The mighty Blit

Showing an asteroid being targetted by the player's shipWhat makes possible all of the fast graphics in SDL2 is really one instruction.

SDL_RenderCopy – The link goes to the SDL Wiki.

This copies part of a texture into video RAM (aka VRAM). You must specify which texture is to be copied, a rectangle into the source and a rectangle into the destination VRAM.

So what is a Texture? In SDL2, it’s a structure that manages an area of VRAM. At the start of the game, image files are uploaded into Textures, the file bits are copied from disk and stored in an area in VRAM.

Every frame, a background image (another texture) is copied to the screen area. Then all moving objects are rendered into this area by calling SDL_RenderCopy for each object. The entire object (be it player ship, bullet or asteroid) is then rendered onto the screen area at the correct point. This is sometimes called blitting or more accurately bit blitting; blit is shorthand for bit block transfer.

A rectangle is just a struct holding four ints. The first two ints are the x and y positions and last two are width and height.  The player’s ship consists of a graphic 64 pixels high by 16 x 24 (=1,536) pixels wide. That’s 24 images, each rotated by 15 degrees from the previous one. So the source rectangle is always x = rotation (0-23) x 64, y = 0 and both height and width are 64. Remember, the source x,y is relative to the source texture which is 1536 wide by 64 high.

The ship rotations start with 0 facing up, so the ship on screen is at rotation 18 (Facing Left) , so  x = 1152.

To make sure rendering is a smooth process and there is no tearing of the images, the screen VRAM is always off-screen when the objects are rendered into it. Then after all objects have been rendered (a posh word meaning copy!), the display is toggled so that the bank of VRAM that was off-screen is now on-screen i.e. visible and the other bank is now off-screen.

Objects are always rendered into off-screen VRAM and the flipping is done by a call to this SDL routine.


When you create the renderer, you can specify whether SDL_RenderPresent is synced to the video card vertical refresh signal. If it is, then the display will only render 60 frames per second. If you don’t sync then you can have frame rates up to several thousand times per second. I once achieved 5,000 fps, because there was very little processing going on.  However your video card probably doesn’t refresh any faster than 60 fps so it’s a bit pointless!