In computer graphics, back-face culling determines whether a polygon of a graphical object is visible. It is a step in the graphical pipeline that tests whether the points in the polygon appear in clockwise or counter-clockwise order when projected onto the screen. If the user has specified that front-facing polygons have a clockwise winding, if the polygon projected on the screen has a counter-clockwise winding it has been rotated to face away from the camera and will not be drawn.
The process makes rendering objects quicker and more efficient by reducing the number of polygons for the program to draw. For example, in a city street scene, there is generally no need to draw the polygons on the sides of the buildings facing away from the camera; they are completely occluded by the sides facing the camera.
A related technique is clipping, which determines whether polygons are within the camera's field of view at all.
Another similar technique is Z-culling, also known as occlusion culling, which attempts to skip the drawing of polygons which are covered from the viewpoint by other visible polygons.
This technique only works with single-sided polygons, which are only visible from one side. Double-sided polygons are rendered from both sides, and thus have no back-face to cull.
- Geometry Culling in 3D Engines, by Pietari Laurila
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