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, and Windows XP) operating system forms the foundation of a powerful suite of tools and features for creating real-time 3D graphics applications.

Why Use OpenGL Performer?

Use OpenGL Performer for building visual simulation applications and virtual reality environments; for rapid rendering in on-air broadcast and virtual-set applications; for assembly viewing in large, simulation-based design tasks; or to maximize the graphics performance of any application. Applications that require real-time visuals, free-running or fixed-frame-rate display, or high-performance rendering will benefit from using OpenGL Performer.

OpenGL Performer drastically reduces the work required to tune your application's performance. General optimizations include the use of highly tuned routines for all performance-critical operations and the 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 UltimateVision, InfiniteReality, Silicon Graphics Octane, Silicon Graphics O2, and VPro graphics subsystems. OpenGL Performer teamed with SGI graphics hardware provide 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 also 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 library.

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 you can minimize your application development time while maximizing the application's performance and visual impact.

For a concise description of OpenGL Performer basics, see the OpenGL Performer Getting Started Guide.

How to Use This Guide

The best way to get started is to read the OpenGL Performer Getting Started Guide. If you like learning from sample code, turn to Chapter 1, “Getting Acquainted with OpenGL Performer,” which takes you on a tour of some demo programs. These programs let you see for yourself what OpenGL Performer does. Even if you are not developing a visual simulation application, you might want to look at the demos to see high-performance rendering in action. At the end of Chapter 2, “Setting Up the Display Environment” in that guide, you will find suggestions pointing to possible next steps; alternatively, you can browse through the summary below to find a topic of interest.

What This Guide Contains

This guide is divided into the following chapters and appendixes:

Sample Applications

You can find the sample code for all of the sample OpenGL Performer applications installed under /usr/share/Performer/src/pguide on IRIX and Linux and under %PFROOT%\Src\pguide on Microsoft Windows.


This guide uses the following typographical conventions:


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


Indicates variables, book titles, and glossary items.


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 that 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.

Internet and Hardcopy Reading for the OpenGL Performer Series

The OpenGL Performer series include the followingmanuals in printed and online formats:

  • OpenGL Performer Programmer's Guide (this book)

  • OpenGL Performer Getting Started Guide

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 at the following URL:

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

Reader Comments

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