SIGGRAPH 2012: Mobile, OpenGL 4.3 and Python

Aug 27 2012 Published by under Conferences, General, News, Python

I recently had the opportunity to attend SIGGRAPH in LA. For those of you who don’t know, SIGGRAPH is an annual conference for Graphics and Visualization that does a great job of attracting people from both the scientific and artistic halves of the visualization community. For broader coverage, you can read some of the usual blog coverage here. I was particularly interested, however, in the OpenGL developments.

Increased focus on performance/watt for mobile applications

SIGGRAPH 2012 was important for many reasons, but particularly for those of us that use OpenGL (this year was the 20th anniversary of the OpenGL API). OpenGL 4.3 and OpenGL ES 3.0 were announced and there were many interesting sessions on the new OpenGL release (more about this later) and graphics on mobile devices.

The rapid ascent of mobile and its dominance as the primary computer that people interact with on a daily basis has opened up an interesting challenge for people designing games and visualization — the difference in the power envelope between mobile devices and their desktop brethren. The power envelope of high-end desktop devices is ~300 watt while the power envelope of mobile gpu’s is < 1 watt. This power disparity implies a massive gulf in performance across the full spectrum of devices, assuming similar architectures are in use.

Multiple speakers stressed that power consumption should be a first class design metric when designing graphics algorithms along with the traditional metric of performance. Currently, the tools for profiling and measuring power consumption of algorithms are almost non-existent and nowhere near the sophistication of tools for measuring performance. Nevertheless, data transfers over a bus were recognized as an expensive power activity and a place where power savings can be realized.

To this end, OpenGL (finally) announced new texture compression formats that are royalty free, work on both OpenGL and OpenGL ES and are guaranteed on all compliant OpenGL implementations. This is great for developers since we can finally assume that this functionality will be available across all devices. More information about the new texture compression formats lives here.

Using OpenGL 4.3 from Python: Rabbit of Caerbannog

The OpenGL ARB committee started an effort to modernise OpenGL around OpenGL 3.x and large parts of the old fixed pipeline functionality was deprecated. These changes were great from a driver implementors point of view and should allow developers to write code that runs faster on modern GPU’s. However the deprecations have obsoleted much of the OpenGL tutorials that exist on the internet. I have listed two examples here which do not use deprecated functionality and can be used as a starting point to write modern OpenGL graphics examples in Python.

So, how do you use the brand spanking new 4.3 api’s from Python? I’ve written a code sample that uses modern opengl (no deprecated functionality used) to draw a triangle from Python.

Opengl display output showing a colored triangle

Triangle drawn using modern opengl and Python

For the code please refer to https://gist.github.com/3494203

For fun, here’s a screenshot of Stanford bunny drawn using modern OpenGL -

Stanford bunny drawn using modern OpenGL and python

Stanford bunny drawn using modern OpenGL and python

For the code please refer to  https://gist.github.com/3494560

Notes:

  1. Right now only Nvidia has Opengl 4.3 drivers available
  2. OSX only supports Opengl versions upto 3.2 as of today
  3. You will require a trunk release of PyOpenGL to create a OpenGL 4.3 context
  4. Code for the examples can be obtained from https://github.com/enthought/glfwpy.git
  5. I have conservatively marked the OpenGL version as 3.2 here since many readers will not have 4.3 working on their machines. To enable OpenGL 4.3 change the OpenWindowHint call for OPENGL_VERSION_MAJOR to 4 and the OpenWindowHint call for OPENGL_VERSION_MINOR to 3.

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