Font rendering with the FP10 drawing API

After all the vector/font rendering library is done – the HaXe sources and SWC files for ActionScript 3.0 are available on the polygonal google code project page. As a reminder – the project started as an experiment if it’s possible to render fonts using the FP10 drawing API without loading or embedding any additional assets.

For obvious reasons, I can only include free fonts. At the moment the de.polygonal.graphics.text.fonts package contains Microsoft’s TrueType core fonts hosted on sourceforge, the Bitstream Vera fonts as well as the famous bitmap04 pixel fonts.

The pros and cons

Pros

  • No font embedding required :) Import a font class and you are ready to go
  • Provides high quality font rendering; best used for extra smooth text animation
  • Seriously fast!
  • Seamless integration into the FP 10 drawing API

Cons

  • An ASCII set of printable characters adds about 20kb-30kb to the swf file – I’ll try to reduce this in a future release.
  • Not very readable at small font sizes (except pixel fonts) because it does not include any hinting information for improving the quality – text remains legible down to about 12 points (viewed at 100%)
  • You need a copy of Fontographer 4.1 to convert ttf files
  • No text field functionality yet
  • Only supports ASCII character (latin character set like ISO-8859 is planned)

Examples

Here are the ‘MS core fonts for the web’ rendered with the font library:

This also works amazingly well for pixel fonts (which I didn’t expect at all):

How it works

First a .ttf file is loaded into Fontographer and exported as a postscript file (I tried other methods but I stuck with this approach because postscript files are easy to understand). A parser reads this file and generates a HaXe class that contains the glyph data. The result is something like this: Arial.hx.

If using HaXe, the font_inline compiler flag gives you control over compilation time vs runtime performance. If omitted, compilation is fast so it’s best suited for frequent testing and debugging and the compiler-based auto-completion remains responsive. If compiled with -D font_inline, compilation is slow but results in the best performance.

The actual rendering is done by a class named de.polygonal.graphics.VectorRenderer. It uses the FP 10 drawing API in conjunction with ‘alchemy memory’ as a temporary buffer to gain some extra speed. At first all drawing commands are written into a chunk of memory, then copied into a vector and finally sent to the screen via graphics.drawGraphicsData(…). Depending on the CPU this is roughly 1.5-4x faster than using only vector. Note that this only accelerates the process of preparing the data, not the rendering itself (everything beyond drawGraphicsData())

ActionScript 3.0 usage

Grab the SWC file, add it to the library and the following code should (hopefully) compile fine:

package 
{
  import de.polygonal.ds.mem.MemoryManager;
  import de.polygonal.graphics.text.fonts.coreweb.Arial;
  import de.polygonal.graphics.VectorRenderer;
  import flash.display.MovieClip;
  import flash.Boot;
  
  public class Main extends MovieClip
  {
    public function Main():void 
    {
      new Boot(this);
      MemoryManager.allocate(4096);
     
      var vr:VectorRenderer = new VectorRenderer(512);
      vr.setLineStyle(0, 1, 0);
      
      var font:Arial = new Arial();
      font.bezierThreshold = 0.001;
      font.setPointSize(100);
      font.setRenderer(vr);
      font.write("Hello World!", 0, 100, false);
      
      vr.flush(graphics);
    }
  }
}

The source code reads like this:

  • initialize HaXe specific things
  • allocate 4 megs of alchemy memory to be on the safe side
  • create a vector renderer using a buffer size of 512kb
  • assign a line style (rgb, alpha, thickness)
  • create a font object
  • define curve smoothness, the smaller, the better (0=linear approx. using 2 segments/curve)
  • set the font size: 100 equals 72pt or one inch.
  • assign a renderer so the font can send drawing commmands to it
  • draw “Hello, World!” at the coordinates 0,100 (x,y), if the last parameter is true, the text will be centered around (x,y)
  • flush the buffer which draws everything to the screen

Glyph and text bounds

You can compute axis aligned bounding boxes for the whole text block or individual characters using the getBounds() and getIndividualBounds() methods prior to drawing the text:

Creating font classes

Converting fonts can be done using de.polygonal.gl.text.util.EPSConvert.