Have you ever wondered about the jagged edges in-game or how the jagged edges appear and how to remove them? If you have played games, then you might have stumbled upon the term Anti-Aliasing. Anti-Aliasing is graphical post-processing done on the image to fix blocky edges in an image giving it a final smooth result.
While playing games with demanding graphics, you might have noticed jagged edges in the foliage or the character model. Anti-Aliasing in short removes those jagged edges so that you don’t have to play in a blocky jagged environment.
In layman’s terms, it smoothes and softens out the picture on display, offering better graphical quality. The jagged edge doesn’t matter to low res professional gamers. But for an average gamer who wants visuals in-game, Anti-aliasing helps out very well.
So What exactly is Anti-Aliasing?
Not everyone is professional or a computer nerd, but we are here to clear things up. A visual game consists of frames. Each image comprises pixels. Each image that you see is made out of tons of pixels.
The pixel is made out of squares; each square has its color value. Whenever making straight lines, the pixels stack on each other, building the final product. But when those pixels are used to make diagonal lines, each square is stacked from corner to corner. The corner to corner stacking shows a staircase effect which we know as jagged edges.
Here is where Anti-Aliasing comes in. The post-processing fills the missing data on the diagonal line smoothing the jagged edge. The final image is a smoothen out diagonal line offering more significant visuals.
The Anti-Aliasing is also termed as fake resolution. Most of the latest anti-aliasing technology takes a higher resolution image and downsamples it to a lower resolution packing more pixels. The pixels are packed to the point that you don’t even acknowledge the jagged edges anymore.
Using a higher-resolution removes the need for anti-aliasing. Gaming on higher-resolution like 1440p (has low jagged lines), 4K, and even 8K remove the need for anti-aliasing. But if you don’t have a higher pixel density display or playing on a lower resolution, try using anti-aliasing.
Types Of Anti-Aliasing
Although most anti-aliasing offers the same purpose, there are different types of anti-aliasing. It ultimately comes down to the system’s capability. All the anti-aliasing comes with the different methodology of image processing. Here are different types of anti-aliasing that you can find:
SSAA (Supersample Anti-Aliasing)
SSAA is the top of line Anti-Aliasing combatting the jagged effect in a most extreme method. The SSAA renders the game image in a higher resolution and then downsamples it. In layman’s terms, the SSAA post-processing makes a high-quality image at a higher resolution and force it down to a low resolution.
The higher resolution image has a lot of pixels. When downsampling the image, the pixels get crammed in due to its lower resolution. The crammed pixels make a smoothened out high-quality image on the lower resolution. It might look great but takes a toll on the system. You might need a hefty PC to support increased pixel identity and work smoothly.
MSAA (Multi-Sampling Anti-Aliasing)
MSAA is one of the common anti-aliasing used with better performance results. The post-processing finds the polygon on the rendered images and smooths it out, giving a sharp and smooth effect. Plus, the user can pick the level of anti-aliasing ranging from 2XMSAA, 4XMSAA, and 8XMSAA. As the intensity of the MSAA increases, more power is required to support it for a smoother experience.
FXAA (Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing)
FXAA is not the best solution for anti-aliasing. The FXAA is the lower-end version of anti-aliasing suited best for the low-end system. The Anti-aliasing methods blur the edges on the jagged object smoothing the image. It will look smoother, but it is blurry in general, making it look like a low-quality image. The final image looks like a low-resolution image, so not the best option.
TXAA (Temporal Anti-Aliasing)
TXAA is the latest anti-aliasing method made for the newer graphics card. The TXAA smoothens the edges out using various techniques (downsampling and image sharpening), achieving higher image results. But it fails when the object is in motion, causing ghosting in the process. This is a work in progress technology made for the newer hardware.
Newer hardware with higher specs can fully support the anti-aliasing. The latest Ampere architecture and RDNA2 do fully support it. But they all now rely on DLSS, offering better quality and performance.
DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling)
DLSS is a reasonably new anti-aliasing technology, which is not an anti-aliasing method. The RTX or ray-tracing technology introduced the method for better performance with its Turing graphics card. The DLSS uses low-resolution images and applies all the needed post-processing to look cleaner. The AI then upscales the rendered image and fills the missing texture and pixels, offering a better image.
To use DLSS, you need a higher Turing or Ampere graphics card. These Nvidia graphics cards use AI cores to offer better AI upscaling. Most newer game titles like Cyberpunk use DLSS technology to offer better image quality without compromising performance.
