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Graphics Open Source

Glyphy: High Quality Glyph Rendering Using OpenGL ES2 Shaders 59

Recently presented at was Glyphy, a text renderer implemented using OpenGL ES2 shaders. Current OpenGL applications rasterize text on the CPU using Freetype or a similar library, uploading glyphs to the GPU as textures. This inherently limits quality and flexibility (e.g. rotation, perspective transforms, etc. cause the font hinting to become incorrect and you cannot perform subpixel antialiasing). Glyphy, on the other hand, uploads typeface vectors to the GPU and renders text in real time, performing perspective correct antialiasing. The presentation can be watched or downloaded on Vimeo. The slide sources are in Python, and I generated a PDF of the slides (warning: 15M due to embedded images). Source code is at Google Code (including a demo application), under the Apache License.
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Glyphy: High Quality Glyph Rendering Using OpenGL ES2 Shaders

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  • by tepples (727027) <> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:13PM (#45968885) Homepage Journal

    Subpixel text rendering is just antialiasing with the red channel offset by a third of a pixel in one direction and the blue channel by a third of a pixel in the other direction. I'd compare it to anaglyph rendering, which offsets the camera position in the red channel by one intrapupil distance from the green and blue channels so that 3D glasses can reconstruct it. If the rest of your system performs correct antialiasing of edges (FSAA, MSAA, etc.), the video card will do the subpixel AA for you.

    The PDF mentions another technique I've read about in Team Fortress 2, called "SDF" or "signed distance field" fonts. This makes a slight change to the rasterization and blitting steps to store more edge information in each texel. First the alpha channel is blurred along the edges of glyphs so that becomes a ramp instead of a sharp transition, and the glyphs are uploaded as a texture. The alpha forms a height map where 128 is the center, less than 128 is outside the glyph by that distance, and more than 128 is inside the glyph by that distance. This makes alpha into a plane at any point on the contour. The video card's linear interpolation unit interpolates along the blurred alpha, which is ideal because interpolation of a plane is exact. Finally, a pixel shader uses the smooth-step function to saturate the alpha such that the transition becomes one pixel wide. This allows high-quality scaling of bitmap fonts even with textures stored at 32px or smaller. It also allows programmatically making bold or light faces by setting the transition band closer to 96 or 160 or whatever. But it comes at the expense of slightly distorting the corners of stems, so it's probably best for sans-serif fonts.

    The PDF also mentions approximating the outline as piecewise arcs of a circle, parabola, etc. and drawing each arc with an arc texture. This would be especially handy for TrueType glyph outlines, which are made of "quadratic Bezier splines", a fancy term for parabolic arcs.

  • by tepples (727027) <> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:16PM (#45968921) Homepage Journal
    One of the techniques described in the video is signed distance field (SDF) rendering, where the alpha channel is blurred to indicate distance from the ideal contour. Here's a video of it in action []. It won't help if you're on dial-up or EDGE, but you should be able to get the idea if you're on any sort of broadband.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito