Computer Graphics on a Stream Architecture

John Owens, Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, November 2002


Media applications, such as signal processing, image and video processing, and graphics, are an increasing and important part of the way people use computers today. However, modern microprocessors cannot provide the performance necessary to meet the demands of these media applications, and special purpose processors lack the flexibility and programmability necessary to address the wide variety of media applications. For the processors of the future, we must design and implement architectures and programming models that meet the performance and flexibility requirements of these applications.

Streams are a powerful programming abstraction suitable for efficiently implementing complex and high-performance media applications. This dissertation focuses on the design, implementation, and analysis of a computer graphics pipeline on a stream architecture using the stream programming model. Rendering on a stream architecture can sustain high performance on stream hardware while maintaining the programmability necessary to implement complex and varied programmable graphics tasks.

We demonstrate a complete implementation of an OpenGL-like pipeline in the stream programming model, and that the algorithms developed for this implementation are both well-suited for the stream programming model and make efficient and high-performance use of stream hardware. We identify and discuss aspects of our system that impact its performance, including triangle size, rasterization algorithm, batch size, and short stream effects, and discuss the implications of programmability in the pipeline. We demonstrate and analyze the scalability of the algorithms and the implementation in order to anticipate performance on future generations of stream processors. And finally, we describe, implement, and analyze a second rendering pipeline, the Reyes pipeline, and compare it to our OpenGL pipeline in order to show the flexibility of the programming model and to explore alternative directions for future stream-based rendering pipelines.



John D. Owens. Computer Graphics on a Stream Architecture. PhD thesis, Stanford University, November 2002.

BibTeX Entry

  author =  "John D. Owens",
  title =   "Computer Graphics on a Stream Architecture",
  school =  "Stanford University",
  month =   nov, 
  year =    "2002",

John Owens /