Z3: An Economical Hardware Technique for High-Quality Antialiasing and Transparency

Norman P. Jouppi*, Chun Fa Chang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

56 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we present an algorithm for low-cost hardware antialiasing and transparency. This technique keeps a central Z value along with compact floating-point Z gradients in the X and Y dimensions for each fragment within a pixel (hence the name Z3). It uses a small fixed amount of storage per pixel. If the visible complexity of the pixel exceeds the storage space available for the pixel, the minimum number of fragments having the closest Z values are merged. This combines different fragments from the same surface, resulting in both storage and processing efficiency. When operating with opaque surfaces, Z3 can provide superior image quality over sparse supersampling methods that use eight samples per pixel while using storage for only three fragments. Z3 also makes the use of large numbers of samples (e.g., 16) feasible in inexpensive hardware, enabling higher quality images. It is simple to implement because it uses a small fixed number of fragments per pixel. Z3 can also provide order-independent transparency even if many transparent surfaces are present. Moreover, unlike the original A-buffer algorithm it correctly antialiases interpenetrating transparent surfaces because it has three-dimensional Z information within each pixel.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - SIGGRAPH/Eurographics Workshop on Graphics Hardware
EditorsA. Kaufmann, W. Strasser, S. Molnar, B.-O. Schneider
PublisherThe Eurographics Association
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)1581131704, 9781581131703
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes
Event1999 ACM SIGGRAPH/EUROGRAPHICS Workshop on Graphics Hardware, EGGH 1999 - Los Angeles, United States
Duration: 1999 Aug 81999 Aug 9

Publication series

NameProceedings - SIGGRAPH/Eurographics Workshop on Graphics Hardware


Conference1999 ACM SIGGRAPH/EUROGRAPHICS Workshop on Graphics Hardware, EGGH 1999
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLos Angeles


  • A-buffer
  • Anti-aliasing
  • Supersampling
  • Transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Hardware and Architecture


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