art with code
20120129
Shooting high ISO in broad daylight
DSLRs these days get usable results even at superhigh ISO (sensor sensitivity to light, higher it is the less light you need). But, um, what's the use of ISO 25600 if most of your shooting happens in bright daylight (or anything other than pitchblack darkness). Let's think!
What you get from cranking up ISO is the capability to use faster shutter speeds and tighter apertures. So you get photos with less motion blur and more of the image in focus. So you could shoot in motion and not need to focus. This is starting to sound useful. Shoot while walking without having to stop.
How about framing though? Having your camera up on your eye when you're walking up stairs sounds like a recipe for broken bones. Shooting from the hip would be nicer, but now you can't see what's in frame. Wideangle lenses to the rescue! Get enough of the scene in the image that you'll likely have your subject in the frame, and do the framing in post.
It's really fast to take photos if you don't have worry about focus or framing. Point camera at what you're interested in, press shutter, done.
High ISO looks like crap in color though. Go black and white and you'll get smooth usable results at 6400 and noisy results at 25600 on a Nikon D5100 / D7000 / Sony NEX5N (all have the same sensor AFAIK. I have a D5100). I'd kinda like to try a NEX5N with a pancake lens for a small setup.
To recap: set ISO to 6400 or 25600, shoot in black and white, use manual focus (set to nearinfinity or 20 meters or something), set shutter speed to 1/1000 or 1/500, aperture to f/16, use a 24mm lens or wider, snap away while walking!
Here's a gallery of my results from yesterday. They're not all pure examples of this technique, for some I brought the camera to my eye to do framing.
20120127
Animating a million letters with WebGL
Here's an WebGL animated book demo! It's got just 150000 letters, but it does scale up to two million.
Writing efficient WebGL is a bit funny. The basic idea is to collect as many operations as possible into a single draw call, as changing the WebGL state machine state and doing WebGL calls is relatively expensive. If you want to draw more than a couple thousand objects at once, you need to adopt a quite different strategy for drawing.
The usual way of drawing with WebGL is to set up your uniforms, buffers and shaders for each object, followed by a call to draw the object. Unless your object is very complex, the time taken in this way of drawing is dominated by the state setup. To draw in a fast way, you can either do some buffer editing in JavaScript, followed by reuploading the buffer and the draw call. If you need to go even faster, you can push more computation to the shaders.
My goal in this article is to draw a million animated letters on the screen at a smooth framerate. This task should be quite possible with modern GPUs. Each letter consists of two textured triangles, so we're only talking about two million triangles per frame.
Ok, let's start. First I'm going to create a texture with the letter bitmaps on it. I'm using the 2D canvas for this. The resulting texture has all the letters I want to draw. Then I'm going to create a buffer with texture coordinates to the letter sprite sheet. While this is an easy and straightforward method of setting up the letters, it’s a bit wasteful as it uses two floats per vertex for the texcoords. A shorter way would be to pack the letter index and corner index into one number and convert that back to texture coordinates in the vertex shader.
I also upload a twomillion triangle array to the GPU. These vertices are used by the vertex shader to put the letters on the screen. The vertices are set to the letter positions in the text so that if you render the triangle array asis, you get a basic layout rendering of the text.
With a simple vertex shader, I get a flat view of the text. Nothing fancy. Runs well, but if I want to animate it, I need to do the animation in Javascript. And JavaScript is kinda slow for animating the six million vertices involved, especially if you want to do it on every frame. Maybe there is there a faster way.
Why yes, we can do procedural animation. What that means is that we do all our position and rotation math in the vertex shader. Now I don't need to run any JavaScript to update the positions of the vertices. The vertex shader runs very fast and I get a smooth framerate even with a million triangles being individually animated every frame. To address the individual triangles, I round down the vertex coordinates so that all four points of a letter quad map to a single unique coordinate. Now I can use this coordinate to set the animation parameters for the letter in question.
The only problem now is that JavaScript doesn’t know about the particle positions. If you really need to know where your particles are, you could duplicate the vertex shader logic in JavaScript and update them in, say, a web worker every time you need the positions. That way your rendering thread doesn’t have to wait for the math and you can continue animating at a smooth frame rate.
