Introduction To Opengl-Computer Graphics-Lecture Notes, Study notes for Computer Graphics. Birla Institute of Technology and Science
parnashi4 August 2012

Introduction To Opengl-Computer Graphics-Lecture Notes, Study notes for Computer Graphics. Birla Institute of Technology and Science

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Computer Graphics involves technology to accept, process, transform and present information in a visual form that also concerns with producing images and animations using a computer. This course teach how to make your ow...
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CS602 Handouts.pdf

Lecture No.32 Introduction to OpenGL

As a software interface for graphics hardware, OpenGL renders multidimensional objects into a frame buffer. OpenGL is industry-standard graphics software with which programmers can create high-quality still and animated three-dimensional color images. Where Applicable: OpenGL is built for compatibility across hardware and operating systems. This architecture makes it easy to port OpenGL programs from one system to another. While each operating system has unique requirements, the OpenGL code in many programs can be used as is.

Developer Audience: Designed for use by C/C++ programmers

Run-time Requirements: OpenGL can run on Linux and all versions of 32 bit Microsoft Windows.

Most Widely Adopted Graphics Standard

OpenGL is the premier environment for developing portable, interactive 2D and 3D graphics applications. Since its introduction in 1992, OpenGL has become the industry's most widely used and supported 2D and 3D graphics application programming interface (API), bringing thousands of applications to a wide variety of computer platforms. OpenGL fosters innovation and speeds application development by incorporating a broad set of rendering, texture mapping, special effects, and other powerful visualization functions. Developers can leverage the power of OpenGL across all popular desktop and workstation platforms, ensuring wide application deployment.

High Visual Quality and Performance

Any visual computing application requiring maximum performance-from 3D animation to CAD to visual simulation-can exploit high-quality, high-performance OpenGL capabilities. These capabilities allow developers in diverse markets such as broadcasting, CAD/CAM/CAE, entertainment, medical imaging, and virtual reality to produce and display incredibly compelling 2D and 3D graphics.

Developer-Driven Advantages

 Industry standard

An independent consortium, the OpenGL Architecture Review Board, guides the OpenGL specification. With broad industry support, OpenGL is the only truly open, vendor-neutral, multiplatform graphics standard.


OpenGL implementations have been available for more than seven years on a wide variety of platforms. Additions to the specification are well controlled, and proposed updates are announced in time for developers to adopt changes.

Backward compatibility requirements ensure that existing applications do not become obsolete.

 Reliable and portable

All OpenGL applications produce consistent visual display results on any OpenGL API-compliant hardware, regardless of operating system or windowing system.


Because of its thorough and forward-looking design, OpenGL allows new hardware innovations to be accessible through the API via the OpenGL extension mechanism. In this way, innovations appear in the API in a timely fashion, letting application developers and hardware vendors incorporate new features into their normal product release cycles.


OpenGL API-based applications can run on systems ranging from consumer electronics to PCs, workstations, and supercomputers. As a result, applications can scale to any class of machine that the developer chooses to target.

 Easy to use

OpenGL is well structured with an intuitive design and logical commands. Efficient OpenGL routines typically result in applications with fewer lines of code than those that make up programs generated using other graphics libraries or packages. In addition, OpenGL drivers encapsulate information about the underlying hardware, freeing the application developer from having to design for specific hardware features.


Numerous books have been published about OpenGL, and a great deal of sample code is readily available, making information about OpenGL inexpensive and easy to obtain.

Simplifies Software Development, Speeds Time-to-Market

OpenGL routines simplify the development of graphics software—from rendering a simple geometric point, line, or filled polygon to the creation of the most complex lighted and texture-mapped NURBS curved surface. OpenGL gives software developers access to geometric and image primitives, display lists, modeling transformations, lighting and texturing, anti-aliasing, blending, and many other features.

