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Encyclopedia > Sprite (computer science)

In computer graphics, a sprite is a two-dimensional image or animation that is integrated into a larger scene. Computer graphics (CG) is the field of visual computing, where one utilizes computers both to generate visual images synthetically and to integrate or alter visual and spatial information sampled from the real world. ... For images in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Images. ... 12 drawings per second is the typical rate for an animated cartoon. ...


Sprites were originally invented as a method of quickly compositing several images together in two-dimensional video games using special hardware. As computer performance improved, this optimization became unnecessary and the term evolved to refer specifically to the two dimensional images themselves that were integrated into a scene. That is, figures generated by either custom hardware or by software alone were all referred to as sprites. As three-dimensional graphics became more prevalent, the term was used to describe a technique whereby flat images are seamlessly integrated into complicated three-dimensional scenes. This article is about computer and video games. ...

An example of sprite animation from the popular game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In this frame the sprouts of grass and brown puffs of smoke are integrated into the scene using sprites. Other objects in the frame such as the character (Link), the flower just behind his feet, and the rock walls and ground are more complicated three dimensional objects that employ texture mapping.
An example of sprite animation from the popular game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In this frame the sprouts of grass and brown puffs of smoke are integrated into the scene using sprites. Other objects in the frame such as the character (Link), the flower just behind his feet, and the rock walls and ground are more complicated three dimensional objects that employ texture mapping.
 A closer look at the graphic can help reveal imperfections of this rendering technique. Take a look at the puffs of smoke about the character and to the left. Notice that one sprite at the bottom of the largest puff of smoke is cutting into the ground, revealing its actual geometry is not an amorphous puff but a flat plane. Also notice that the grass near his feet is interacting with the flower near his feet in a strange way. The base of the grass is closer to the camera than the flower yet the blades appear to be behind. For this to be a correct perspective the grass would have to be leaning toward the ground away from the camera at an obtuse angle. Even though the original image that created the grass sprite was clearly created using textured polygons, it is being added to this scene as a sprite. These imperfections escape the notice of most viewers because they are rare, and often do not last very long as they and the camera move.
A closer look at the graphic can help reveal imperfections of this rendering technique. Take a look at the puffs of smoke about the character and to the left. Notice that one sprite at the bottom of the largest puff of smoke is cutting into the ground, revealing its actual geometry is not an amorphous puff but a flat plane. Also notice that the grass near his feet is interacting with the flower near his feet in a strange way. The base of the grass is closer to the camera than the flower yet the blades appear to be behind. For this to be a correct perspective the grass would have to be leaning toward the ground away from the camera at an obtuse angle. Even though the original image that created the grass sprite was clearly created using textured polygons, it is being added to this scene as a sprite. These imperfections escape the notice of most viewers because they are rare, and often do not last very long as they and the camera move.

More often sprite now refers to a partially transparent two dimensional animation that is mapped onto a special plane in a three dimensional scene. Unlike a texture map, the sprite plane is always perpendicular to the axis emanating from the camera. The image can be scaled to simulate perspective, it can be rotated two dimensionally, it can overlap other objects and be occluded, but it can only ever be viewed from the same angle. This rendering method is also referred to as billboarding. Image File history File links SpriteExamplefromZeldaWindwalker. ... Image File history File links SpriteExamplefromZeldaWindwalker. ... The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (or Zeruda no Densetsu: Kaze no Takuto in Japan) is the ninth game in the well-known The Legend of Zelda series of video games. ... This article or section needs a complete rewrite for the reasons listed on the talk page. ... Image File history File links SpriteExampleRevealed. ... Image File history File links SpriteExampleRevealed. ... This article or section needs a complete rewrite for the reasons listed on the talk page. ... A square in two-point perspective. ... A term indicating that the state of something, which is normally open, is now totally closed. ... Rendering is the process of generating an image from a model, by means of a software program. ...


Sprites create an effective illusion when:

  • the image inside the sprite already depicts a three dimensional object
  • the animation is constantly changing or depicts rotation
  • the sprite exists only for a short period of time
  • the depicted object has a similar appearance from many common viewing angles (such as something spherical)
  • the viewer accepts that the depicted object only has one perspective. (such as small plants or leaves)

When the illusion works viewers will not notice that the sprite is flat and always faces them. Often sprites are used to depict phenomena such as fire, smoke, small objects, small plants (like blades of grass), or special symbols (like "1-Up"). The sprite illusion can be exposed in video games by quickly changing the position of the camera while keeping the sprite in the center of the view.


