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Z-Buffer Optimizations
Patrick Cozzi
Analytical Graphics, Inc.
Overview
 Z-Buffer Review
 Hardware: Early-Z
 Software: Front-to-Back Sorting
 Hardware: Double-Speed Z-Only
 Software: Early-Z Pass
 Software: Deferred Shading
 Hardware: Buffer Compression
 Hardware: Fast Clear
 Hardware: Z-Cull
 Future: Programmable Culling Unit
Z-Buffer Review
 Also called Depth Buffer
 Fragment vs Pixel
 Alternatives: Painter’s, Ray Casting, etc
Z-Buffer History
 “Brute-force approach”
 “Ridiculously expensive”
 Sutherland, Sproull, and,
Schumacker, “A Characterization of
Ten Hidden-Surface Algorithms”,
1974
Z-Buffer Quiz
 10 triangles cover a pixel. Rendering
these in random order with a Z-buffer,
what is the average number of times
the pixel’s z-value is written?
See Subtle Tools Slides: erich.realtimerendering.com
Z-Buffer Quiz
 1st
triangle writes depth
 2nd
triangle has 1/2 chance of writing depth
 3rd
triangle has 1/3 chance of writing depth
 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + …+ 1/10 = 2.9289…
See Subtle Tools Slides: erich.realtimerendering.com
Z-Buffer Quiz
Harmonic Series
# Triangles # Depth Writes
1 1
4 2.08
11 3.02
31 4.03
83 5
12,367 10
See Subtle Tools Slides: erich.realtimerendering.com
Z-Test in the Pipeline
 When is the Z-Test?
Fragment
Shader
Fragment
Shader
Z-Test
Z-Test
or
Early-Z
 Avoid expensive fragment shaders
 Reduce bandwidth to frame buffer
Writes not reads
Fragment
Shader
Z-Test
Early-Z
 Automatically enabled on GeForce (8?)
unless1
Fragment shader discards or write depth
Depth writes and alpha-test2
are enabled
 Fine-grained as opposed to Z-Cull
 ATI: “Top of the Pipe Z Reject”
Fragment
Shader
Z-Test
1
See NVIDIA GPU Programming Guide for exact details
2
Alpha-test is deprecated in GL 3
Front-to-Back Sorting
 Utilize Early-Z for opaque objects
 Old hardware still has less z-buffer writes
 CPU overhead. Need efficient sorting
Bucket Sort
Octtree
 Conflicts with state sorting
0 - 0.25 0.25 – 0.5 0.5 – 0.75 0.75 - 1
0
1
1
2
Double Speed Z-Only
 GeForce FX and later render at double
speed when writing only depth or stencil
 Enabled when
Color writes are disabled
Fragment shader discards or write depth
Alpha-test is disabled
See NVIDIA GPU Programming Guide for exact details
Early-Z Pass
 Software technique to utilize Early-Z
and Double Speed Z-Only
 Two passes
Render depth only. “Lay down depth”
– Double Speed Z-Only
Render with full shaders and no depth
– Early-Z (and Z-Cull)
Early-Z Pass
 Optimizations
Depth pass
• Coarse sort front-to-back
• Only render major occluders
Shade pass
• Sort by state
• Render non-occluders depth
Deferred Shading
 Similar to Early-Z Pass
1st
Pass: Visibility tests
2nd
Pass: Shading
 Different than Early-Z Pass
Geometry is only transformed once
Deferred Shading
 1st
Pass
Render geometry into G-Buffers:
Images from Tabula Rasa. See Resources.
Fragment Colors Normals
Depth Edge Weight
Deferred Shading
 2nd
Pass
Shading == post processing effects
Render full screen quads that read
from G-Buffers
Objects are no longer needed
Deferred Shading
 Light Accumulation Result
Image from Tabula Rasa. See Resources.
Deferred Shading
 Eliminates shading fragments that fail
Z-Test
 Increases video memory requirement
 How does it affect bandwidth?
Buffer Compression
 Reduce depth buffer bandwidth
 Generally does not reduce memory
usage of actual depth buffer
 Same architecture applies to other
buffers, e.g. color and stencil
Buffer Compression
 Tile Table: Status for nxn tile of
depths, e.g. n=8
[state, zmin, zmax]
state is either compressed,
uncompressed, or cleared
0.1
0.5
0.5
0.1
0.5 0.5 0.1
0.8 0.8
0.8 0.8
0.5
0.5
0.5 0.5 0.1
[uncompressed, 0.1, 0.8]
Buffer Compression
