Image Tearing

Eliminating screen tearing in games and applications

Steve Smith talks screen tearing of game play images, the causes and solutions.

Episode #5-19 released on January 29, 2015

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What is more annoying than a low frames per second in a video game, or application, try screen tearing. To understand this, however, we must learn about the causes and how each of the tools provided work together. However, what is screen tearing?

Screen tearing occurs whenever your computer monitor is issued to asynchronous frames too close together and the image built is a composite of the two images, much like two distinctly different images glued together to look as one. Needless to say, it is an ugly side effect.

Your graphics card is capable of rendering synchronous and asynchronous content, based on its clock speed, processors, and on board memory. Newer graphics cards can generate hundreds of frames per second, I've even been witness to short bursts of 1000 FPS, according to fraps, on my own computer. Now that lasted like 5 seconds in a really quiet part of Gotham in Batman Arkman Origin. Many of you would agree with me, that for the highly intense parts of the game, the higher the frames per second, the more likely you are going to get an edge, but there is a catch. Your graphics card is not the only thing that has to render the image, so do your monitor.

Computer Monitors, and Televisions, have a specific refresh rate measured in hertz. Typical computer monitors have a refresh rate of 60 hertz in North American, and this is due to how our power grid functions. This means that our monitor's processor can process a frame every sixtieth of a second. This is good. Most gamers want a minimum of a sixty frames per second, and 60 hertz is 60 frames per second. There is a catch though.

If you graphics card is issuing asynchronous frames and your screen is expected to perform at sixty frames per second, what happens when the graphics card issues two frames too close to each other? Screen tearing. This is an ugly side effect, and the result of a graphics card outperforming the monitor. This can, also, decrease your ability to enjoy the game, and remove any edge you would have gotten from having the best computer in the entire server.

How does one fix screen tearing?

Let's start out with some truth. You can experience higher frame rates with your eyes, but you can't experience frame rates that exceed your monitor's refresh rate. If you wish to have a higher frame rate experience, what you need is a computer monitor that has a higher refresh rate. This being said, you will still encounter screen tearing if the frames per second exceed the refresh rate of the screen, no matter how fast the screen is. The answer to that riddle, is V-SYNC.

If you have a computer monitor capable of 144 hertz, and your game can run at 288 frames per second, each second frame will cause your image to tear, but activating V-SYNC will lock the frame rate at exactly 144 frames per second maximum. This means that if your action scenes frames per second exceeds in an unlocked framerate the maximum screen refresh rate, then you will perceive a continuous image of the screen with no image stuttering caused by lower frame rates, and you won't see image tearing from frame rates that exceed the screen's refresh rate.

Now, there are other technologies that will be able to help with game play. Currently our screens have to produce a whole new image every time something changes, however, the image doesn't always change entirely. This is where Nvidia's G-SYNC, and AMD's FreeSync come into play. These technologies, although technically different, will allow for portions of the screen to be rendered instead of the entire image. This will allow for games to run at a lower frame rate while maintaining your edge over the battle field.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

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