Morphological AA (MLAA) The Good, Bad & Ugly

Discussion in 'Gaming (Software and Graphics Cards)' started by ViciousXUSMC, Oct 25, 2010.

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  1. ViciousXUSMC

    ViciousXUSMC Master Viking NBR Reviewer

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    There has been an explosion of excitement with AMD's newest driver set for the Radeon 6xxx cards the 10.10a hotfix driver set.

    The reason why is because of the brand new feature called Morphological Anti-Aliasing aka MLAA.

    Whats all the rave about?

    Its the first AA mode that has virtually no hit on performance at all. The most seen is about 1fps and that itself is within a margin for error.

    So thats the good :D


    But the problem is that its not a traditional 3D engine AA mode, it is in fact a simple post processing effect that intelligently seeks out edges and attempts to blur them in with the background. One thing to note, since its a post processing effect taking a screenshot with a program like FRAPS will not show the effect but instead the original unaltered image!

    Thats the bad :p


    So as an effect its the first AA mode that will effect the entire screen no matter what its content, this is including and not limited to things like the 2D elements in a game like the HUD.

    The MLAA effect looks great on many 3D objects and games, but it very visibly blurs things like sharp 2D text on your HUD and can also blur out and even eliminate file details on 3D elements.

    That is the ugly ;)


    So what do I have in store for you guys today? Read on!

    Well firstly there have been attempts to modify the 10.10a drivers to work with the 5xxx series cards. Some people claim success others like myself do not.

    I had the drivers working perfectly and got to see the MLAA working with my own eyes but had some kind of texture corruption I could see in Starcraft 2, and thats about the only game I am playing right now.

    Minor patches of texture would vanish and appear at random, and most notably my pylon power field would be missing or only partially there. I tried multiple modified driver sets and did a clean install with no aval.

    So I think right now the modified drivers are not successful completely.

    After seeing MLAA I can say I actually prefer to game with it off. I do not see the point in trading a few jaggies gone in exchange for a blurred HUD and text elements. I far more notice the blur to details that I ever did the jaggies.

    It may work well with games that have minimal HUD elements or less fine text than say Starcraft 2.

    To demonstrate the effect on both 2D and 3D I made 2 animated .gifs for you. You can easily see the difference between the MLAA and no AA.

    Here is the effect it has on TEXT (click spoiler tag to view image)

    [​IMG]

    Here is the effect it has on 3D (click spoiler tag to view image)

    [​IMG]

    So now you can see the trade off and decide for yourself if its worth it.

    I think many will not and save yourself the trouble of messing with hacked 10.10a drivers for now.


    So back to when I said I had something special for you....

    I said you cant take screenshots of MLAA since its a post processing effect, yet I have comparison screen shots posted...

    How did I do that?

    I got AMD's MLAA testing program. Its a .exe that runs the filter on a .PNG image and then renders a new image for you with the MLAA effect this is exactly 100% the same thing that happens when you turn MLAA on with the AMD CCC.

    I took the time to put together an easy to use package so that anybody can see for themselves what MLAA will look like on their favorite games. This filter program should work on any computer with any video card but I only have 5870 cards in my computers so I cant say for sure.

    Download, Extract, read the read me file for instructions and enjoy!


    Download ViciousXUSMC's MLAA Testing Package


    ** The package was created by me, MLAA.exe was created by AMD.

    When I found MLAA.exe it had no clear instructions on how to use it. Its command line only so to make it user friendly I created the folder tree, the .bat file and the instructions on how to use it so that everybody can enjoy and test with it.

    I only ask that if you want to share with others that you send them to this thread and not directly re-distribute it. Thanks.
     
  2. hteng

    hteng Notebook Consultant

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    awesome post, thanks for the info. any chance this will be possible for nvidia cards?
     
  3. ViciousXUSMC

    ViciousXUSMC Master Viking NBR Reviewer

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    Yeah its post processing, Nvidia can implement it unless AMD finds some way to legally prevent them from doing so.

    Im sure they will rip the technology and rename it to something different and have it soon.

    I hope somebody also makes it into a photoshop filter, since the MLAA.exe is already half way there.

    The only dependency it has right now is Shader Model 5.0 and thats part of Direct X 11 so that means in its current state you would need Vista/7 for an OS and a DX11 GPU to run this in game as MLAA. (thats my long way of saying Nvidia cards can support it as far as I can tell)

    The program I posted is much slower than real time rendering via the GPU and SM 5.0 it uses the CPU to process it much like a photoshop filter, so you should be able to test what MLAA will look like no matter what your OS or GPU is. Just make sure they are PNG images. FRAPS can take .PNG screenshots and you can get a free trial of it.
     
  4. Quagmire LXIX

    Quagmire LXIX Have Laptop, Will Travel!

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    Another impressive post Vicious, thanks.

    Q
     
  5. THX5334

    THX5334 Notebook Evangelist

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    Excellent read. I'm with you. That kind of imagery would bother me way more than jaggies. Fuzzy HUD's? No Gracias!


    Viscious, you are a true notebook Jedi. Thanks for saving me the trouble and hassle experimenting with this when it's clear by your excellent post that I'd just be disappointed in the results.

    Well Done.
     
  6. granyte

    granyte ATI+AMD -> DAAMIT

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    it looks quite good ingame so for it's performance pris it's a grate thing
    but for text ....... they could have implemented it elseway so that it's done only on 3d element
     
  7. saturnotaku

    saturnotaku Notebook Prophet

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    I saw quite a large performance hit in the original F.E.A.R. Without MLAA, I ran run the game at 4xAA, pegged at 60 fps with vsync on, 1680x1050 resolution. With MLAA, performance would drop to 45-50 fps in certain spots.
     
  8. rippeer

    rippeer Notebook Evangelist

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    I'll be the first to say I thought the trade off off a slightly blur HUD versus a much cleaner picture is worth it. That said the last time I played with video drivers I had to reload my rig to factory defaults so I doubt I will be messing around with hacked drivers.

    I would love MLAA for GTA IV
     
  9. ViciousXUSMC

    ViciousXUSMC Master Viking NBR Reviewer

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    Yeah to each his own. If MLAA is worth it is definitely subjective and also really changes on a game to game basis.

    Thats why I posted the tool so that people can test with there own games, maybe even come back and post some comparison shots.

    One thing I cant understand though is all the reading I did last night Starcraft2 is probably the #1 most mentioned game that MLAA is great with and I cant wrap my head around why people would be saying this.

    The game has a lot of 2D and text elements because its a RTS game, and the jaggies are super minimal.

    The saddest part of it all is that I even gave a "best case scenario" in the comparison shots above the text shot is just the normal screen. But the 3D shot is with the camera fully zoomed in.

    At full zoom its still hard to notice the difference without looking closely and nobody plays the game zoomed in. When you are zoomed out everything is so much smaller that its basically impossible to see jaggies, but you still very clearly see the distortion to the HUD.
     
  10. shinakuma9

    shinakuma9 Notebook Deity

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    from the pics you posted i still think no mlaa looks better. everything with mlaa on looks fuzzy lol.
     
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