Sprites have also occasionally been used as a special effects tool in movies. Most notably, the creators of the fire breathing Balrog in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring used sprites to simulate fire emanating from the surface of the demon. Small bursts of fire were filmed in front of a black background and made transparent using a luma key. Many bursts were then attached to the surface of the animated Balrog model and mixed with simulated smoke and heat waves to create the illusion of a monster made from fire. Spoiler warning: Balrogs are fictional demon-like creatures from J.R.R. Tolkiens Middle-earth legendarium. ... In graphics, keying is an informal term for compositing two full frame images together, by discriminating the visual information into values of color and light. ...


The term sprite can be applied more loosely to mean any 2D graphic drawn on a computer, also known as Pixel Art. This monster (The Gunk) is an example of pixel art drawn using Microsoft Paint Pixel art is a form of digital art, created on the computer through the use of raster graphics software, where images are edited on the pixel level. ...

Contents


Billboarding

Billboarding is one term used to describe the use of sprites in a 3D environment. In the same-way that a billboard is positioned to face drivers on a highway, the 3D sprite always faces the camera.


Rationale

There is both a performance advantage and an aesthetic advantage to using billboarding. Most 3D rendering engines can process "3D sprites" much faster than other types of 3D objects. So it is possible to gain an overall performance improvement by substituting sprites for some objects that might normally be modeled using texture mapped polygons. Aesthetically sprites might be desirable because polygons might never be able to realistically reproduce phenomena such as fire. Sprite images of fire might provide a more attractive illusion.


Alternative terms

  • 3D Sprite is a term often used to refer to sprites that are essentially texture mapped 3D facets that always have their surface normal facing into the camera.
  • Z-Sprite is a term often used for 3D environments that contain only sprites. The Z-parameter provides a scaling effect that creates an illusion of depth. For example in adventure games such as King's Quest VI the camera never moves, normal 2D sprites might suffice, but Z-sprites provide an extra touch.
  • Impostor is a term used instead of billboard if the billboard is meant to subtly replace a real 3D object.

A surface normal, or just normal to a flat surface is a three-dimensional vector which is perpendicular to that surface. ...

Hardware sprites

In early video gaming, sprites were a method of integrating unrelated bitmaps so that they appear to be part of a single bitmap on a screen. This article is about computer and video games. ... For the use of the term raster in radio regulation, see frequency raster. ... Nineteen inch (48 cm) CRT computer monitor A computer display, monitor or screen is a computer peripheral device capable of showing characters and/or still or moving images generated by a computer and processed by a graphics card. ...


The Blitter is a hardware implentation of the Painter's algorithm. For each frame the sprites are first bit blited (short for "bit block transfer") into the fast, large, double, and costly frame buffer and then the frame buffer is sent to the screen. The Blitter was renamed to graphics accelerators as more complicated rendering algorithms are used. The Blitter has a high initial cost for simple scenes. The painters algorithm is one of the simplest solutions to the visibility problem in 3D computer graphics. ... Bit blit (bitblt, blitting etc. ... The framebuffer is a part of RAM in a computer allocated to hold the graphics information for one frame or picture. ... The framebuffer is a part of RAM in a computer allocated to hold the graphics information for one frame or picture. ... It has been suggested that Video Display Processor be merged into this article or section. ...


The Sprite Engine is a hardware implementation of Scanline rendering. For each scanline the appropriate scanlines of the sprites are first copied (the number of texels is limited by the memory bandwidth and the length of the horizontal retrace) into very fast, small, multiple (limiting the # of sprites on a line), and costly caches (the size of which limit the horizontal width) and as the pixels are sent to the screen, these caches are combined with each other and a special sprite: The background. It is larger than the screen and tiled, were the tile map is cached, but the tile set is not. For every pixel every sprite unit signals it presence onto its line on a bus, so every other unit can notice a collision with it. Some sprite engines can automatically reload their "sprite units" from a display list. The Sprite Engine has synergy with the palette. To save registers, the height of the sprite, the location of the texture, and the zoom factors are often limited. On systems were the word size is the same as the texel there is no penality of doing unaligned reads needed for rotation. This leads to the limitations of the known implementations: Scanline rendering is a rendering algorithm in 3D computer graphics that works on a point-by-point basis rather than polygon-by-polygon basis. ... Look up cache in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This example shows an image with a portion greatly enlarged. ... Genlock (for Generator Lock) is a technique where the output of one system is used to synchronize another. ... The term screen has a number of meanings: A window screen is a wire mesh that covers a window opening to keep out insects even when the window is open. ... Look up cache in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The term background can have any of the following meanings: Background (computer software) refers to software that is running, but not being displayed. ... In computer architecture, a bus is a subsystem that transfers data or power between computer components inside a computer or between computers. ... Display list - a group of GL (graphics language, e. ... Synergy or synergism (from the Greek synergos meaning working together, circa 1660) refers to the phenomenon in which two or more discrete influences or agents acting together create an effect greater than the sum of the effects each is able to create independently. ... A palette, in computer graphics, is a designated subset of the total range of colours supported by a computer graphics system. ...

