In most simple scenes, you can naively attach geometry to the scene
graph and let Panda decide the order in which objects should be
rendered. Generally, it will do a good enough job, but there are
occasions in which it is necessary to step in and take control of the
To do this well, you need to understand the implications of render
order. In a typical OpenGL- or DirectX-style Z-buffered system, the
order in which primitives are sent to the graphics hardware is
theoretically unimportant, but in practice there are many important
reasons for rendering one object before another.
Firstly, state sorting is one important optimization. This means
choosing to render things that have similar state (texture, color,
etc.) all at the same time, to minimize the number of times the
graphics hardware has to be told to change state in a particular
frame. This sort of optimization is particularly important for very
high-end graphics hardware, which achieves its advertised theoretical
polygon throughput only in the absence of any state changes; for many
such advanced cards, each state change request will completely flush
the register cache and force a restart of the pipeline.
Secondly, some hardware has a different optimization requirement, and
may benefit from drawing nearer things before farther things, so that
the Z-buffer algorithm can effectively short-circuit some of the
advanced shading features in the graphics card for pixels that would
be obscured anyway. This sort of hardware will draw things fastest
when the scene is sorted in order from the nearest object to the
farthest object, or "front-to-back" ordering.
Finally, regardless of the rendering optimizations described above, a
particular sorting order is required to render transparency properly
(in the absence of the specialized transparency support that only a
few graphics cards provide). Transparent and semitransparent objects
are normally rendered by blending their semitransparent parts with
what has already been drawn to the framebuffer, which means that it is
important that everything that will appear behind a semitransparent
object must have already been drawn before the semitransparent parts
of the occluding object is drawn. This implies that all
semitransparent objects must be drawn in order from farthest away to
nearest, or in "back-to-front" ordering, and furthermore that the
opaque objects should all be drawn before any of the semitransparent
Panda achieves these sometimes conflicting sorting requirements
through the use of bins.
The CullBinManager is a global object that maintains a list of all of
the cull bins in the world, and their properties. Initially, there
are five default bins, and they will be rendered in the following
When Panda traverses the scene graph each frame for rendering, it
assigns each Geom it encounters into one of the bins defined in the
CullBinManager. (The above lists only the default bins. Additional
bins may be created as needed, using either the
CullBinManager::add_bin() method, or the Config.prc
You may assign a node or nodes to an explicit bin using the
NodePath::set_bin() interface. set_bin() requires two parameters, the
bin name and an integer sort parameter; the sort parameter is only
meaningful if the bin type is BT_fixed (more on this below), but it
must always be specified regardless.
If a node is not explicitly assigned to a particular bin, then Panda
will assign it into either the "opaque" or the "transparent" bin,
according to whether it has transparency enabled or not. (Note that
the reverse is not true: explicitly assigning an object into the
"transparent" bin does not automatically enable transparency for the
When the entire scene has been traversed and all objects have been
assigned to bins, then the bins are rendered in order according to
their sort parameter. Within each bin, the contents are sorted
according to the bin type.
If you want simple geometry that's in back of something to render in front
of something that it logically shouldn't, add the following code to the model that you want in front:
The above code will only work for simple models. If your model self occludes (parts of the model covers other parts of the model), the code will not work as expected. An alternative method is to use a display region with
The following bin types may be specified:
- Render all of the objects in the bin in a fixed order specified by the user. This is according to the second parameter of the NodePath.set_bin() method; objects with a lower value are drawn first.
- Collects together objects that share similar state and renders them together, in an attempt to minimize state transitions in the scene.
- Sorts each Geom according to the center of its bounding volume, in linear distance from the camera plane, so that farther objects are drawn first. That is, in Panda's default right-handed Z-up coordinate system, objects with large positive Y are drawn before objects with smaller positive Y.
- The reverse of back_to_front, this sorts so that nearer objects are drawn first.
- Objects are drawn in the order in which they appear in the scene graph, in a depth-first traversal from top to bottom and then from left to right.