resolution of 2048×1536 mega pixels, has 6 projector or lens options, and has a maximum output of 8000 ANSI Lumens. You would think that no one can live at that speed, which is why it sells for around
$345 500 (roughly R2 764 000).

3D GLASSES: What all the cool geeks are wearing
3D glasses possibly lie more within a South African’s budget. In the past decade, virtual reality glasses have improved in quality and become much lighter and cheaper thanks to the advancement of virtual reality technology and software.

Wireless options allow you to roam the room with your headset on, and almost all units plug into computers, DVDs and TVs. The option for a Stereo 3D input is also now available with Apple’s latest in the line of Intel Xenon driven processors.
Change the way you see the world… and look pretty stylish too

Stereo 3D is just one step into the world of virtual reality. When connected to a video source with the correct software, amazing entertainment and good times in your living room are to be had by all.

As Fate would have it, it is estimated that this market will probably first be driven by adult entertainment (i.e. porn), then enhanced video games, then the major film industry.

Here’s a pair of 3D specs that I thought sounded rather appealing (exerpt taken from www.edimentional .com):

The E-DTM 3-D glasses instantly convert virtually all of your existing PC video game titles into true 3D. That means a real sense of depth and distance as you’re taking aim at the enemy battalion approaching, trying to find the apex of the next turn, or coming in for a carrier landing in your F-14. It’s why so many customers report improved game play performance when using our glasses in addition to stunning scenery and visuals

Note for interested buyers:
When researching a good pair of 3D goggles, make sure you know the difference between goggles that only enlarge a TV image and ones that actually provide a true 3D view. While more expensive models incorporate 3D technology, the basic models only enhance the viewing area to the size of a super-large television screen.

•Next time we will take a look at stereoscopic displays and haptics (force feedback devices). These are those appendages such as the cyber-glove, that take one’s virtual experience that much closer to reality.

See also: The reality of the virtual part II

Related posts:
The reality of the vitual
Experience the Internet in 3D
Too hot to handle: Future gaming and PC’s

Compacting memories

My folks had me cleaning out my old bedroom this holiday. In fact I found the whole house to be in disarray when I got home. A large slice of lawn is now a concrete slab and a portion of the roof is missing. I’m struggling to see the patio-vision right now but I’m sure it will turn out nicely in the end.

Back in my room I was given two boxes and a black garbage bag. The bag was simply for ‘garbage’, one box got filled with giveaways and the other was for storing memories in the garage among the fowls.

It’s amazing the things that human beings will collect. My stowaways include a huge jar of marbles, which I won during my junior school days, all the Tintin and Asterix and Obelix books, and a few Beanos. These are among a collection of comic books, playing cards, schoolbooks and love letters (from my wild High School days).

Then I have my prize collection of deodorant cans – convinced that these will be a popular antique to have one day when they stop making certain brands, just like soft drinks or biscuit tins. I even left a smidgen of scent in each can so that I might be able to recall some odorous memories when I finally unearth them. It’s amazing how smell can bring about a flood of memories…

Photography: past and present
Yet the one thing that I’m sure we are all guilty of accumulating are copious amounts of photographs. Some of us have been really disciplined and set aside a good few weeks of our lives to order these into photo albums.

A collection of photographsHowever, I was surprised to find that I only had a handful of photos to speak of – ones that were at least taken by myself. I then realised that every photo that I have from varsity onwards is sitting neatly in a digital folder on my computer labeled ‘my photos.’

And I have thousands of these! Yet I remember setting aside a good few hours of my life to order every last one into distinct folders and even turned a few collections of them into videos, which will be forever stored on the internet. Well until it crashes in 2023 of course…

However, there is still nothing more satisfying for an aspiring photographer or hobbyist to whip out an ordered photo album when guests are around, or having your favourite ones on permanent display within an aesthetically pleasing frame. It’s also great looking at old black and white photos or ones with that historical sepia tint. My folks have a whole wall of the house dedicated to those. They’ve entertained guests on the way to the toilet for years.

But this is the year 2009! I am content with the idea that mom and dad’s house is becoming a unique museum of photography (at least inside) and I’m keen to look to the future. Enter the digital photo frame.

[The digital photo frame enters]
This piece of technology doesn’t need much explanation – it is what it’s called: a photo frame that stores digital photographs. It has an LCD screen which can display a series of photographs in a slideshow and a USB port to load on new photos whenever one feels the need.

One is also able to choose how long each photo will display itself for and choose what transitions will take place between photos. These digitised frames can also be connected to the internet to download new content and can, of course, be connected to digital cameras.

The digiframeThere are just a few issues to take note of. One is to ensure that the frame has its own internal memory card so that it may operate independently of your camera’s memory card. Roughly speaking, a 2 Gigabyte SD card should store up to 1000 images.

Another factor is to ensure that the device has a decent battery life. Unfortunately the general battery life is between 1-3 hours, but most frames have an internal clock that can be set to switch the device on and off during different times of the day.

The other thing to realise is that the quality of the photographs might not be that great, especially for the entry-level digital frames. Depending on the size of the frame/screen (which range from five to 32 inches) one should hope for 800×600 resolution.

An 8 megapixel camera takes photos at a much higher resolution than this and I imagine the digital frame will compress these. So if you know a bit of Photoshop it might be useful to resize you chosen photos before loading them on as this will ensure that you fit in the maximum number with the highest quality possible.

Cost and context
One would expect such as modern-sounding piece of technology to be expensive, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. I saw an entry-level frame in an Incredible Connection catalogue for R600, which is not a lot considering the price of posh, non-digital photo frames.

The more advanced digital frames are obviously pricier, but are able to do a lot more. I’ve come across some that can play videos, MP3s and display text. Others come with wi-fi, touch screens and light sensors and can connect to the web remotely and stream online galleries from sites such as Flickr.

Now imagine a photo frame dedicated to your wedding day. It could begin with a worded introduction to set the scene, saying something like “Mr and Mrs Right were married in Perfect Park on a Friday, April 13”. This could be followed by a short video of the ceremony and lead into a slideshow with the wedding couple’s favourite song playing in the background. I smell a money-making opportunity… And that idea is absolutely free. I’m all about sharing.

I can see it all now: my digitised and compacted wedding memories displaying in all their modern glory in my future living room, with a box of empty deodorant cans hiding in the attic.