Computer using Chip sprites on screen sprites on line max texels on line texture width texture height colors anisotropic zoom rotation background collision detection transparency source
GBA 128 32 256 8 8 yes yes affine mapped tile layer alpha
SNES 128 32 256 8 8 yes yes affine mapped tiles alpha
Out Run using system16 128 32 8 8 yes no 3 tile layers alpha [1], [2]
Amiga using Denise 8 16 arbitrary 3,15 no no bitmap color key
PC Engine using HuC6270A 64 8 16,32 16,32,64 15 no no color key
Sega Genesis 80 20 320 8,16,24,32 8,16,24,32 15 no no 2 tile layers color key [3]
C64 using VIC-II 8 12,24 21 1,3 1,2 no 1 tile layer yes color key [4]
Atari using ANTIC 2,8 128, 256 1,3 color key [5]
Sega Master System
Sega Game Gear
64 8 8 8,16 color key [6]
NES 64 8 8 8,16 15 -2, -1, +1, +2 color key [7]
Game Boy 40 32 256 8 16 no no color key [8]

Many third party graphics cards offered sprite capabilities. Sprite Engines often scale badly, starting to flicker as the number of sprites increases above the number of sprite units, or uses more and more silicon as the designer of the chip implements more units and bigger caches. GBA redirects here. ... The European SNES design is identical to the Super Famicom. ... Out Run sit-down cabinet Out Run (also spelled OutRun and Outrun) is a 1986 racing game designed by Yu Suzuki and Sega-AM2 for the video arcade market. ... The Commodore Amiga Original Chip Set (OCS) is a chipset used in the earliest Amiga computers, from the 1985 Amiga 1000 onwards. ... The Commodore Amiga Original Chip Set (OCS) is a chipset used in the earliest Amiga computers, from the 1985 Amiga 1000 onwards. ... The PC Engine was a video game console released by NEC, a Japanese company, in 1987. ... The Mega Drive/Genesis was a 16-bit video game console released by Sega in Japan (1988), Europe (1990) and most of the rest of the world as the Mega Drive. ... Close_up of C64 Commodore 64 (C64, CBM 64) was a popular home computer of the 1980s. ... The VIC-II (Video Interface Chip II), specifically known as the MOS Technology 6567/8562/8564 (NTSC versions), 6569/8565/8566 (PAL), is the integrated circuit chip tasked with generating composite video graphics and DRAM refresh signals in the Commodore 64 and C128 home computers. ... An Atari 800XL, one of the most popular machines in the series. ... AntiC (or JLint) is a programming tool for finding programming errors in source code. ... The Sega Master System (SMS for short) is an 8-bit cartridge-based gaming console that was manufactured by Sega. ... The Sega Game Gear was Segas first portable gaming system. ... NES redirects here. ... The Game Boy ) line is a line of battery-powered handheld game consoles sold by Nintendo. ...


History

In the Mid 70's Texas Instruments devised the first video/graphics chips or processors capable of generating 'sprite graphics'


The Atari 400 and Atari 800 systems were the first PC's capable of generating 'sprite graphics' or PMG's to use Atari's name


During most of the 1980s, hardware speed was in the low, single-digit megahertz and memory was measured in mere kilobytes. Beside CISC-processors all chips are hardwired. Sprites are rare in most video hardware today. 1980 (MCMLXXX) was a leap year starting on Tuesday. ... MegaHertz (MHz) is the name given to one million (106) Hertz, a measure of frequency. ... The terms storage (U.K.) or memory (U.S.) refer to the parts of a digital computer that retain physical state (data) for some interval of time, possibly even after electrical power to the computer is turned off. ... Depending on the context in which it is used, the word kilobyte may mean either 1,000 or 1,024 bytes. ... A Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) is an instruction set architecture (ISA) in which each instruction can indicate several low-level operations, such as a load from memory, an arithmetic operation, and a memory store, all in a single instruction. ... Hardwired means not changeable. ...


The central processor can instruct the external chips to fetch source images and integrate them into the main screen using direct memory access channels. Calling up external hardware, instead of using the processor alone, greatly improved graphics performance. Because the processor is not occupied by the simple task of transferring data from one place to another, software can run faster; and because the hardware provided certain innate abilities, programs that use CISC or BIOS were also smaller. CPU redirects here. ... Direct memory access (DMA) allows certain hardware subsystems within a computer to access system memory for reading and/or writing independently of the CPU. Many hardware systems use DMA including disk drive controllers, graphics cards, network cards, and sound cards. ... A Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) is an instruction set architecture (ISA) in which each instruction can indicate several low-level operations, such as a load from memory, an arithmetic operation, and a memory store, all in a single instruction. ... Phoenix AwardBIOS on a standard PC BIOS, in computing, stands for Basic Input/Output System or Basic Integrated Operating System. ...


