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I'm trying to make a software z-buffer implementation (meaning no DirectX or OpenGL, only a 2D library, SDL to be precise), however, after I generate the z-buffer and proceed with the vertex culling, I get pretty severe discrepancies between the vertex depth and the depth of the buffer at their projected coordinates on the screen (i.e. zbuffer[v.xp][v.yp] != v.z, where xp and yp are the projected x and y coordinates of the vertex v), sometimes by a small fraction of a unit and sometimes by 2 or 3 units. Here's what I think is happening:

Each triangle's data structure holds the plane's (that is defined by the triangle) coefficients (a, b, c, d) computed from its three vertices from their normal:

void computeNormal(Vertex *v1, Vertex *v2, Vertex *v3, double *a, double *b, double *c) {
  double a1 = v1 -> x - v2 -> x;
  double a2 = v1 -> y - v2 -> y;
  double a3 = v1 -> z - v2 -> z;

  double b1 = v3 -> x - v2 -> x;
  double b2 = v3 -> y - v2 -> y;
  double b3 = v3 -> z - v2 -> z;

  *a = a2*b3 - a3*b2;
  *b = -(a1*b3 - a3*b1);
  *c = a1*b2 - a2*b1;

void computePlane(Poly *p) {
  double x = p -> verts[0] -> x;
  double y = p -> verts[0] -> y;
  double z = p -> verts[0] -> z;

  computeNormal(p -> verts[0], p -> verts[1], p -> verts[2], &p -> a, &p -> b, &p -> c);

  p -> d = p -> a * x + p -> b * y + p -> c * z;

The z-buffer just holds the smallest depth at the respective xy coordinate by somewhat casting rays to the polygon (I haven't quite got interpolation right yet so I'm using this slower method until I do) and determining the z coordinate from the reversed perspective projection formulas (which I got from here:

double z = -(b*Ez*y + a*Ez*x - d*Ez)/(b*y + a*x + c*Ez - b*Ey - a*Ex);

Where x and y are the pixel's coordinates on the screen; a, b, c, and d are the planes coefficients; Ex, Ey, and Ez are the eye's (camera's) coordinates.

This last formula does not accurately give the exact vertices' z coordinate at their projected x and y coordinates on the screen, probably because of some floating point inaccuracy (i.e. I've seen it return something like 3.001 when the vertex's z-coordinate was actually 2.998).

Here is the portion of code that hides the vertices that shouldn't be visible:

for(i = 0; i < shape.nverts; ++i) {
  double dist = shape.verts[i].z;
  if(z_buffer[shape.verts[i].yp][shape.verts[i].xp].z < dist)
    shape.verts[i].visible = 0;
    shape.verts[i].visible = 1;

How do I solve this issue?


I've implemented the near and far planes of the frustum, with 24 bit accuracy, and now I have some questions:

  1. Is this what I have to do this in order to resolve the flickering?
  2. When I compare the z value of the vertex with the z value in the buffer, do I have to convert the z value of the vertex to z' using the formula, or do I convert the value in the buffer back to the original z, and how do I do that?
  3. What are some decent values for near and far?

Thanks in advance.

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closed as off-topic by Anko, Seth Battin, Josh Petrie Feb 26 at 4:05

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions about debugging a problem in your project must present a concise selection of code and context so as to allow a reader to diagnose the issue without needing to read all of your code or to engage in extensive back-and-forth dialog. For more information, see this meta thread." – Anko, Josh Petrie
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

How far away is your far plane? –  Roy T. Nov 8 '12 at 9:00
More importantly, how far away is your near plane? –  Jari Komppa Nov 8 '12 at 9:07
You mean the projection plane? It's the XY plane and it's facing the positive Z direction. The camera is behind it at about (400,400,-1000). I'm not using complex notions as all I'm trying to render is a rotating icosahedron that is right in front of the projecting plane, so the z-buffer is storing the actual z coordinates. –  Belgin Nov 8 '12 at 9:23
@Belgin - answers to new questions (after "EDIT"): 1. Perhaps. 2. Whichever works better (faster, more precise etc.). 3. "near" could be Q * far, where Q is somewhere between 0.001 and 0.01, that works quite well. –  snake5 Nov 8 '12 at 11:05
@Adam - I'm only using a 2D library; absolutely no DirectX or OpenGL. I want to do everything manually so I can learn. –  Belgin Nov 9 '12 at 6:41