Back before I published my first "Inside the second" article, as I was still mulling over the issues in my head, I attended a press event with a bunch of other tech writers. While there, I talked with Ryan Shrout—head guy at our favorite Rodney King fan site, PCPer.com—about what I was working on. His initial reaction was to be a bit annoyed, I think, which puzzled me. Then Ryan revealed that he'd been working on a related issue, although after we talked a little more, he said with some relief that he was approaching things from a different angle and mostly concentrating on some problems with multi-GPU solutions, if I recall correctly.
A lot of time has passed since then, but happily, Ryan has finally decided to pull back the curtain on his efforts in this area with a brief post and a video demonstrating the tools he's using. The technology involves capturing every single frame of animation output by a game with a DVI capture card and using colored overlays—a different color for each frame—to help identify which frame is which. By processing the video, one may then determine the order in which the frames arrived at the display, what portion of the screen they occupy (with vsync disabled), whether any frames are dropped, and anything else one might wish to know.
Very, very cool stuff.
We've also had a couple of chats with Ryan's partner in this effort, a name you will certainly recognize, but he's obviously working with them much more closely than we are. This technology requires some expensive hardware and more effort to use than Fraps and high-speed cameras, but it offers the potential for more precise insight into exactly how frames are being delivered to the display. It should augment the current set of tools for for frame latency-oriented testing quite nicely—if it doesn't replace them entirely, eventually.
I expect we'll have more to share with you on this front in the coming months. In 2013, the conversation about game benchmarking will probably look very different than it has in the past, with a much, much stronger focus on frame delivery and smoothness.
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