For more controllable animation, we could use rendertotexture functionality to tween between the JavaScriptprovided positions and the current positions. First we render the current positions to the texture, then tween from the JS array towards these positions, updating the texture on each frame. The nice thing about this is that we can update a small fraction of the JS positions per frame and still continue animating all the letters every frame. The vertex shader is tweening the positions.
Using MediaStream API
Using the MediaStream API to access webcam from JavaScript:
navigator.webkitGetUserMedia("video,audio",
function(stream) {
var url = webkitURL.createObjectURL(stream);
videoTag.src = url;
videoTag.onerror = function() {
stream.stop();
alert('camera error');
};
},
function(error) {
alert(error.code);
}
);
navigator.webkitGetUserMedia("video,audio",
function(stream) {
var url = webkitURL.createObjectURL(stream);
videoTag.src = url;
videoTag.onerror = function() {
stream.stop();
alert('camera error');
};
},
function(error) {
alert(error.code);
}
);
Very basic math
I was playing around with the idea of presenting fractions in the same way as negative numbers. Instead of 1/x, you'd write /x. Just like instead of 0x, you write x. And since multiplication with singleletter symbols is often annotated with putting the symbols next to each other, marking the inverse with /x looks quite natural: A x /B = A/B, 9 x /7 = 9/7.
It also makes you think of the inverse in less magical terms. Consider the addition rule for fractions:
A C AD BC AD + BC
 +  =  +  = 
B D BD BD BD
There's some crazy magic happening right there. The literal meaning is (A x D x 1/B x 1/D) + (C x B x 1/D x 1/B), but you wouldn't know from looking at that formula. And it gets even more confusing when you start multiplying and dividing with fractions. Think about the following for a moment:
A C AD
 /  = 
B D BC
Right?
In linear notation with /B and /D and suchlike, this all actually sort of makes sense in a nonmagical way. Here's the first of the above two examples (with intermediate phases written out):
(A x /B) + (C x /D)
= [1 x (A x /B)] + [1 x (C x /D)]
= [(D x /D) x (A x /B)] + [(B x /B) x (C x /D)]
= [(A x D) x (/B x /D)] + [(B x C) x (/B x /D)]
= (/B x /D) x [(A x D) + (B x C)]
[here's where you go: "oh right, /7 x /4 = /28", analogous to 7 x 4 = 28]
And the second one:
A x /B x /(C x /D)
= A x /B x /C x D
= (A x D) x (/B x /C)
Note the similarity with addition:
A + B + (C + D)
= A + B + C + D
= (A + D) + (B + C)
Now, you might notice that there is a bit of magic there. How does /(C x /D) magically turn into (/C x D)? Or (C + D) to (C + D) for that matter. Let's find out! Here's how it works:
/(C x /D)
= 1 x /(C x /D)
= [(/C x D) x /(/C x D)] x /(C x /D)
= (/C x D) x /(/C x C x D x /D)
= (/C x D) x /(1 x 1)
= (/C x D) x /1  Remember the axioms 1 x N = N and N x /N = 1. Since 1 x /1 = 1 we get /1 = 1.
= (/C x D) x 1 = (/C x D)
For the (C + D) case, replace / with , x with + and 1 with 0.
And there you have it, my small thought experiment. And derivations for some basic arithmetic rules. I kinda like how breaking the magic bits down into the basic field axioms makes things clearer.
[edit]
Why is /A x /B = /(A x B)?
/(A x B) x (A x B) = 1
1 x (/A x /B) = (/A x /B)
/(A x B) x (A x B) x (/A x /B) = (/A x /B)
/(A x B) x (A x /A) x (B x /B) = (/A x /B)
/(A x B) x 1 x 1 = (/A x /B)
/(A x B) = (/A x /B)
It also makes you think of the inverse in less magical terms. Consider the addition rule for fractions:
A C AD BC AD + BC
 +  =  +  = 
B D BD BD BD
There's some crazy magic happening right there. The literal meaning is (A x D x 1/B x 1/D) + (C x B x 1/D x 1/B), but you wouldn't know from looking at that formula. And it gets even more confusing when you start multiplying and dividing with fractions. Think about the following for a moment:
A C AD
 /  = 
B D BC
Right?
