a port of the Processing Visualization Language

Understanding Rendering Modes in Processing.js


The Processing language enables complex 2D and 3D graphics programming without having to understand the details of the underlying graphics system. It is designed to be easily learned, yet allows one's skills to grow and evolve without ever feeling limited.

Processing can be used to work with both 2D and 3D graphics. It achieves this through a number of different rendering engines, which affect how it works. For example, one might choose to render a 2D sketch using the JAVA2D and P2D renderers or create 3D sketches with the P3D and OPENGL renderers. There are also renderers for creating PDFs. Processing allows developers to choose renderers based on tradeoffs of speed and quality.

A renderer is chosen through the use of Processing's size() function. For example, to create a 2D sketch that is 200 by 200 pixels in size:

1 size(200, 200, P2D);

The 2D Rendering Context

Processing.js uses the HTML canvas element to provide 2D and WebGL rendering contexts. The canvas 2D API is used to implement Processing's JAVA2D and P2D renderers (see the canvas API for details on canvas). You can create a 2D Processing.js sketch using any of the following:

  1. 1 size(200, 200, P2D);
  2. 1 size(200, 200, JAVA2D);
  3. 1 size(200, 200); // default is 2D

Here is a simple 2D Processing.js sketch:

 1 int i = 0; 
 2 void setup() {
 3     size(200, 200); 
 4     background(255);
 5     smooth();
 6     strokeWeight(15);
 7     frameRate(24);
 8 } 
 9 void draw() {
10     stroke(random(50), random(255), random(255), 100);
11     line(i, 0, random(0, width), height);
12     if (i < width) {
13         i++;
14     } else {
15         i = 0; 
16     }
17 }

The WebGL (3D) Rendering Context

Processing.js 3D renderers (P3D and OPENGL) are implemented using WebGL. The Web-based Graphics Library (WebGL) is a canvas rendering context that provides a JavaScript based 3D drawing API for the web (see https://developer.mozilla.org/en/WebGL). WebGL is based on OpenGL ES 2.0, a subset of OpenGL designed to be used in embedded devices. Many modern browsers support WebGL, but not all. You can confirm that your browser and computer/operating system support WebGL here. You can download a WebGL enabled browser here.

Just as Processing relies on OpenGL for its 3D graphics (OPENGL renderer), Processing.js uses OpenGL via WebGL, allowing Processing.js sketches to work just like their Processing equivalent.

In order to create a 3D OpenGL sketch in Processing, two things are necessary. First, the OpenGL library must be imported. Second, the OpenGL rendered must be specified:

1 import processing.opengl.*
2 ...
3 size(200, 200, OPENGL);

Since Processing.js is actually JavaScript, it does not support importing Java-based libraries. However, in order to enable sketches written in Processing to work in Processing.js, the import line can be safely included—Processing.js will simply ignore it. The following methods of creating a 3D Processing.js sketch are equivalent:

  1. import processing.opengl.* ... size(200, 200, OPENGL);
  2. size(200, 200, P3D);

Here is a simple Processing.js 3D sketch:

 1 size(200, 200, OPENGL);
 2 noStroke();
 3 background(50);
 4 lights();
 5 translate(width/2+30, height/2, 0);
 6 rotateX(-PI/6);
 7 rotateY(PI/3 + 210/float(height) * PI);
 8 box(45);
 9 translate(0, 0, -50);
10 box(30);

Here's another more complex one:

 1 float ang = 0, ang2 = 0, ang3 = 0, ang4 = 0;
 2 float px = 0, py = 0, pz = 0;
 3 float flapSpeed = 0.2;
 5 void setup() {
 6   size(200, 200, OPENGL);
 7   frameRate(50);
 8   noStroke();
 9 }
11 void draw() {
12   background(0);
13   camera();
14   // Flight
15   px = sin(radians(ang3)) * 170;
16   py = cos(radians(ang3)) * 300;
17   pz = sin(radians(ang4)) * 500;
18   translate(width/2 + px, height/2 + py, -700+pz);
19   rotateX(sin(radians(ang2)) * 120);
20   rotateY(sin(radians(ang2)) * 50);
21   rotateZ(sin(radians(ang2)) * 65);
23   // Body
24   fill(153);
25   box(20, 100, 20);
26   // Left wing
27   fill(204);
28   pushMatrix();
29   rotateY(sin(radians(ang)) * -20);
30   rect(-75, -50, 75, 100);
31   popMatrix();
32   // Right wing
33   pushMatrix();
34   rotateY(sin(radians(ang)) * 20);
35   rect(0, -50, 75, 100);
36   popMatrix();
37   // Wing flap
38   ang += flapSpeed;
39   if (ang > 3) {
40     flapSpeed *= -1;
41   } 
42   if (ang < -3) {
43     flapSpeed *= -1;
44   }
45   // Increment angles
46   ang2 += 0.01;
47   ang3 += 2.0;
48   ang4 += 0.75;
49 }

Once you have a 3D enabled browser installed you can try out some example 2D and 3D sketches here.

Processing.js as a Simplified Web Drawing API

Once a 3D sketch has been created, all of the normal Processing drawing operations can be done. Most Processing functions have 2D and 3D versions (e.g., you provide different arguments for points in 2D or 3D space). By learning the Processing syntax, it's easy to create complex 2D and WebGL graphics without ever touching the underlying graphics APIs. This is true of Processing and Java, and also of Processing.js and canvas/WebGL. The Processing langauge provides a powerful and beginner friendly on-ramp to canvas 2D and WebGL. Consult the Processing.js Langauge Reference for specific details on how to use each function.

Using the Processing.js API in JavaScript

In addition to running standard Processing sketches, Processing.js can also be used in so-called API mode. This is the Processing language API which is accessbile to JavaScript without any Processing code. The Processing.js API is available if you download the complete Processing.js zip file instead of just the .js file from the Downloads page (for example: processing.js-version.zip vs processing.min.js) (http://processingjs.org/download). It is essentially the same as Processing.js, but without the code parser (i.e., you can use the API either way, but the Processing.js API is a somewhat smaller file). See Writing JavaScript-only Processing.js Code for more details.

Accessing the Raw Canvas Context - Advanced:

It's also possible to work with the raw canvas context, both 2D and WebGL, from Processing.js, JavaScript, or both. This is not a recommended method, since it will make your Processing.js sketch harder to use in Processing; however, sometimes it's useful to know how to control the canvas context from outside the sketch in JavaScript, or to do something that Processing doesn't allow, which the canvas or WebGL APIs do.

All Processing.js sketches have an externals property, accessible from within the Processing code as a global variable. This object is meant to allow for accessing and sharing external but related data between the sketch code and the web page. The externals object has a number of useful properties, including:

  • sketch: the current sketch object
  • canvas: the canvas element associated with a sketch
  • context: the canvas rendering context being used by the sketch

From JavaScript, these can be accessed via a Processing.js sketch's instance:

1 var p = Processing.instances[0];
2 var context = p.externals.context;
3 var p2 = Processing.getInstanceById('canvas-id');
4 var p2Canvas = p2.externals.canvas;

The same thing can be done from within Processing code, where the externals object is available as a global variable:

1 // Processing.js allows you to mix JavaScript, so using var is fine here:
2 var currentContext = externals.context;

Once you have a reference to the context, you can use any valid canvas API call, including raw WebGL functions if using a 3D sketch.
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