Every conforming OpenGL implementation includes the full complement of OpenGL functions. The well-specified OpenGL standard has language bindings for C, C++, Fortran, Ada, and Java. All licensed OpenGL implementations come from a single specification and language binding document and are required to pass a set of conformance tests. Applications utilizing OpenGL functions are easily portable across a wide array of platforms for maximized programmer productivity and shorter time-to- market.

All elements of the OpenGL state—even the contents of the texture memory and the frame buffer—can be obtained by an OpenGL application. OpenGL also supports visualization applications with 2D images treated as types of primitives that can be manipulated just like 3D geometric objects. As shown in the OpenGL visualization programming pipeline diagram above, images and vertices defining geometric primitives are passed through the OpenGL pipeline to the frame buffer.

Available Everywhere

Supported on all UNIX® workstations, and shipped standard with every Windows 95/98/2000/NT and MacOS PC, no other graphics API operates on a wider range of hardware platforms and software environments. OpenGL runs on every major operating system including Mac OS, OS/2, UNIX, Windows 95/98, Windows 2000, Windows NT, Linux, OPENStep, and BeOS; it also works with every major windowing system, including Win32, MacOS, Presentation Manager, and X-Window System. OpenGL is callable from Ada, C, C++, Fortran, Python, Perl and Java and offers complete independence from network protocols and topologies.

Architected for Flexibility and Differentiation!

Although the OpenGL specification defines a particular graphics processing pipeline, platform vendors have the freedom to tailor a particular OpenGL implementation to meet unique system cost and performance objectives. Individual calls can be executed on dedicated hardware, run as software routines on the standard system CPU, or implemented as a combination of both dedicated hardware and software routines. This implementation flexibility means that OpenGL hardware acceleration can range from simple rendering to full geometry and is widely available on everything from low-cost PCs to high-end workstations and supercomputers. Application developers are assured consistent display results regardless of the platform implementation of the OpenGL environment.

Using the OpenGL extension mechanism, hardware developers can differentiate their products by developing extensions that allow software developers to access additional performance and technological innovations. Main purpose of OpenGL As a software interface for graphics hardware, the main purpose of OpenGL is to render two- and three-dimensional objects into a frame buffer. These objects are described as sequences of vertices (that define geometric objects) or pixels (that define images). OpenGL performs several processes on this data to convert it to pixels to form the final desired image in the frame buffer.

The following topics present a global view of how OpenGL works:

 Primitives and Commands discusses points, line segments, and polygons as the basic units of drawing; and the processing of commands.

 OpenGL Graphic Control describes which graphic operations OpenGL controls and which it does not control.

 Execution Model discusses the client/server model for interpreting OpenGL commands.

 Basic OpenGL Operation gives a high-level description of how OpenGL processes data to produce a corresponding image in the frame buffer.

Primitives and Commands OpenGL draws primitive points, line segments, or polygons subject to several selectable modes. You can control modes independently of one another. That is, setting one mode doesn't affect whether other modes are set (although many modes may interact to determine what eventually ends up in the frame buffer). To specify primitives, set modes, and perform other OpenGL operations, you issue commands in the form of function calls.

Primitives are defined by a group of one or more vertices. A vertex defines a point, an endpoint of a line, or a corner of a polygon where two edges meet. Data (consisting of vertex coordinates, colors, normals, texture coordinates, and edge flags) is associated with a vertex, and each vertex and its associated data are processed independently, in order, and in the same way. The only exceptions to this rule are cases in which the group of vertices must be clipped so that a particular primitive fits within a specified region. In this case, vertex data may be modified and new vertices created. The type of clipping depends on which primitive the group of vertices represents.