In linear notation with /B and /D and suchlike, this all actually sort of makes sense in a nonmagical way. Here's the first of the above two examples (with intermediate phases written out):
(A x /B) + (C x /D)
= [1 x (A x /B)] + [1 x (C x /D)]
= [(D x /D) x (A x /B)] + [(B x /B) x (C x /D)]
= [(A x D) x (/B x /D)] + [(B x C) x (/B x /D)]
= (/B x /D) x [(A x D) + (B x C)]
[here's where you go: "oh right, /7 x /4 = /28", analogous to 7 x 4 = 28]
And the second one:
A x /B x /(C x /D)
= A x /B x /C x D
= (A x D) x (/B x /C)
Note the similarity with addition:
A + B + (C + D)
= A + B + C + D
= (A + D) + (B + C)
Now, you might notice that there is a bit of magic there. How does /(C x /D) magically turn into (/C x D)? Or (C + D) to (C + D) for that matter. Let's find out! Here's how it works:
/(C x /D)
= 1 x /(C x /D)
= [(/C x D) x /(/C x D)] x /(C x /D)
= (/C x D) x /(/C x C x D x /D)
= (/C x D) x /(1 x 1)
= (/C x D) x /1  Remember the axioms 1 x N = N and N x /N = 1. Since 1 x /1 = 1 we get /1 = 1.
= (/C x D) x 1 = (/C x D)
For the (C + D) case, replace / with , x with + and 1 with 0.
And there you have it, my small thought experiment. And derivations for some basic arithmetic rules. I kinda like how breaking the magic bits down into the basic field axioms makes things clearer.
[edit]
Why is /A x /B = /(A x B)?
/(A x B) x (A x B) = 1
1 x (/A x /B) = (/A x /B)
/(A x B) x (A x B) x (/A x /B) = (/A x /B)
/(A x B) x (A x /A) x (B x /B) = (/A x /B)
/(A x B) x 1 x 1 = (/A x /B)
/(A x B) = (/A x /B)
20120121
Fast code
I was thinking of the characteristics of highperformance language runtimes (read: execution times close to optimal for hardware) and came up with this list:
Suck in the data in cache line sized chunks, process entire cache line before moving to the next, preload next cache line while processing the current one. Use vector instructions to manipulate several bytes of data at the same time, use parallelism to manipulate several streams of data at the same time. Make your processing kernel fit into L1 instruction cache
Gnnnn ok, back to writing JavaScript.
 Flat data structures (err, like an array of structs where struct N is in memory right before struct N+1)
 streaming memory reads are prefetcherfriendly, spend less time chasing pointers
 Tightlypacked data
 memory fetches happen in cache line sized chunks, tightlypacked data gives you more payload per memory fetch
 fit more payload into cache, faster subsequent memory accesses
 Reusable memory
 keep more of the working set of data in cache
 Unboxed values
 spend less time chasing pointers
 generate tight code for data manipulation because data type known (float/double/int/short/byte/vector)
 Vector instructions
 more bytes manipulated per instruction, data moves faster through an execution unit
 Parallel execution
 more bytes manipulated per clock cycle, data moves faster through the processor
 Keep data in registers when possible
 less time spent waiting for caches
 Keep data in cache when possible
 less time spent waiting for memory
 instead of going over the full data set several times endtoend, split it into cachesized chunks and process each one fully before moving onto the next one
 Minimize amount of unnecessary data movement between processing units
 keep data close to processor until you're done with it, even more important with GPUs
 Flat code layout
 low amount of jumps per byte processed
 Tight code
 keep more of the program in cache
 Interleaved I/O
 work on already loaded data while loading in new data
 minimum amount of time spent waiting for I/O
Suck in the data in cache line sized chunks, process entire cache line before moving to the next, preload next cache line while processing the current one. Use vector instructions to manipulate several bytes of data at the same time, use parallelism to manipulate several streams of data at the same time. Make your processing kernel fit into L1 instruction cache
Gnnnn ok, back to writing JavaScript.
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About Me

Ilmari Heikkinen
 Built art installations, web sites, graphics libraries, web browsers, mobile apps, desktop apps, media player themes, many nutty prototypes
Projects
 Filezoo  Minimalistic zoomable file manager
 Cake.js  JavaScript Canvas animation library
 Missile Fleet  A game written with Cake.js
 Gitbug  Inrepo bug tracker for Git
 Prelude.ml  OCaml stdlib replacement with a Haskellish flavour
 Metadata  File metadata extraction tool and Ruby library
 Thumbnailer  File thumbnailing tool and Ruby library
 Random canvas demos