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Frame scheduling

Frame scheduling is how Scenic makes decisions around when to apply client updates and draw frames. Scenic's frame scheduler is shared across Gfx and Flatland. This section contains high level concepts related to how Scenic makes scheduling decisions, and how clients can respond.

Presentation requests

A "presentation request" is equal to one client call to Present(). It is a request to apply all updates to the scene made since the last call to Present() and make them visible to the display (i.e. "present" them).

The frame scheduling queue

The frame scheduling queue is how Scenic internally tracks presentation requests. The frame scheduling queue is a set of queues, one for each individual presentation client. Scenic pulls presentation requests from all individual queues and combines them as they reach their requested presentation times.

Every time a client calls Present() Scenic places the presentation request into the frame scheduling queue when all associated acquire fences have been signaled.

The frame scheduling process

When the queue is non-empty Scenic looks at the first item on each client's presentation queue and selects the earliest requested presentation time. It uses that time along with vsync timing information from the display to determine when to wake up. Scenic tries to wake in time to to produce the next frame at a vsync as close as possible to, but no earlier than, the requested presentation time. Scenic then goes to sleep waiting for the calculated wake-up time.

When Scenic wakes up it collects the next request for each client from the frame scheduling queue, where the requested presentation time meets the calculated presentation time. Scenic then applies the updates associated with each individual request.

This wake-up time is sometimes referred to as the "latch point". After the latch point is reached, the presentation requests for the current frame are "latched", and any requests arriving after the latch point will be deferred to a later frame. Both predicted latch points before presentation and actual latch points after presentation are communicated to clients through the Present() API to enable client-side low-latency frame scheduling.

Scenic may reset the currently targeted latch point for an earlier one if a presentation request with an earlier requested presentation time should arrive before the currently targeted latch point is reached.

After applying all relevant updates Scenic renders the next frame and then waits for the display to return the vsync signal, at which point it wakes up and signals all clients whose requests were handled that the frame has been presented.

If there are remaining requests in the presentation queue, Scenic finds the next request on the queue, calculates the a new wake-up time and waits, continuing the cycle.

Squashing

An "unsquashable" presentation request from a client is guaranteed to be shown for at least one vsync-interval.

Squashing is the process by how Scenic may combine multiple subsequent presentation requests into a single frame. It has the effect of reducing latency in cases where frames are either delayed on Scenic's side or are produced too fast on the client side. The consequence of squashing is that a squashed presentation request does not appear on screen for even a single frame.

A presentation request is by default "squashable", and may be marked by the client as "unsquashable" in the Present() call.

If a presentation request is marked as "squashable" then Scenic will, when applying the update, look at the next request in the queue for that client to see if its requested presentation time also meets the calculated presentation time for this latch point. If it does Scenic may apply the updates for that request as well, "squashing" the updates into a single frame.

The "squashable" property is similar to Vulkan's VK_PRESENT_MODE_FIFO_KHR and VK_PRESENT_MODE_MAILBOX_KHR swapchain presentation modes, except it's applied on a per-frame basis rather than at setup time.