A different way to handle pulse timing

Richard Bair richard.bair at oracle.com
Thu Jul 25 22:22:41 PDT 2013


I'm probably missing something obvious and you guys on Glass / Prism / Quantum can help set me straight. I was thinking tonight of a different way of initiating pulse events that would, I think, completely smooth out the pulses such that we don't end up with "drift" due to the timer being at a different rate than the GPU.

Suppose we have two variables in the system (and for simplicity lets talk about a single Scene, because one problem I think this idea has is with multiple scenes and I want to discuss that separately after the core mechanism is understood):

	- boolean pendingPulse
	- int runningAnimationCounter

Whenever an animation starts, the runningAnimationCounter is incremented. When an animation ends, it is decremented (or it could be a Set<Animation> or whatever). The pendingPulse is simply false to start with, and is checked before we submit another pulse. Whenever a node in the scene graph becomes dirty, or the scene is resized, or stylesheets are changed, or in any case something happens that requires us to draw again, we check this flag and fire a new pulse if one is not already pending.

When a pulse occurs, we process animations first, then CSS, then layout, then validate all the bounds, and *then we block* until the rendering thread is available for synchronization. I believe this is what we are doing today (it was a change Steve and I looked at with Jasper a couple months ago IIRC).

But now for the new part. Immediately after synchronization, we check the runningAnimationCounter. If it is > 0, then we fire off a new pulse and leave the pendingPulse flag set to true. If runningAnimationCounter == 0, then we flip pendingPulse to false. Other than the pick that always happens at the end of the pulse, we do nothing else new and, if the pick didn't cause state to change, we are now quiescent.

Meanwhile, the render thread has run off doing its thing. The last step of rendering is the present, where we will block until the thing is presented, which, when we return, would put us *immediately* at the start of the next 16.66ms cycle. Since the render thread has just completed its duties, it goes back to waiting until the FX thread comes around asking to sync up again.

If there is an animation going on such that a new pulse had been fired immediately after synchronization, then that new pulse would have been handled while the previous frame was being rendered. Most likely, by the time the render thread completes presenting and comes back to check with the FX thread, it will find that the FX thread is already waiting for it with the next frames data. It will synchronize immediately and then carry on rendering another frame.

I think the way this would behave is that, when an animation is first played, you will get two pulses close to each other. The first pulse will do its business and then synchronize and then immediately fire off another pulse. That next pulse will then also get processed and then the FX thread will block until the previous frame finishes rendering. During this time, additional events (either application generated via runLater calls happening on background threads, or from OS events) will get queued up. Between pulse #2 and pulse #3 then a bunch of other events will get processed, essentially playing catch-up. My guess is that this won't be a problem but you might see a hiccup at the start of a new animation if the event queue is too full and it can't process all that stuff in 16ms (because at this point we're really multi-theaded between the FX and render threads and have nearly 16ms for each thread to do their business, instead of only 8ms which is what you'd have in a single threaded system).

Another question I have is around resize events and how those work. If they also come in to glass on the FX thread (but at a higher priority than user events like a pulse or other input events?) then what will happen is that we will get a resize event and process a half-a-pulse (or maybe a whole pulse? animations+css+layout or just css+layout?) and then render, pretty much just as fast as we can.

As for multiple scenes, I'm actually curious how this happens today. If I have 2 scenes, and we have just a single render thread servicing both, then when I go to present, it blocks? Or is there a non-blocking present method that we use instead? Because if we block, then having 2 scenes would cut you down to 30fps maximum, wouldn't it? If we are non-blocking today (is that possible?) then the only way this proposed solution would work is if there was a different render thread per stage (which actually is something I think we ought to be doing anyway?).


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