More Thoughts On Multisampling

I wrote an earlier posting, in which I tried to simplify the concept of Multi-Sampling. This posting will not make sense to the reader, unless he or she has already read the earlier posting, or unless otherwise, he or she already knows, how Multi-Sampling is different from Full-Screen Anti-Aliasing.

Just due to some thought, I’ve come to realize a major flaw in my earlier description. In spite of the rendering of each triangle, being unaware of the rendering of other triangles, a distinction nevertheless needs to exist, between how the ability of one triangle-edge to fill only part of a screen-pixel, should affect the lighting of triangles belonging to the same model / entity, and how this should affect the lighting of triangles belonging to some other model /entity.

If two triangles belong to the same model, and the first fills 47% of a screen-pixel, then this should not make the second triangle less-bright, and the two of them may yet succeed at filling that screen-pixel completely. Yet, if the second triangle belonged to another model later-rendered, and assumed to be placed behind the first model, then its brightness should in fact be reduced to 53%.

I think that the only way this can be solved, is to involve another buffer. This one could be called a ‘Multi-Sample Mask’. Triangles are super-sampled, and start to fill this mask with single bits per super-sample, kind of like a stencil. Then, the triangles belonging to the same model / entity would be singly-sampled, but would only write their shaded color to the screen-pixel, to whatever degree the corresponding patch in the multi-sample mask fills the screen-pixel.

(By default, whatever fraction of the output-color would be added to the screen-pixel, as long as the screen-pixels started out as zeroes or black, before rendering of the model /entity began. )

And then, before another entity can be rendered, the mask would need to be cleared – i.e. set back to zeroes.

As it stands, the Z-buffer would need to have the resolution of the Multi-Sample Mask – as if FSAA was being applied.

I think that the question, of whether only the edges of each entity will be anti-aliased, or of each triangle, will be answered by how often this mask is reset.

(Updated 12/06/2017 : )

(As it stood 12/05/2017 : )

AFAICT, This represents a special problem with alpha-textures, and alpha-entities.

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One of the problems with bit-mapped graphics is “aliasing”. This is the phenomenon by which pixels along the edge of a pure shape will seem either to belong to that shape or not so, resulting in an edge which has rectangular errors. Even at fairly high resolutions, this can lead to a low-quality experience. And so schemes have been devised since the beginning of digital graphics, to make this effect less pronounced, even if we do choose raster-graphics.

3D has not been left out. One of the strategies which has existed for some time, is to Super-Sample each screen pixel, let us say by subdividing it by a fixed factor, such as 4×4 sub-pixels. This is also known as “Full-Screen Anti-Aliasing”, or ‘FSAA’. The output of the sub-pixels can be mixed in various ways, to result in a blended color-value for the resulting screen pixel.

But one problem with FSAA has been from the start, that it slows down rendering a whole lot. And so an alternative was devised, called Multi-Sampling.

The main idea behind Multi-Sampling is, that only the screen-pixels that span a triangle-edge, are objectionable in the degree with which they suffer from aliasing. Therefore, most of the screen-pixels are not super-sampled. And, the limited logic of the GPU has a hard time trying to distinguish, which triangle-edges are also model / entity -edges, where aliasing does the most damage. But, because the GPU has specialized logic circuits, which are referred to somewhat incorrectly as one render-output generator, that rasterize a given triangle, those circuits can be expanded somewhat feasibly into also being able to detect which screen-pixels do straddle the edge between two triangles. And then, for the sake of argument, only those may be subdivided into 4×4 sub-samples, each of which is Fragment-Shaded once.

But the logic gets just a bit more complicated. There is no simple way, in which the render-output generator can know, which other triangle a current triangle borders on. This is because in general, once each triangle has been processed, it is forgotten. Once each Geometry Shader input-topology has been processed, it too is forgotten, and the GS proceeds to process the next input-topology with complete amnesia…

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