Impact of Anti-Aliasing in Games
There are several versions of anti-aliasing used in games. There are SSAA 4X, SSAA 2X, FXAA, etc., versions with different impacts on the FPS. Each AA method uses specific hardware power to smoothen out the final image. Using the AA does smoothen and softens out the images but trades in-game FPS in return
The processing power takes up valuable resources; the SMAA is the most taxing post-processing taking up the most power. The FXAA is the least taxing but sacrifices the quality of the rendered images.
As a casual gamer, the gaming scene’s performance hit doesn’t affect the user as it still offers playable frames. But coming from a professional gamer standpoint, most professional players don’t activate their anti-aliasing in-game. The AA takes valuable sources like FPS to increase image quality, but frames matter more than quality in a professional game.
The frames per second or FPS are crucial in esports titles like Counter-strike, Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, etc. Most professional players use a custom resolution with no anti-aliasing for better FPS giving an edge in the game.
Which one is the best for you?
It all depends on your hardware and the intensity of the post-processing. It also comes down to personal preference. There are several options to choose from.
As for personal preference, TXAA is the best anti-aliasing without compromising on the image quality and game performance. The image sharpening and downsampled soften texture offers the best of both worlds. It is like using the MSAA sampling and adding filters giving the best outcome.
So the SSAA is the heavy hitter on the hardware among all the listed methods. The SSAA takes a highly rendered image of the scene. Tons of pixels on the higher resolution gets packed in a single pixel. It is packing more pixels with a single pixel. It offers more excellent image quality, but you need a high-end computer. The image is rendered in a higher resolution, so it will tax a lot of hardware power, causing a dip in frames.
The balanced among all of them is MSAA; it calculates the polygons on the rendered images and fills them out, balancing and smoothing out the final image. The MSAA adds pixels and manipulates edges, adjusting the color space as well. But it does look worse between two different color pixels.
The FXAA is the worst among them all; it uses the blurring technology on the edges to give an overall smoothened image. When the object is in motion, the FXAA fails to track the object making it an overall blurred image.
On when looking at the technology and performance standpoint, the TXAA is the best among them. It doesn’t take up much of the graphical resource. It is the perfect balance between quality and performance.
So if you have a better system, we suggest using the SSAA. If you have a weak system use the FXAA, but the TXAA is the best among them. It has balanced quality and performance. But personally, the TXAA is way better for all of the systems.
Just think of it as TXAA > SSAA > MSAA > FXAA.
But you can tweak the anti-aliasing settings according to your liking. It depends on your liking and system capabilities.
Importance of GPU in the Anti-aliasing
A graphical processing unit in the system handles all the jobs attached with rendering an image. Whether it be adding shadows, volumetric rendering, etc. Everything aside from the game engine and the physics, GPU has a crucial part in games and 3D modeling applications.
The GPU does all the computational calculations on the object to give the quality image. The Anti-aliasing technology hits heavy on the GPU, taking up valuable computational power. As said before, the images are made of pixels. Whenever a system wants to fix the jagged edges, the GPU uses some of its computation power just to fill those pixels. The final product might look smoother and rounded but loses some of its rendering power, causing the frames to dip.
Not all anti-aliasing technology works the same way.TXAA and FXAA tax less on the GPU, but the results are ok. The SSAA, on the other hand, draws a lot of GPU computational power, almost cutting the FPS by a hefty margin. To crank all the graphical settings to max with all post-processing on, you need a hefty PC. Moreover, you need at least 6GB VRAM GPU to run all the post-processing in the game at maximum settings.
But most of the games look better without the AA in higher-resolution. In 1080p, there are significant differences between using the low graphical setting and a higher one. But once you start to scale the games over 1440p or 4K resolution, the work of anti-aliasing is diminished. Nowadays, Nvidia and AMD’s hardware offers stunning performance on a native 4K display requiring no AA.
How to turn anti-aliasing on or off?
Most of the games do offer an option to turn off anti-aliasing in the graphical menu. Just head on over to the graphical settings on the selected game, and hover around to find the anti-aliasing option. Here’s an example on how to turn on anti-aliasing in path of exile.
Here you can pick whether to turn on the anti-aliasing and pick the right AA settings without compromising on the FPS or entirely turning it off.
So anti-aliasing is an excellent way to smoothen out your image quality offering better visuals. Anti-aliasing is not favorable for all situations and requires your fine-tuning to get the final results. Not everyone likes the super-high resolution. Hope this opens up the concept about anti-aliasing and hope you tinker settings to obtain the best results.