(The image is by courtesy of Andrei Khodakovsky,  Peter Schröder and Wim Sweldens, CalTech)

Geometry Compression

Sam Liang


Computer graphics applications are using more and more complex geometric models which contain millions or even billions of triangles. It is imperative that good compression schemes be found to compress the polygonal models in order to reduce the storage space.

In addition, with the rapid development of the Internet, more and more graphics applications are running across the Internet, such as distributed collaborated modeling and multi-user games.  It is essential for such distributed applications to be able to transmit geometry efficiently, which in turn require good geometry compression schemes.

Furthermore, the speed gap between CPU and memory is becoming even larger.  Interactive animation of geomtric models require that large amount of triangles be efficiently loaded into the on-chip cache across the bus. Current bottleneck is the memory bandwidth, which also craves for good geometry compression algorithms to reduce the traffic to the slow memory.

This web page collects some information on Geometry Compression, including some important papers, well-known researchers, useful web links, and other relevant information.

Problem Description


Geometry: Vertex positions.
Connectivity: Specifies the triangles.
Properties: Colors, normals, etc.


Compressed form of the three components in the input.

Rough Classification

Single Resolution Compression: Michael Deering, Mike Chow, Taubin and Rossignac.  Vertex positions are dealth with by performing an initial quantization  followed by predictive coding induced by the traversal order of the connectivity encoding.
The state of the art is at around 2-6 bits per vertex to encode the connectivity.

Multiresolution Progressive Compression: Hoppe, Taubin, et al., Khodakovsky, et al. Prediction of vertex positions is performed in a hierarchical fashion. Connectivity bits are around 4-10bits per vertex.

Lossless vs. Lossy Compression.
Arbitrary Meshes vs. Canonical Meshes.
Static Meshes vs. Dynamic Meshes.

Important Papers

1. Michael Deering: "Geometry Compression", Computer Graphics, 1995, 13-20.
This is the seminal paper in this field. Deering is probably the first person to introduce the term, "Geometry Compression".  In this paper, Deering motivates the field, and introduces generalized triangle mesh, that achieves compression rate of  a factor of 6 to 10.

2. Mike Chow, "Optimized Geometry compression for real-time rendering", Proceedings on the IEEE Visualization'97.
Mike Chow presents an algorithm to efficiently produce generalized triangle meshes. Their meshifying algorithms and the variable compression method achieve compression ratios of 30 and 37 to one over ASCII encoded formats and 10 and 15 to one over binary encoded triangle strips. Their experimental results show a dramatically lowered memory bandwidth required for real-time visualization of complex datasets.

3. Gabriel Taubin and Jarek Rossignac, "Geometric Compression Through Topological Surgery", ACM Transactions on Graphics, Vol. 17, No.2, April 1998, pp.84-115.
In their algorithms, vertex positions are quantized within the desired accuracy, a vertex spanning tree is used to predict the position of each vertex from its ancestors in the tree, and the correction vectors are entropy encoded. Properties, such as normals, colors, and texture coordinates, are compressed in a similar manner. The connectivity is encoded with no loss of information to an average of less than two bits per triangle.
Look at Jarek Rossignac's publication page for more papers by him.


4. Gabriel Taubin, Andre Gueziec, Willian Horn, Francis Lazarus. "Progressive Forest Split Compression". Proc. Siggraph 1998, pp. 123-132.
This paper introduces a new adaptive refinement scheme for string and transmitting manifold triangular meshes in progressive and highly compressed form. It achives high compression rate -- a forest split operation doubling the number n of triangles of a mesh requires a maximum of approximately 3.5n bits to prepresent the connectivity changes. The paper also shows how any surfaces simplifcation algorithm based on edge collapses can be modified to convert single resolution triangular meshes to the PFS format.
Click here to see a more detailed critique by Sam Liang.

5. Touma and Gotsman, "Triangle Mesh Compression", Graphics Interface'98. Vancuver, Canada.
Mesh connectivity is encoded in a lossless manner, based on properties of planar graphs. Vertex coordinate data is quantized and then losslessly encoded using elaborate prediction schemes and entropy coding. Vertex normal data is also quantized and then losslessly encoded using prediction methods.

6. Stefan Gumhold. "Real Time Compression of Triangle Mesh Connectivitity". Siggraph'98.
Their algorithm has some nice properties, such as: i) simple implementation, potentially in hardware; ii) very fast compression speed: 750,000 triangles per second on Pentium with 300 MHz; iii) Even faster decompression: 1,500,000 triangles per second; iv) Connectivity compression to about 1.6 bits/triangle (Huffman encoding) or 1.0 bits/triangle (adaptive Arithmetic coding).

7.  S. Gumhold and Klei, "Compression of discrete multiresolution models",  Technical Report WSI-98-1, Wilhelm-Schickard-Institut für Informatik, University of Tübingen, Germany, January 1998.

8.  J. Snoeyink and M. Kreveld. "Linear-Time Reconstruction of Delaunay Triangulations with
Applications". Proc. European Symposium on Algorithms, 1997.
Their method can be seen as a form of geometry compression and progressive expansion. Using their method, the structure of a terrain model can be encoded in a permutation of the points, and can be reconstructed incrementally in linear time.

9. J. Lengyel. "Compression of Time-Dependent Geometry", ACM 1999 Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics.
This Paper presents a new view of time- dependent geometry as a streaming media type and presents new techniques for taking advantage of the large amount of coherence in time.

10. Hugues Hoppe. "Progressive Meshes". Proc. Siggraph 1996, pp. 99-108.
This paper presents the progressive mesh (PM) representation, a new scheme for stroing and transmitting arbitrary triangle meshes. This is a lossless, continuous-resolution representation, and it addresses several practical problems in graphics: smooth geomorphing of level-of-detail approximations, progressive transmission, mesh compression, and selective refinement.

11. Andrei Khodakovsky, Peter Schröder, Wim Sweldens. "Progressive Geometry Compression". Accepted by Siggraph 2000.
They propose a new progressive compression scheme for arbitrary topology, highly detailed and densely sampled meshes arising from geometry scanning. They observe that meshes consist of three distinct components: geometry, parameter, and connectivity information. The latter two do not contribute to the reduction of error in a compression setting. Using semi-regular meshes, parameter and connectivity information can be virtually eliminated. Coupled with semi-regular wavelet transforms, zerotree coding, and subdivision based reconstruction they see improvements in error by a factor four (12dB) compared to other progressive coding schemes.

Surface Simplification

The following are some papers on surface simplification, which can be regarded as lossy compression.

Other Resources:

Compression Newsgroups:

Commercial Stuff

A Real Example (my work in progress)

A VRML model built from laser range data. After surface simplification, the geometry is compressed. The number of vertices is reduced from 220K to 5.5K, and the number of triangles is reduced from 420K to 8.8K, and this makes real-time interaction possible. Note that all the major features are preserved.

By Sam Liang (sam.liang@stanford.edu)