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What Is ANTI-ALIASING?

Anti-Aliasing

Are you noticing rough edges in games you play, or do modern games look like 8-bit retro games from the 80’s running on your computer, then anti-aliasing is a process that may help you enjoy seamless gameplay?

Smoothing of rough edges & colors in games or digital images is called anti-aliasing. These rough edges are commonly called jaggies in the gaming community. Anti-aliasing is done by blurring the edges of objects & gauging the color of pixels along the edges. Instead of being completely on or off, the pixels are in-between. The goal of this process is to make a digital image look natural when viewed from a specific distance. It may appear blurred if looked at closely. If your gaming machine lacks a high-end integrated or dedicated graphic card, then anti-aliasing might provide a smoother gameplay experience for you.

To fully understand the process of anti-aliasing one must understand what aliasing is, aliasing the rough-edged effect caused by mapping of curved & diagonal objects onto pixels. Angled lines cause this problem when mapped on square pixels. This results in rough, jagged edges which are also called stair-stepping or aliasing. Anti-aliasing is done by a number of techniques which we will discuss ahead.

Uses of Anti-Aliasing

Anti-aliasing is widely used in gaming & graphic designing communities as these communities are continuously interacting with digital images & objects. In gaming, this technique is used to provide a smoother & seamless gaming experience. Most modern gaming titles provide different types of anti-aliasing techniques to support a vast array of gaming hardware. Each different type of anti-aliasing varies in functioning on different levels of gaming hardware. For example, on integrated gnu’s or low-end graphic cards only 2X or 4X anti-aliasing may apply. While on high-end graphic cards up to 16X anti-aliasing can work.

In the field of graphic designing anti-aliasing or image, sampling is used to create mesmerizing graphics. To create realistic graphics & 3D objects, anti-aliasing is of the highest importance. Also, anti-aliasing is a well-known phenomenon in modern digital photography. Without anti-aliasing, imagine a selfie in which your face looks like a pixelated brick.

Where to acquire Anti-Aliasing?

You don’t buy anti-aliasing on the market or you don’t download a special anti-aliasing software. These methods are built-in, in most games. On the other hand, these methods are supported by almost every medium & high-end graphic card available in the market. If you have a moderate graphic card, for example, a GTX 1050ti & it isn’t supporting anti-aliasing then all you need to do is to update its drivers. The same goes for a graphic card from AMD.

Types of Anti-Aliasing

The process of anti-aliasing is divided into two types, Spatial Anti-Aliasing & Post Process Anti-Aliasing. These both types are further divided into many subcategories which we will discuss.

  1. Spatial Anti-Aliasing

    Understanding Spatial anti-aliasing requires knowledge of display resolution. Most modern displays have a resolution of 1080p (1920×1080), whether it’s your normal smartphone or your computer display. But many devices are having much higher resolutions up to 16K (15360×8640). The higher the resolution the better image output it would provide, this happens because higher resolutions hold a higher number of pixels which can utilize more colors & hence provide a crisper image.  

    So here is how spatial anti-aliasing works, imagine an image at a low resolution that has a lot of ragged edges (jaggies). Now when this image is rendered in higher resolution, color samples are taken of the edge of the image utilizing excess pixels which are averaged in different colors to soften the edge of the image. So a lower resolution image is rendered in a higher resolution & its colors are enhanced to blend its edges better.
     

  2. Super Sampled Anti-Aliasing

    Super sampled anti-aliasing or SSAA for short is the most effective anti-aliasing method. It is a subtype of spatial anti-aliasing & works on a similar procedure explained above. It gives a digital image a more photorealistic look with some downsides.
    The SSAA might negatively affect the lines on the x-axis & y-axis. Secondly, SSAA requires the whole image to be processed instead of a specific part of that image.

