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OffscreenCanvas.requestAnimationFrame

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This proposal aims to provide a reliable mechanism for driving animations using OffscreenCanvas in a Worker

Use Case Description

An OffscreenCanvas is used in a worker to produce a sequence of frames that constitute an animation. The frames need to be produced at regular intervals that match the frame rate of the display

Current Limitations

Current Usage and Workarounds

Currently, it is possible to use setTimeout or setInterval in a worker to invoke an animation callback at a regular interval. However, since this mechanism is not driven by the display, the following issues arise:

  • The display device's refresh rate needs to be guessed.
  • Even if the correct rate is guessed, drift in the timing will cause dropped frames and skipped frames.
  • In GPU-accelerated use cases, it is possible for the rendering script to run at a rate that the GPU cannot keep-up with, which may cause the accumulation of a multi-frame rendering backlog, resulting in high latency and eventually OOM crashes. A possible solution to this is for the user agent to implement a throttling mechanism, in which case the worker's event loop may be periodically de-scheduled while the GPU catches up. Such de-scheduling is bad because it prevents the worker from doing other work.

Another solution is to have a requestAnimationFrame loop in the browsing context's event loop that posts a message to the worker at each animation iteration.

  • This mechanism may add undue latency to the signal, especially when the browsing context's event loop is busy, which completely destroys one of the key advantages of using OffscreenCanvas in a worker.
  • The the frame rate in the browsing context's event loop may be higher than the worker can keep up which which will require a throttling mechanism to be implemented in script
  • As with setTimeout/setInterval, it is possible for the rendering script to run at a rate that the GPU cannot keep-up with.

Benefits

New API to drive OffscreenCanvas animations can ensure optimal frame rate, minimize animation jank, prevent overdraw, and minimize display latency.

Requests for this Feature

Proposed Solutions

OffscreenCanvas.requestAnimationFrame

Works much like window.requestAnimationFrame, except that the scheduling of callbacks is independent of the browsing context event loop, and therefore is not necessarily synchronized with graphics updates from the browsing context.

Processing Model

The requestAnimationFrame() and cancelAnimationFrame() methods shall be spec'ed almost identically to their Window interface counterparts, except that the callback list would be stored in the OffscreenCanvas object.

The main difference with respect to the Window.requestAnimationFrame processing model is in how the callbacks are scheduled. In a browsing context, the animation callbacks are coordinated with the graphics update in the event loop processing model. Such coordination shall not exist in workers.

For OffscreenCanvases, the user agent will schedule an "animation task" to run all of the OffscreenCanvas's pending animation callbacks. in a way the respects the following constraints:

  • No overdraw: An animation frame committed from an animation task shall not replace an animation frame from a previous animation task until that previous frame has been rendered to the display device.
  • animation tasks shall be scheduled at the highest possible rate that can be maintained without going into overdraw and without accumulating a backlog of more than one pending frame.
Special Cases
  • When rAF is invoked on an OffscreenCanvas that does not have a placeholder canvas and is not linked to a VRLayer, throw an InvalidStateError. The OffscreenCanvas content must be composited for the rAF processing model to make sense.
  • Attempting to transfer an OffscreenCanvas object with a non-empty animation callback list throws an InvalidStateError.
  • Attempting to construct a VRLayer using an OffscreenCanvas object with a non-empty animation callback list throws an InvalidStateError.
  • When the OffscreenCanvas is associated with a VRLayer, all calls to {request|cancel}AnimationFrame must be forwarded to the VRLayer's VRDisplay's {request|cancel}AnimationFrame methods. This implies that when the OffscreenCanvas simultaneously is visible through a placeholder canvas and a VR device, the animation loop is driven by the VR device.
  • The animations tasks for different OffscreenCanvas objects that live in the same event loop are not necessarily synchronized.

