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Introducing compressed textures with the ATF SDK

Adobe introduced Stage3D last year and the momentum behind it has never stopped growing. However, there is one area where Adobe did not give all the details—Adobe Texture Format and the ATF file format. You may have seen ATF mentioned in the Stage3D documentation as the compressed texture file format. The ATF SDK provides you with the tools you need to create and inspect ATF texture files, and this article provides an overview of the ATF SDK and how to use it when working with textures.

What is the ATF SDK?

First, you'll need some background on the different types of texture formats and how they're used.

When doing GPU programming with any technology, you have two options for how you handle your textures: you can use compressed or uncompressed images. When using uncompressed textures, an uncompressed file format like PNG is used and uploaded to the GPU. Because GPUs don't support the PNG file format natively, your texture is actually stored in CPU memory. The same thing applies for JPEG images—graphics chipsets don't know anything about JPEG so they are also decoded in CPU memory.

It would be better to use GPU memory instead of CPU memory. However, in order to use GPU memory you must use the right kind of texture file for the GPU. Each platform has different support for compressed textures depending on the hardware chipset being used. Table 1 lists the differences.


Table 1. Compressed texture formats by platform and chipset

PlatformChipsetFormat
iOSImagine TechnologiesPVRTC
AndroidQualcommETC1
AndroidMaliETC1
AndroidNVidiaETC1/DXT1/DXT5
AndroidPowerVRPVRTC/ETC1
Windows(any)DXT1/DXT5
Mac OS(any)DXT1/DXT5

Why ATF?

As you can imagine from looking at Table 1, if you develop a game targeting iOS, Android, and desktop platforms, you need to supply your textures compressed to each format for each platform, which would look like this (for each asset):

  • DXT for Windows and Mac OS

  • ETC1 or DXT for Android

  • PVRTC for iOS

Of course it is a pain to provide all the required versions of the textures, detect at runtime the platform on which your application is running, and upload the corresponding texture. Wouldn't it be cool if you could just rely on one single container that would wrap all the textures for each platform, and then have Flash Player or Adobe AIR automatically extract the required texture depending on the platform? This is what ATF gives you.

Along with enabling you to use one file for all the different compressed texture formats, ATF offers these additional benefits:

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