  1. Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing 

    MSAA or multi sample anti-aliasing works by making the GPU identify polygons & textures in an image. The GPU first identifies the polygon & then fills it with a matching texture to make the edges appear smoother & less rugged. The process of Spatial anti-aliasing sometimes provides a better overall image quality while requiring more processing power.
  1. NVIDIA & AMD’s Method (Spatial Anti-Aliasing) 

    Tech giants Nvidia & AMD created a special method for anti-aliasing unique to each manufacturer but similar in working. These methods are called CSAA also known as coverage sampling anti-aliasing by Nvidia & EQAA or enhanced quality anti-aliasing by AMD. By using such methods, the GPU detects if a polygon is present & which parts of the polygon are rugged & aliased & then processes only the rugged parts of the polygon saving power & those precious FPS. 
  1. Post-Process Anti-Aliasing 

    The Post-Process method focuses on blurring the pixels after the image is rendered. The system analyzes the color contrast between two bordering pixels in a polygon & then applies proportionate blurring to each pixel, smoothing the ragged edges or jaggies. This process is effective but causes too much blur on digital objects. This process also requires much less processing power & GPU cores as compared to Spatial Anti-Aliasing.
  1. Subpixel Morphological Anti-Aliasing  

    SMAA is also called enhanced subpixel morphological anti-aliasing, it is taking the tech world like covid-19 took on our lives. This advanced method uses both spatial & post-processing anti-aliasing. It uses blurring the edges of polygon like done in post-process anti-aliasing & also utilizes super sampling like spatial anti-aliasing. Therefore, this requires some amount of computational power.
  1. Temporal Anti-Aliasing 

    A film technique that maintains a seamless vision of motion as the player navigates a detailed virtual environment. Similar to SMAA, temporal anti-aliasing or TXAA for short, does both super sampling & blurring of digital objects to provide a smooth, streamlined experience & mesmerizing motion graphics. Because TXAA utilizes multiple methods for anti-aliasing it requires a tad more computing power & GPU cores. Although most modern graphics cards can easily provide FXAA anti-aliasing without affecting the 60 FPS limit.
  1. Nvidia & AMD Method (Post-Process Anti-Aliasing) 

    Fast approximate anti-aliasing or FXAA which is developed by Nvidia works similarly to AMD’s morphological anti-aliasing or MLAA. Although these methods have different names & are developed by completely different tech giants, they work similarly. As these methods are supported natively by both GPU providers, these are the most commonly used anti-aliasing techniques in the gaming community. Both of these processes require little computing power & hence can run on relatively low-end gaming machines. The downside is that it makes your graphics appear a bit blurred than other anti-aliasing methods.

Does Your System Support Anti-Aliasing?

These days almost every computer supports some sort of anti-aliasing method, here I will tell you which types of built support what type of anti-aliasing;

High-End Gaming Rigs

If you have a high-end gaming rig with more than sixteen gigabytes of RAM, a modern superfast SSD, a CPU that is capable of overclocking & a graphics card from the Nvidia’s 20 series or similar & a liquid-cooling system, then you should have absolutely no problem running your games at ultra-high graphics while enjoying seamless gameplay. If you have such a monstrous rig then you might prefer using SSAA, FXAA or MSAA 

Medium Spec Gaming Rigs

A graphic card similar to AMD’s RX470 or above, with a moderate CPU & more than eight gigabytes of RAM with standard ventilation, would support SMAA, MLAA, FXAA & MSAA without any extra requirements. You might still be able to utilize SSAA, TXAA, or MSAA on some graphic cards, but it would cost you those precious FPS for fast-paced multiplayer games.

Low-End Computers

If your computer has less than eight gigabytes of RAM, an older CPU (4th or 5th gen) & an integrated graphics card, then you might consider opting for SMAA & CSAA as these methods don’t require much juice off your hardware.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are some of the most asked questions about anti-aliasing & its methods;

Answer:

Anti-aliasing is important because it provides you with smoother gameplay in fast-paced games. If you play online games and are into competitive gaming keep it tuned to the max because it affects your performance.

Answer:

Yes, some methods increase your resolution to provide a more detailed & crispier image. For example, SSAA renders games at a high resolution from which it downs samples to provide a crisp display.

Answer:

Yes, anti-aliasing does affect your FPS, but it’s to make your game look realistic & smooth. If you have a high-end gaming rig, then you might not need to worry, otherwise, you should tweak your graphics settings a little bit.

Answer:

MSAA is suited best for mid-spec gaming PCs. but if you have a high-end graphics card & CPU then you might consider using the TXAA as it is an amazing new technology that requires a tad bit more power.

Answer:

Anti-aliasing does not cause input lag; it might cause a little drop in your FPS count.



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