Separate locations in memory were used to hold the main display and the sprites.


There is a technique called "dirty rectangles", useful when the Blitter was not sufficiently powerful or software sprites were being used. There is only one frame buffer that wraps around the edges, but only those parts that have changed since the last repaint are updated either with the background or the sprites in their updated positions.


Some sprite engines could only store 8 positions in their registers and the unchallenged CPU was programmed to update them several times per frame. Software blitting was complicated by some very strange addressing modes into video ram.


Application

Sprites are typically used for characters and other moving objects in video games. They have also been used for mouse pointers and for writing letters to the screen. Operating a mechanical 1: Pulling the mouse turns the ball. ...


Alternative terms

For on-screen moving objects larger than one sprite's extent, sprites may sometimes be scaled and/or combined.

  • Player-Missile Graphics was used on the Atari 400/800 and Early Atari Coin Op games to refer to hardware-generated sprites. The term reflected the usage for both characters ("players") and other objects ("missiles"). They had restricted horizontal resolution (8 or 2 pixels, albeit with scalability, and a potential 192 lines of vertical resolution), limiting their use somewhat.
  • Movable Object Block, or MOB was used in MOS Technology's graphics chip literature (data sheets, etc). However, Commodore, the main user of MOS chips and the owner of MOS for most of the chip maker's lifetime, applied the common term "sprite".
  • On the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Game Boy, sprites were referred to as OBJs (short for "objects"), and the region of RAM used to store sprite attributes and coordinates was known as OAM (Object Attribute Memory). This still applies today on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS handheld systems.
  • BLOB's or 'Blitter Objects', the sprite system used in the Amiga series of computers.
  • Software sprites were used to refer to subroutines that used bit blitting to accomplish the same goal on systems such as the Atari ST and the Apple II whose graphics hardware had no sprite capability.
  • The computer programming language Dark Basic used the term Bob (for "blitter object") to refer to its software-sprite functions, before switching to the more conventionally-used "sprite" term.

An Atari 800XL, one of the most popular machines in the series. ... MOS Technology, Inc. ... Commodore is the commonly used name for Commodore International, a West Chester, Pennsylvania based electronics company who was a vital player in the home/personal computer field in the 1980s. ... NES redirects here. ... The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, also known as Super Nintendo, Super NES or SNES, is a 16-bit video game console released by Nintendo in North America, Brazil, Europe, and Australia. ... The original Game Boys design set the standard for handheld gaming consoles. ... GBA redirects here. ... The Nintendo DS (sometimes abbreviated NDS or DS) is a handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo, released in 2004. ... The Atari 520ST Atari 1040STF with SC1224 color monitor The Atari ST is a home/personal computer that was commercially popular from 1985 to the early 1990s. ... The Apple II was one of the most popular personal computers of the 1980s. ...

Sprite culture

Main article: Spriting

More recently, sprites are edited or created by fans in a process called "spriting". "Spriters" mostly use them to become sprite comic artists, for the purpose of creating a video game-themed comic. It has been continued by Macromedia Flash animators who create sprite cartoons. In these communities, spriting has been made into small sections; recoloring, edits, customs, etc. Sprites can be alternated by using techniques such as the one's above. By doing this, Spriters can create their very own "Sprite character" to use in "Sprite sheets" to show that the sheet was made by that spriter but the spriter must put a "sprite tag" on the sheet saying something like "Please do not steal" or "give credit" or "If you wish to put this on your site, do not remove this tag",etc. Sprites can be edited from any game where sprites are available. Making pictures with sprites is called a "Hoax" which is the sprites in a group or doing certain actions but a "Hoax" is not a true image from a game. The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... Sprite comics are webcomics that use computer sprites, often taken from video games, for significant portions of their artwork. ... // == Macromedia Flash == ==]] Using Macromedia Flash 8 (bundled in Studio 8) in Windows XP. Maintainer: Adobe Systems (formerly Macromedia) Latest release: 8 / September 30th, 2005 OS: Windows (no native Windows XP Professional x64 Edition support), Mac OS X, Linux (i386 only, via wine [1]) Use: Multimedia Content Creator License: Proprietary Website... A Sprite cartoon is an animation made using sprites - most notably from computer and video games - and usually made with Macromedia Flash. ...


External links

Sprite archives


  Results from FactBites:
 
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Sprite (computer graphics) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1820 words)
Sprites were originally invented as a method of quickly compositing several images together in two-dimensional video games using special hardware.
For each frame the sprites are first bit blited (short for "bit block transfer") into the fast, large, double, and costly frame buffer and then the frame buffer is sent to the screen.
Software sprites were used to refer to subroutines that used bit blitting to accomplish the same goal on systems such as the Atari ST and the Apple II whose graphics hardware had no sprite capability.
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