NVIDIA: We’ve Had Sharpening in NVIDIA FreeStyle for Quite Some Time; Anti-Lag Sounds Like Maximum Pre-Rendered Frames Setting


During AMD's keynote at E3 2019, the 'Red Team' announced more than just the next line of CPUs and GPUs. On the software side, they revealed a few technologies that are meant to improve graphics fidelity and input lag in games that implement them.

  • Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS) – Restores clarity to in-game images that have been softened by other post-process effects. RIS combines with GPU uspcaling to provide sharp visuals at fluid frame rates on very high-resolution displays and works across DirectX® 9, 12, and Vulkan® titles.
  • FidelityFX – An open-source developer toolkit available in the coming weeks on GPUOpen that makes it easier for developers to create high-quality post-processing effects that make games look beautiful while offering a balance of visual fidelity and performance. FidelityFX features Contrast-Adaptive Sharpening (CAS) that draws out detail in low-contrast areas while minimizing artifacts caused by typical image sharpening routines. Developers plan to integrate CAS into a number of popular games, and Unity Technologies plans to integrate it into its real-time 3D development platform.
  • Radeon™ Anti-Lag – Optimized for eSports, Radeon™ Anti-Lag improves competitiveness by decreasing input-to-display response times by up to 31 percent, delivering an experience similar to higher framerates.

The following day, though, we attended a behind-closed-doors presentation with NVIDIA executives at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, only a short distance away from The Novo venue where AMD hosted its Next Horizon Gaming event.

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The announcements shared by NVIDIA are still under embargo, but we also had the chance to speak with Justin Walker, Director of Product Management at NVIDIA, specifically about AMD's newly revealed technologies. On sharpening, he pointed out how NVIDIA Freestyle allowed gamers to tweak that ever since it was introduced in early 2018.

[...] they announced a bunch of technologies, Radeon Sharpening, which is fine. But you know, if you want to go compare that we've got, we've had sharpening in NVIDIA Freestyle for a very long time. NVIDIA Freestyle has got a whole suite of filters, one of which is sharpening. But there's also things like HDR toning, and color vibrance, all that stuff. So if you want to play around with sharpening, just keep in mind, you don't have to wait.

That's not the only way PC gamers can do it, anyway. ReShade, the popular post-processing injector, also allows sharpening and many other similar tweaks to graphics.

Moving on to the Anti-Lag subject, Walker had this to say:

I think it's something similar to what we call maximum pre-rendered frames, which is actually something we've had in our control panel for some time.

Basically what happens is during the graphics pipeline, the CPU will start processing frames and send them into the pipeline. Now, if you allow it to buffer frames, meaning to see if you just go as fast as you can even if the GPU is not ready, it may send a few frames in the pipeline. You do that to get the max performance, then you can guarantee the GPU is never waiting for the CPU. Because if that happens, you may have to wait a little for the CPU to process before it needs a GPU. So a lot of times, you'll buffer up a few frames in there, which is great if you're worried about just straight up performance. However, if you're sensitive to latency, which if you're an eSports fan you are, then any mouse movement you make will not affect frames already in that buffer. So if I make a movement, it'll go into the next frame. But that gets in line behind like a full frame already sitting there in the buffer. And so that can introduce, you know, depending on your frame rate, maybe 20 milliseconds of lag. Now, you can go to our control panel and set it yourself. And I think this is what they are doing, setting the maximum pre-rendered frames to one. And that won't do any buffering, which may affect your performance a little bit, but it'll take your latency away.

It should be noted that Walker wasn't entirely sure AMD's Radeon Anti-Lag technology was indeed based on this very concept. We'll have to wait for Anti-Lag to become available to discover whether this is actually the case.