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OpenGL How to rendering fast bitmap fonts/text

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Hi there,

i have implemented signed distance field bitmap fonts creation and rendering successfully in a simple opengl sample.
The rendering is a mix of modern shader stuff and immediate mode for translating and scaling the characters, but this are not allowed in my actual game engine. Only opengl es 2.0 compatible rendering is allowed, no pushmatrix, no translate, scale etc. What is the fastest way possible to convert the following code into a 100% opengl es 2.0 compatible way - just the todo part?


I dont think its a good way to do for every character two matrix operations (scale and translate) and one operation to reset the matrix before the drawing. Is there a way to improve that - can these be moved to the shader somehow ?

	private void drawText(String text, float x, float y, float scale, HorizontalAlignment halign, VerticalAlignment valign) {
		// Enable alpha blending

		// Enable vertex buffer - will also enabled client state for texture and vertex array

		// Set white color
		GL11.glColor4f(1f, 1f, 1f, 1f);

		// Calculate text sizes in world coordinates
		float textSizeX = getTextWidth(text, scale);
		float textSizeY = getTextHeight(text, scale);

		// Calculate starting text x and y offset in world coordinates
		float sxoffset = -textSizeX * 0.5f;
		float syoffset = 0f;
		if (HorizontalAlignment.Left.equals(halign)) {
			sxoffset += textSizeX * 0.5f;
		} else if (HorizontalAlignment.Right.equals(halign)) {
			sxoffset -= textSizeX * 0.5f;
		if (VerticalAlignment.Bottom.equals(valign)) {
			syoffset = textSizeY * 0.5f;
		} else if (VerticalAlignment.Top.equals(valign)) {
			syoffset = -textSizeY * 0.5f;

		// Enable bitmap font texture
		// Enable sdf shader when enabled
		if (sdfEnabled) {
			sdfShader.setUniform1i(sdfShaderTex0Location, 0);
		// TODO: Rendering the characters - each char is moved and scaled in immediate mode which does not work with opengl es 2.0!!!
		float xoffset = sxoffset;
		float yoffset = syoffset;
		for (int i = 0; i < text.length(); i++) {
			BitmapFontChar fontChar = bitmapFonts.get(text.codePointAt(i));
			GL11.glTranslatef(x + xoffset + fontChar.getAdvance() * scale * 0.5f, y + yoffset, 0f);
			GL11.glScalef(scale, scale, 1f);
			GL11.glDrawArrays(GL11.GL_QUADS, fontChar.getVboOffset(), 4);
			xoffset += fontChar.getAdvance() * scale;
		// Disable sdf shader when enabled
		if (sdfEnabled) {

		// Disable bitmap font texture

		GL11.glPolygonMode( GL11.GL_FRONT, GL11.GL_LINE );
		xoffset = sxoffset;
		yoffset = syoffset;
		for (int i = 0; i < text.length(); i++) {
			BitmapFontChar fontChar = bitmapFonts.get(text.codePointAt(i));
			GL11.glTranslatef(x + xoffset + fontChar.getAdvance() * 0.5f, y + yoffset, 0f);
			GL11.glDrawArrays(GL11.GL_QUADS, fontChar.getVboOffset(), 4);
			xoffset += fontChar.getAdvance();
			//yoffset -= 0.01f;
		GL11.glPolygonMode( GL11.GL_FRONT, GL11.GL_FILL );

		// Disable vertex buffer - will also disable client state for texture and vertex array

		// Disable alpha blending
Edited by Finalspace

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Create the matrix with some other matrix library, that is opengl compatible.


Then add something like this to your shader:


  gl_Position = u_matrix * a_position;


Then you should be able to set your matrix with setUniform and everything should work as before.

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I have already done this, but is this really the fastest way to do this?

				// Render chars
				float xoffset = sxoffset;
				float yoffset = syoffset;
				for (int i = 0; i < text.length(); i++) {
					TextureFontChar tfc = texFont.getChar(text.codePointAt(i));
					if (tfc == null) {
						// Char is not found, use first one which should the space character
						tfc = texFont.getChar(0);
					currentMatrix.translate(x + xoffset + tfc.getAdvance() * 0.5f * scale, y + yoffset, 0f);
					currentMatrix.scale(scale, scale, 1f);
					renderer.drawVertexArray(ElementType.Quad, tfc.getVboOffset(), 4);
					xoffset += tfc.getAdvance() * 2f * scale;

Edited by Finalspace

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Can't you just set up your quads first and then call just one DrawArrays for the whole screen full of text?
You can make it that whenever you call your text drawing code, it does NOT draw it but builds up the quad array. The text can then be all drawn with one call before you swap buffers, or whenever you like of course.

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Ah, sorry, I thought you meant "least change" with fastest.


If you are not animating the individual characters every frame, it would be faster to generate the vertexes into a vertex-array, and then re-use that until the text has to be changed.

Edited by Olof Hedman

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Ah, sorry, I thought you meant "least change" with fastest.


If you are not animating the individual characters every frame, it would be faster to generate the vertexes into a vertex-array, and then re-use that until the text has to be changed.


This may work to modify the vertex buffer and fill it with all the letter quads - should be faster than using 2 matrix operations per letter. Why i havent thought about that.... thanks for that hint! The only thing which sucks - filling the vertex buffer with java is a pain in the pass :-(


This is so .... inconvenient (This is done once to create the letters from the bitmap font in the vertex buffer initialy):

// Creating a vertex buffer for all letters/quads
fontVBO = renderer.createVertexBuffer(false, vertexCount, VertexBufferFormat.TEX2_VERTEX4_PAD2);

// Creating a damn byte buffer which is required for the fill vertex buffer method
ByteBuffer vertBuffer = ByteBuffer.allocateDirect(VertexBufferFormat.TEX2_VERTEX4_PAD2.getStride() * vertexCount).order(ByteOrder.nativeOrder());
// We want to fill floats into the byte buffer - so we need to convert it back to a float buffer -.-
FloatBuffer fontVertices = vertBuffer.asFloatBuffer();

// Put stuff in it
fontVertices.put(new float[] { u, v, x, y, z, w, 0f, 0f });

// Finally flip the buffer to write the bytes left to the final byte buffer
// This will also reset the postition to zero

// And lastly fill the vertex buffer with that byte buffer content

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