As with the study of computer architecture, the use of real applications for the study of graphics architecture allows one to make meaningful performance measurements and design decisions.
There are currently several test suites for graphics benchmarking. For example, the Picture-Level Benchmark test suite and the Viewperf test suite are two sets of benchmarks available for measuring graphics performance.
While benchmarks are useful for measuring performance, they are also useful as a part of the architecture design process, where the scene characteristics of applications can help make design decisions. Such characteristics include the number and size of triangles in a given scene, the average and maximum depth complexity of a scene, the type and distribution of graphics commands used to render a scene, and the complexity of the rendering options (e.g. texturing and lighting) used by the scene.
A few studies have looked at various scene characteristics. In "Data Complexity for Virtual Reality: Where do all the triangles go?" (Michael Deering, VRAIS '93), backface culling, depth complexity, and triangle area distributions are examined for a number of 3D models. Profiling Of 3 Games Running On The S3 ViRGE Chip (Brad Johanson, Brien Oberstein, '96) looks at a number of scene statistics taken from three PC computer games, including triangle counts, triangle size and aspect ratio distributions, and a number of statistics related to texturing.
In order to proceed with our own architectural studies, we have collected and traced a number of interesting OpenGL applications using a set of tools for that purpose.
Some scenes we have traced are:
A texture-mapped body, from the Viewperf test suite.
The body model in this scene contains around 18,000 smooth-shaded, z-buffered, textured triangles. There are two lights in the scene.
A texture-mapped terrain with jet, from the Silicon Graphics Reality Engine Demo Suite.
This scene contains around 10,000 z-buffered, textured triangles.
A radiosity solution for the interior of a building, from the Viewperf test suite.
This scene contains around 450,000 smooth-shaded, z-buffered quads.
A QuickTime VR viewer, written by Homan Igehy.
This scene textures portions of a very large (8K×1K) panorama onto a set of tall, skinny triangles that approximate a cylinder.
A 3D, first-person game, from id Software.
Each frame of this scene contains an average of 2,000 texture-mapped triangles. A two-pass algorithm is used to achieve the lighting effects.
A texture-mapped town, from the Silicon Graphics Reality Engine Demo Suite.
This scene contains around 5,000 z-buffered, textured triangles.
The Argus Rendering Library
The Picture-Level Benchmark Project
Viewperf and The OpenGL Performance Characterization Project
Data Complexity for Virtual Reality: Where do all the triangles go? (Michael Deering, VRAIS '93)
Profiling Of 3 Games Running On The S3 ViRGE Chip (Brad Johanson, Brien Oberstein, '96)