About This Guide

Welcome to the OpenGL Performer application development environment. OpenGL Performer provides a programming interface (with ANSI C and C++ bindings) for creating real-time graphics applications and offers high-performance, multiprocessed rendering in an easy-to-use 3D graphics toolkit. OpenGL Performer interfaces with the OpenGL graphics library; this library combined with the IRIX, Linux, or MicroSoft Windows (Windows 2000, Windows NT, or Windows XP) operating system forms the foundation of a powerful suite of tools and features for creating real-time 3D graphics applications.

This guide introduces the most important concepts and classes in the Performer libraries. A full explanation of all OpenGL Performer classes can be found in the OpenGL Performer Programmer's Guide. Use this guide to quick-start your programming using the OpenGL Performer application programming interface (API.)

What Is OpenGL Performer?

OpenGL Performer is an extensible software toolkit for creating real-time 3D graphics. Typical applications are in the fields of visual simulation, entertainment, virtual reality, broadcast video, and computer aided design. OpenGL Performer provides a flexible, intuitive, toolkit-based solution for developers who want to optimize application performance.

Why Use OpenGL Performer?

Use OpenGL Performer to:

  • Build visual simulation applications and virtual reality environments

  • Render on-air broadcast and virtual set applications quickly

  • View large simulation-based design tasks

  • Maximize the graphics performance of any application

Applications that require real-time visuals, free-running or fixed-frame-rate display, or high-performance rendering can benefit from using OpenGL Performer.

OpenGL Performer drastically reduces the work required to tune your application's performance. General optimizations include:

  • Use of highly tuned routines for all performance-critical operations

  • Reorganization of graphics data and operations for faster rendering

OpenGL Performer also handles SGI architecture-specific tuning issues for you by selecting the best rendering and multiprocessing modes at run time, based on the system configuration.

OpenGL Performer is an integral part of SGI visual simulation systems. It provides the interface to advanced features available exclusively with the SGI product line, such as the Silicon Graphics Prism, Silicon Graphics Onyx4 UlitimateVision, InfiniteReality, Silicon Graphics Octane, and Silicon Graphics O2, VPro, and Impact graphics subsystems. OpenGL Performer provides the features to develop a sophisticated image generation system in a powerful, flexible, and extensible software environment. OpenGL Performer is also tuned to operate efficiently on a variety of graphics platforms; you do not need the hardware sophistication of InfiniteReality graphics to benefit from OpenGL Performer.

What You Should Know Before Reading This Guide

To use OpenGL Performer, you should be comfortable programming in ANSI C or C++. You should have a fairly good grasp of graphics programming concepts; terms such as “texture map” and “homogeneous coordinate” are not explained in this guide. It helps if you are familiar with the OpenGL graphics libraries.

On the other hand, though you need to know a little about graphics, you do not have to be a seasoned C (or C++) programmer, a graphics hardware guru, or a graphics library virtuoso to use OpenGL Performer. OpenGL Performer puts the engineering expertise behind SGI hardware and software at your fingertips so that you can minimize your application development time while maximizing the application's performance and visual impact.

What This Guide Contains

This guide is divided into the following parts, chapters, and appendices: Part One is an overview of OpenGL Performer features; Part Two is a programming overview. For more detailed programming instructions, see the OpenGL Programmer's Guide. If your interest is in programming only, skip to Part Two.

Part One: Overview of OpenGL Performer

Part Two: Programming with OpenGL Performer

These chapters are followed by a glossary and an index.


This guide uses the following typographical conventions:


Used for function names with parentheses appended to the name. Also, bold lowercase letters represent vectors, and bold uppercase letters denote matrices.


Indicates variables and book titles.


Used for filenames, operating system command names, command-line option flags, code examples, and system output.

Bold Fixed-width 

Indicates user input, such as items you type in from the keyboard.

Note that in some cases it is convenient to refer to a group of similarly named OpenGL Performer functions by a single name; in such cases an asterisk is used to indicate all the functions whose names start the same way. For instance, pfNew*() refers to all functions whose names begin with “pfNew”: pfNewChan(), pfNewDCS(), pfNewESky(), pfNewGeode(), and so on.

All code examples for IRIX and Linux are available in both C and C++ forms in the source directory /usr/share/Performer/src/pguide; on Windows the examples can be found in %PFROOT%\Src\pguide.

Internet and Hardcopy Reading for the OpenGL Performer Series

The OpenGL Performer series include the following in printed and online versions:

  • OpenGL Performer Programmer's Guide

  • OpenGL Performer Getting Started Guide (this book)

To read these online books, point your browser at the following:

  • http://docs.sgi.com

For general information about OpenGL Performer, use the following URL:

  • http://www.sgi.com/software/performer

The info-performer mailing list provides a forum for discussion of OpenGL Performer including technical and nontechnical issues. Subscription requests should be sent to [email protected]. Much like the comp.sys.sgi.* newsgroups on the Internet, it is not an official support channel but is monitored by several interested SGI employees familiar with the toolkit. The OpenGL Performer mailing list archives are located at the following URL:

  • http://oss.sgi.com/projects/performer/mail/info-performer/

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