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From: Dean Calver (deano_at_[hidden])
Date: 2001-03-24 04:40:22

Hello Michael,
    Being a professional games programmer, the issue of accessing bitmap
(pixmap if you prefer) data is a common one. The complexity tends to rise
when we use bitmaps as textures in a 3D enviroment.

Some issues that would need to addressed for it to be really useful,

1) >2D
There are 3D textures and even 4D textures (in theory at least). The
iterator would need to expand to >2D.
2) Non RGB
There are lots of formats that don't nessecarily have RGB equivilents (Z
Depth, Pure Alpha, UV, Normal). It would be unwise to try and convert these
from/to RGB formats
3) Non Linear addressing.
This would be the real power of the iterator, lots of textures/framebuffers
are not stored in a 'normal' memory layout.
3478 is a common memory layout for pixel data
Also compression can involve blocks etc
4) Compression
The bitmaps compression methods in use today are varied
(DCT,S3TC,Palettes,VQ), in the general case it is possible to read every
pixel (perhaps decompressing data on the fly) but not exact writes (lossy
compression could mean recalculating blocks). We can ignore it and rely on
decompression, edit, compress cycle but we routinely edit compressed
textures (VQ, Palettes, S3TC) directly

I would suggest that the iterator only works only native data, generalising
the concept of accessing a non-linearly addressed multi-dimisional array.
Then build data conversion concepts on top of this.


Dean Calver

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael D. Crawford" <crawford_at_[hidden]>
To: <boost_at_[hidden]>
Sent: Saturday, March 24, 2001 3:17 AM
Subject: [boost] Bitmap pixel iterators?

