Tiling Improvements in Fennec

With the native release we refactored how we render to use a tiling approach. This is beneficial because it lets us minimize the work needed to paint as we pan and zoom. The goal is to be able to increase and decrease the size of our view and move its position and in a logically unbounded page without having to reallocate and copy our retained page buffer.

This refactoring was also a blockers for other optimizations that I am currently working on implementing. First I landed a patch to add the ability to draw progressively and interrupt drawing in chunks of tiles (bug 771219). This lets our content thread and compositor paint+upload in parallel instead of serially. This opens up the possibility of showing painting progressively tile by tile. Interrupting drawing will let us decide that the user panned outside of where we are painting, abort the operation and re-target our paint.

Next up I’m currently working on drawing tiles at a low resolution to replace the ‘screenshot code’. Currently we try to detect when the page changed and we paint it into a small offscreen ‘screenshot’ buffer. This ‘screenshot’ is drawn in areas of the page that we’re still working on painting. This is a huge improvement to the user experience. However the current code isn’t integrated to our Layers system which means that the page change notifications are not reliable and updates are more expensive. The goal is move this code inside the Layers system where it can overcome these limitations and make it tile based so we can improve this code.

Once all of these tile improvements are ready it will let us improve our painting code from our current approach of predicting where the view is going to be and painting it start to finish, sending it to the gpu all at once and hoping that what we painting is still inside the view. With these new changes we will be able to improve our heuristics by aborting painting if it’s outside the view, drawing quickly at a reduced resolution first if we’re panning quickly, drawing the most important tiles first, presenting the painting progressively and uploading it the gpu in parallel piece by piece.

Here’s a demonstration of my current set of patches. Note that the performance isn’t tweaked and it’s tested on a slow page (i.e. gradient) to better demonstrate the progressive and reduced resolution painting.

This demonstrates progressive tile painting and a simple heuristics to draw new tiles first at low resolution then to draw them at a full resolution. It does not abort or prioritize tile painting yet which would be useful between 2 second and 3 second where we’re still painting outside the screen.

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