Commands are always processed in the order in which they are received, although there may be an indeterminate delay before a command takes effect. This means that each primitive is drawn completely before any subsequent command takes effect. It also means that state-querying commands return data that is consistent with complete execution of all previously issued OpenGL commands. OpenGL Graphic Control OpenGL provides you with fairly direct control over the fundamental operations of two- and three-dimensional graphics. This includes specification of such parameters as transformation matrices, lighting equation coefficients, antialiasing methods, and pixel- update operators. However, it doesn't provide you with a means for describing or modeling complex geometric objects. Thus, the OpenGL commands you issue specify how a certain result should be produced (what procedure should be followed) rather than what exactly that result should look like. That is, OpenGL is fundamentally procedural rather than descriptive. To fully understand how to use OpenGL, it helps to know the order in which it carries out its operations. Execution Model The model for interpretation of OpenGL commands is client/server. Application code (the client) issues commands, which are interpreted and processed by OpenGL (the server). The server may or may not operate on the same computer as the client. In this sense, OpenGL is network-transparent. A server can maintain several OpenGL contexts, each of which is an encapsulated OpenGL state. A client can connect to any one of these contexts. The required network protocol can be implemented by augmenting an already existing protocol (such as that of the X Window System) or by using an independent protocol. No OpenGL commands are provided for obtaining user input.

The window system that allocates frame buffer resources ultimately controls the effects of OpenGL commands on the frame buffer. The window system:

 Determines which portions of the frame buffer OpenGL may access at any given time.

 Communicates to OpenGL how those portions are structured.

Therefore, there are no OpenGL commands to configure the frame buffer or initialize OpenGL. Frame buffer configuration is done outside of OpenGL in conjunction with the window system; OpenGL initialization takes place when the window system allocates a window for OpenGL rendering. Basic OpenGL Operation The following diagram illustrates how OpenGL processes data. As shown, commands enter from the left and proceed through a processing pipeline. Some commands specify geometric objects to be drawn, and others control how the objects are handled during various processing stages.

The processing stages in basic OpenGL operation are as follows:

 Display list Rather than having all commands proceed immediately through the pipeline, you can choose to accumulate some of them in a display list for processing later.

 Evaluator The evaluator stage of processing provides an efficient way to approximate curve and surface geometry by evaluating polynomial commands of input values.

 Per-vertex operations and primitive assembly OpenGL processes geometric primitives—points, line segments, and polygons—all of which are described by vertices. Vertices are transformed and lit, and primitives are clipped to the view port in preparation for rasterization.

 Rasterization The rasterization stage produces a series of frame-buffer addresses and associated values using a two-dimensional description of a point, line segment, or polygon. Each fragment so produced is fed into the last stage, per- fragment operations.

 Per-fragment operations these are the final operations performed on the data before it's stored as pixels in the frame buffer.

Per-fragment operations include conditional updates to the frame buffer based on incoming and previously stored z values (for z buffering) and blending of

incoming pixel colors with stored colors, as well as masking and other logical operations on pixel values.

Data can be input in the form of pixels rather than vertices. Data in the form of pixels, such as might describe an image for use in texture mapping, skips the first stage of processing described above and instead is processed as pixels, in the pixel operations stage. Following pixel operations, the pixel data is either:

 Stored as texture memory, for use in the rasterization stage.

 Rasterized, with the resulting fragments merged into the frame buffer just as if they were generated from geometric data.

OpenGL Processing Pipeline Many OpenGL functions are used specifically for drawing objects such as points, lines, polygons, and bitmaps. Some functions control the way that some of this drawing occurs (such as those that enable antialiasing or texturing). Other functions are specifically concerned with frame buffer manipulation. The topics in this section describe how all of the OpenGL functions work together to create the OpenGL processing pipeline. This section also takes a closer look at the stages in which data is actually processed, and ties these stages to OpenGL functions.

The following diagram details the OpenGL processing pipeline. For most of the pipeline, you can see three vertical arrows between the major stages. These arrows represent vertices and the two primary types of data that can be associated with vertices: color values and texture coordinates. Also note that vertices are assembled into primitives, then into fragments, and finally into pixels in the framebuffer. The OpenGL Visualization Programming Pipeline

OpenGL operates on image data as well as geometric primitives.

A detailed view on the next page.

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