> I'm about to design a set of iterators to ease direct access into
> graphics buffers. I would like something with the utility and ease of use
> STL iterators, with the difference that the containers will all have the
> type but contain different data formats depending on different flags.
> the pixels will in general iterate over rectangular regions.
> You boost folks are more familiar than I about the design issues with
> iterators so I thought I'd ask for tips on what I should try to achieve
> what I would best avoid.
> You may not know anything about graphics programming, but perhaps you'd
> something to say about iterators in general. If you had to design a set
> iterators to serve any particular purpose at all, what would you want them
> have in common? What can you say about the strengths and weaknesses of
> different iterators that you've encountered, both their abstract API and
> they've actually been implemented in real systems?
> I'll be addressing the ZDCPixmaps from the ZooLib cross-platform
> framework, but on the different platforms these are wrappers around such
> things as Macintosh GWorlds and Windows DIBs and the like. Potentially
> work could be generalized to other graphics APIs by making them templates
> adding traits parameters.
> ZooLib is open source under the MIT License and is available at
> I wrote a graphics editor in ZooLib last year and needed to do a lot of
> access to pixels through raw pointers to read and write graphics files,
> paint and vectors and do alpha blending as well as scaling the images.
> Each time I did this I would need to ask the ZDCPixmap such questions as
> base address, its dimensions, its pixel bit depth, the number of bytes in
> image row (sometimes there are pad bytes to align the rows to make access
> faster at the cost of a little memory), whether the image was inverted (it
> would be on Windows but not on Mac), whether it had an alpha channel as
> as its byte order.
> Then when I twiddled the pixels the operations would all be based on this
> information in complicated ways, for example I ran into the case of
scaling a
> 24-bit packed bitmap into a 32 bit unpacked bitmap and having to add in an
> extra byte in the alpha channel to make up the 32 bits.
> In the course of this work I went from hard-wiring everything into local
> variables to putting some of the functions into library routines and
making it
> reasonably efficient. I never went beyond 8 bits per color channel,
either 24
> bit or 32 bits per pixel.
> I feel I gained a good understanding of the problem but never felt my
> solutions were as clean or as general as I would like, nor did I feel they
> were something I'd want someone else to use. I'd like to write something
> that would be of more general use, at first in my own application but
> eventually to be folded into the ZooLib library for everyone to use.
> ZooLib provides easy-to-use GetPixel and SetPixel calls that will access
> pixel at a time and set or fetch a 24-bit RGB value. But it's quite slow
> large data sets because it needs to make a lot of complicated decisions
> regarding the pixel format each time a pixel is accessed; one might have
> indexed, 24-bit RGB packed pixels or 32-bit aligned RGB pixels, and one
> have to use a color table to convert between RGB values and an index.
> all the platforms it supports there are many formats it might encounter.
> The most basic purpose of the iterator is to cache this format information
> provide routines that are directly optimized for whatever the result of a
> particular caching instance happens to be.
> I found pointers to member functions to be helpful in an earlier try at
> but as I traced in the debugger through the pointer to member code, I saw
> in one development system at least, dereferencing one actually takes a
> significant number of assembler opcodes.
> Here's what I envision I'll have when I'm done, I know it's a pretty tall
> - I want them to be extremely fast - the main objective of writing these
> things is speed. With my first, primitive shot at this I had
> animated alpha blending of semitransparent objects a couple hundred pixels
> across working responsively on a 150 MHz PowerPC 604 Macintosh. It would
> great if one could use them in a video game.
> - They also need to be quite platform independent; in my case this is
aided by
> the encapsulation of platform-specific details in the implementation
member of
> the ZDCPixmap class.
> - They must be easy to use. I would like someone to feel comfortable
> from GetPixel/SetPixel to using my iterators. Someone who is not as good
> programmer as me must be able to pick them up quickly and readily learn
how to
> use them correctly.
> - They will be used in a multithreaded environment (ZooLib provides
> cross-platform locking and thread classes), although I'm not clear to what
> extent you'd want multiple threads hitting the same iterator. One
> use would be to create an iterator to a rectangular area, than have an
> algorithm that would spawn threads that would divide the operation it
> out on that iterator among two or more CPUs.
> - The iterator could range over an entire image or a rectangular part of
> - You can have const iterators for reading from bitmaps
> - You can have non-const ones for writing into them
> - You can have iterators that are optimized for sequential access or
> access. Sequential access may potentially be faster.
> - One can use these to support masking operations, where the mask may be
> entirely separate image or an alpha layer, and may be on or off, or an
alpha blend
> - There are also Region data objects, which aren't strictly bitmaps, but
> logically are more like lists of rectangles that the graphics system
> boolean operations with as well as scaling. One can convert a bitmap into
> region and vice-versa.
> I'd want to iterate over the pixels that are contained in the part of a
> specified by a region. One some platforms like Macintosh Quickdraw the
> regions use clever algorithms and data structures for speed and efficient
> of memory, but because Apple has patented its region algorithm most other
> platforms use much less sophisticated representations.
> - I'll have algorithms that take the boundary points of iterators as their
> inputs. One such algorithm, possibly complicated, would scale a
> area from one bitmap into a differently sized and proportioned are into
> another, which might be the same bitmap.
> - One would have the option of using iterators that give you native access
> raw pixel data, say 16 bits with 5 bits of RGB and 1 bit of alpha, or one
> might have automatic conversion to comfortable common formats, like
> of color value classes that would then have helpful member functions to
> operate on the color.
> - One could also use iterators from two different bitmaps that had
> different formats and combine them together in a graphics operation, for
> example to blend a 16 bit 5,5,5,1 RGBA graphic into a 4-bit indexed
> - It would be extremely helpful if new pixel or bitmap formats could be
> without ripping into the guts of the thing. This is likely to occur as
> overall ZooLib library is bound to new OS and GUI systems.
> Well I guess that's enough to stimulate some conversation.
> Mike
> --
> Michael D. Crawford
> GoingWare Inc. - Expert Software Development and Consulting
> crawford_at_[hidden]
> Tilting at Windmills for a Better Tomorrow.
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