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AMD's TressFX Hair gives game characters lovely locks


February 26, 2013

Realistically-rendered hair promised by AMD's TressFX technology will change the look of video game characters (such as Lara Croft) in coming years

Realistically-rendered hair promised by AMD's TressFX technology will change the look of video game characters (such as Lara Croft) in coming years

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The problems associated with rendering realistic hair has held video games back for years. When Nintendo first created the sprite for Mario in the original Donkey Kong, it gave him a hat because it was too difficult to animate his hair. When video games made the leap into the world of real-time 3D graphics, things didn't get much better. Today AMD is officially unveiling its solution, TressFX Hair, that will significantly improve the look of virtual hair beginning with the new Tomb Raider.

Hair is such a common problem for game developers that they often go out of their way to avoid dealing with it altogether – as exemplified by these demos featuring realistic skin and facial animation. AMD's primary rival, Nvidia, has also taken notice of the problem – it demonstrated its own tech back in 2010, and some are speculating the company's PhysX engine will have a hair component. But today's announcement from AMD is a bit more exciting because the company worked closely with Tomb Raider's developer, Crystal Dynamics, to implement TressFX in a playable game, and because it will work on any DirectX 11 card (including AMD's competitors).

According to the TressFX press release, the DirectX 11 tech "treats each strand of hair as a chain with dozens of links, permitting for forces like gravity, wind and movement of the head to move and curl Lara’s hair in a realistic fashion. Further, collision detection is performed to ensure that strands do not pass through one another, or other solid surfaces such as Lara’s head, clothing and body. Finally, hair styles are simulated by gradually pulling the strands back towards their original shape after they have moved in response to an external force."

This before-and-after comparison demonstrates the impact TressFX will have on real-time graphics

Unfortunately (and somewhat unbelievably) AMD did not publish a video of TressFX hair in motion with its press material, but it won't be long before we can see how well it performs. If the still screen shots are any indication, game developers will soon have a powerful new tool at their disposal for creating richer characters, creatures, and potentially worlds (since the technology has the potential to be adapted for creating fields of grass, for example).

Console gamers won't be left in the dark ages of hair rendering tech for much longer, either. Sony's recently-unveiled PlayStation 4 game console is not a DirectX machine, but Microsoft's "nextbox", code-named Durango, will be.

Square-Enix, Tomb Raider's publisher, has also created a new graphics engine that does an admirable job of rendering hair – albeit somewhat less animated – as demonstrated by a demo called Agni's Philosophy, which was shown during the PlayStation 4 reveal. In any event, it seems likely the PlayStation 4 (which uses AMD's chip technology) will get its own version of TressFX, but Durango's use of DirectX will make it more readily compatible out the gate.

Source: AMD

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

Lara is smeared with dirt and blood, it's raining, but thanks to TressFX her hair looks like she just came from a hairdresser. Good technique, bad application. That is, if we get to see a video, where it actually works.


Pode ser questão de preferências mas sempre achei e cada vez me afirmo mais - a qualidade de uma imagem não é só um detalhe, há um todo que se integra e produz uma cena melhor ou pior (estou dizendo imagem e não as aberrações cênicas que os criadores de games se permitem). No quesito hardware, entra geração sai geração, a Nvidia nos dá resultados muito melhores que a AMD, faz tempo!

Jose Francisco

Animating individual strands of hair is great, but the basic capability to render hair realistically is a major step, even if the strands hold their positions in relation to each other. Plenty of characters have appeared in films or on stage with heavily sprayed hair, or wearing a wig that stay in a fixed shape. No one complains.


This has come a long way since 2001 and "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" where at least 50% of the rendering time for the entire movie was spent on Aki's hair.

Gregg Eshelman
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