Tile
Table
Decompress Compress
Compressed Z-Buffer
Rasterizer
updated
z-values
updated z-max
nxn uncompressed z values
[zmin, zmax]
Buffer Compression
 Depth Buffer Write
Rasterizer modifies copy of uncompressed
tile
Tile is lossless compressed (if possible)
and sent to actual depth buffer
Update Tile Table
• zmin and zmax
• status: compressed or decompressed
Buffer Compression
 Depth Buffer Read
Tile Status
• Uncompressed: Send tile
• Compressed: Decompress and send tile
• Cleared: See Fast Clear
Buffer Compression
 ATI: Writing depth interferes with
compression
Render those objects last
 Minimize far/near ratio
Improves Zmin
, Zmax
precision
Fast Clear
 Don’t touch depth buffer
 glClear sets state of each tile to
cleared
 When the rasterizer reads a cleared
buffer
A tile filled with
GL_DEPTH_CLEAR_VALUE is sent
Depth buffer is not accessed
Fast Clear
 Use glClear
Not full screen quads
Not the skybox
No "one frame positive, one frame
negative“ trick
 Clear stencil together with depth –
they are stored in the same buffer
Z-Cull
 Cull blocks of fragments before
shading
 Coarse-grained as opposed to Early-Z
 Also called Hierarchical Z
Fragment
Shader
Z-Cull
Ztriangle
min > tile’s zmax
ztriangle
min
Z-Cull
 Zmax-Culling
Rasterizer fetches zmax for each tile it
processes
Compute ztriangle
min for a triangle
Culled if ztriangle
min > zmax
Fragment
Shader
Z-Cull
Ztriangle
min > tile’s zmax
ztriangle
min
Z-Cull
 Zmin-Culling
Support different depth tests
Avoid depth buffer reads
If triangle is in front of tile, depth tests
for each pixel is unnecessary
Fragment
Shader
Z-Cull
Ztriangle
max < tile’s zmin
ztriangle
max
Z-Cull
 Automatically enabled on GeForce (6?) cards unless
 glClear isn’t used
 Fragment shader writes depth (or discards?)
 Direction of depth test is changed. Why?
 ATI: avoid = and != depth compares on old cards
 ATI: avoid stencil fail and stencil depth fail
operations
 Less efficient when depth varies a lot within a few
pixels
See NVIDIA GPU Programming Guide for exact details
ATI HyperZ
 HyperZ =
Early Z +
Z Compression +
Fast Z clear +
Hierarchical Z
See ATI's Depth-in-depth
Programmable Culling Unit
 Cull before fragment shader even if
the shader writes depth or discards
 Run part of shader over an entire tile
to determine lower bound z value
 Hasselgren and Akenine-Möller,
“PCU: The Programmable Culling
Unit,” 2007
Summary
 What was once “ridiculously
expensive” is now the primary visible
surface algorithm for rasterization
Resources
www.realtimerendering.com
Sections 7.9.2 and 18.3
Resources
developer.nvidia.com/object/gpu_programming_guide.html
GeForce 8 Guide: sections 3.4.9, 3.6, and 4.8
GeForce 7 Guide: section 3.6
Resources
http://developer.amd.com/media/gpu_assets/Depth_in-depth.pdf
Depth In-depth
Resources
http://www.graphicshardware.org/previous/www_2000/presentations/ATIHot3D.pdf
ATI Radeon HyperZ Technology
Steve Morein
Resources
http://ati.amd.com/developer/dx9/ATI-DX9_Optimization.pdf
Performance Optimization Techniques for ATI
Graphics Hardware with DirectX® 9.0
Guennadi Riguer
Sections 6.5 and 8
Resources
developer.nvidia.com/object/gpu_gems_home.html
Chapter 28: Graphics Pipeline Performance
Resources
developer.nvidia.com/object/gpu-gems-3.html
Chapter 19: Deferred Shading in Tabula Rasa

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Z Buffer Optimizations

Editor's Notes

  1. Other Software techniques include Disable depth buffering when it is not needed, e.g. an alpha blended HUD If using multiple depth buffers, allocate the most render-intensive one first
  2. RADEON 9500/9700 can achieve up to 24:1 compression rate in extreme cases
  3. ATI calls Z-Cull “Hierarchical Z” and NVIDIA calls it “Light Memory Architecture.”