Open issues

Calling commit() on a given OffscreenCanvas multiple times in the same animation frame is problematic. Possible way of handling the situation:

  • Drop all commits but the last one (or the first one?)
  • Queue multiple frames and wait for all of them to have be displayed before scheduling the next animation task
  • Throw an exception

What to do if commit() is not called from within the animation callback? This is problematic because

  • Do an implicit commit()
  • Repeat the previous frame
  • Schedule the next animation frame immediately.
  • Prevent this from ever happening: Let OffscreenCanvas object have a needsCommit flag that is initially false. Set needsCommit to true at the beginning of an animation task. Set needsCommit to false when commit is called. When requestAnimationFrame is called, throw an exception if needsCommit is true.

Should it be possible to commit() the contents of other canvases from within a rAF callback?

OffscreenCanvas.commit() to return a promise

An alternate solution would be to have commit() return a promise that gets resolved when it is time to begin rendering the next frame. This single API entry-point provides the necessary flexibility to handle continuous animations as well as sporadic updates.

Continuous animation example:

function animationLoop() {
  // draw stuff
  (...)
  ctx.commit().then(animationLoop);
  // do post commit work
  (...)
}

Another possibility is to use the async/await syntax:

async function animationLoop() {
  var promise;
  do {
    //draw stuff
    (...)
    promise = ctx.commit()
    // do post commit work
    (...)
  } while (await promise);
}

To animate multiple canvases in lock-step, one could do this, for eaxample:

function animationLoop() {
  // draw stuff
  (...)
  Promise.all([ctx1.commit(), ctx2.commit()]).then(animationLoop);
}


For occasional update use cases, it is just a matter of ignoring the promise returned by commit() and to drive the animation using another signal, for example a network event. In the case where multiple calls to commit are made in the same frame interval, the user agent skips frames in order to avoid accumulating a multi-frame backlog, as described in the processing model below.

Processing Model

An OffscreenCanvas object has a pendingFrame internal slot that stores a reference to the frame that was captured by the last call to commit(). The reference is held until the frame is actually committed. 'pendingFrame' is initially unset.

An OffscreenCanvas object has a pendingPromise internal slot that stores a reference to the promise that was returned by the last call to commit(). pendingPromise is initially unset, and its reference is only retained while the promise is in the unresolved state.

The BeginFrame signal is a signal that is dispatched by the UserAgent to a specific OffscreenCanvas when it is time to render the next animation frame for the OffscreenCanvas.

When commit() is called:

  1. Let frame be a copy of the current contents of the canvas.
  2. If pendingPromise is set, then run theses substeps:
    1. Set pendingFrame to be a reference to frame.
    2. Return pendingPromise.
  3. Set pendingPromise to be a newly created unresolved promise object.
  4. Run the steps to commit a frame, passing frame as an argument.
  5. Return pendingPromise.

When the BeginFrame signal is to be dispatched to an OffscreenCanvas object, the UserAgent must queue a task on the OffscreenCanvas object's event loop that runs the following steps:

  1. If pendingFrame is set, then run the following substeps:
    1. Run the steps to commit a frame, passing pendingFrame as an argument.
    2. Unset pendingFrame.
    3. Abort these steps.
  2. If pendingPromise is not set then abort these steps.
  3. Resolve the promise referenced by pendingPromise.
  4. Unset pendingPromise.

When the user agent is required to run the steps to commit a frame, it must do what is currently spec'ed as the steps for commit().

This processing model takes care the unresolved issues with the OffscreenCanvas.requestAnimationFrame solution because it makes it safe to call commit at any time by providing the following guarantees:

  1. In cases of overdraw (commit() called at a rate higher than can be displayed), frames may be dropped to ensure low latency (no more than one frame of backlog).
  2. The frame captured by the last call to commit after the end of an animation sequence is never dropped. In other words, when animation stops, it is always the most recent frame that is displayed.

Adoption

The idea of the commit API was discussed at a meeting of the WebVR working group and has support from multiple browser vendors.