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Glossary:High-fidelity upscaling

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Comparison of all 3 main upscalers in Hitman 3.
Comparison of all 3 main upscalers in Hitman 3.

For a list of games, see games with high-fidelity upscaling.

Resolution is one of the major parts of a game's visual fidelity and computational performance, and so there is a balance between optimal performance and visual fidelity, whether it's because of weak hardware or demanding graphics settings, the problem is that non-native resolution can often look terrible because of how it's scaled to the native screen resolution, most games before now used relatively low fidelity scaling methods such as Bilinear or Nearest Neighbor. With the rise of graphical features such as ray tracing, performance has always been a issue that limited their adoption and appeal, so developers started to devise ways to offload the load while maintaining a decent level of visual fidelity and thus lead to the creation of higher fidelity upscaling methods which utilized specialized algorithms and instructions either done through machine-learning or hand-made to better scale non-native resolution.

Do note that while frame interpolation features (e.g. DLSS 3 and FSR 3) do not count as upscaling by technicality, they're featured here for now as there's no plan to make a glossary page for them and both manufacturers have been lumping them in with the actual upscalers.

Nvidia

Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS)

Deep Learning Super Sampling is a set of image upscaling algorithms developed by Nvidia for real-time use in video games, using deep learning algorithms to upscale non-native resolution to native resolution that is accelerated through specialized hardware only present in NVIDIA's RTX series of GPUs.[1]

DLSS was first announced with the release of the Nvidia RTX 20 series in September 2018 and the first titles featuring it released between then and March 2019. Needing per-game training and only being featured in a handful of games with generally subpar results made DLSS at the time rather disappointing and not recommended. An improved version of DLSS, unofficially labeled as 1.9, was shipped with the game Control in August 2019, providing better image quality than 1.0, but only at certain qualities and resolutions such as 4K.[2]

DLSS 2.0 was released in March 2020 providing much better picture quality, performance and adjustable quality options over previous versions, and since it didn't need per-game training it was implemented into many more games and is now generally recommended if you have a supported GPU.[3]

DLSS 2.1 was released in September 2020 providing support for VR [Note 1], and introducing the Ultra performance quality option, generally meant for computationally intensive scenarious such as 8K gaming. Later versions of DLSS wouldn't provide much benefits as compared to before, mostly meant to fix issues with ghosting on fast moving objects, and these versions can be used on older DLSS 2.0 implementations through replacing a single .DLL file.

DLSS Frame Generation

Although technically not an upscaler itself, DLSS Frame Generation is documented here due to the lack of a glossary page for it.

DLSS Frame Generation was announced as "DLSS 3" (not to be mistaken with DLSS DLL v3.1.1) in Nvidia's GTC 2022 keynote on September 20th, keeping the same upscaling algorithm that DLSS 2.x.x utilises (now called Super Resolution) while adding two more features: Deep Learning Frame Generation, and Nvidia Reflex integration.[4] Frame Generation was touted to massively increase framerates as shown in a demo of Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) running at over 100 FPS using it as opposed to 60 without, although the technology has drawbacks like increased input latency (hence the Nvidia Reflex integration) and only being available on Ada Lovelace GPUs and newer due to the reliance of a new optical flow accelerator. Both Frame Generation and Nvidia Reflex alongside the original upscaling algorithm typically have separate toggles allowing users to combine features as desired.

Despite being a proprietary Nvidia technology, Frame Generation does not have a dependency on DLSS Super Resolution or Nvidia Image Scaling, and can be enabled alongside other vendors' upscaling tech provided the game allows it.[5]

DLSS Frame Generation rolled out into games and programs in late 2022 with Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered being one of the first games implementing it on 12 October, 2022.[6] Do note that some games may get their DLSS Super Sampling DLL updated to 3 but that doesn't mean frame generation has been implemented.

Nvidia Image Scaling (NIS)

Nvidia Image Scaling is an image scaling technique that uses directional scaling in four directions along with an adaptive sharpening filter, basically a spatial upscaler similar to what FidelityFX Super Resolution 1.0 does. There are two versions of NIS: a driver-level version that can be applied system-wide, and an SDK that can be used by developers to implement functionality on a per-program basis.

NIS was actually a part of the Nvidia Driver features since 2019 and the SDK was released for developers in November 2021. NIS didn't get much notoriety since it has only been implemented in a handful of games and its driver implementation is a bit confusing to use, although it can be used on any Nvidia GPU from Maxwell (GTX 745) and up unlike Radeon Super Resolution.[7]

AMD

FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR)

FidelityFX Super Resolution is a set of open-source image upscaling algorithms developed by AMD for real-time use in video games, using traditional hand-written algorithms to upscale lower-resolution images to a higher resolution. It does not involve the use of machine learning, unlike DLSS and XeSS, and runs on traditional shading units, thus negating the need for specialized hardware to function and can work on different vendors of GPUs. AMD billed this as a solution to extend the useful life of older GPUs especially during the early 2020s chip shortage where graphics card prices were at a premium.

FSR 1.0 was released in June 2021 with a handful of games supporting it and, although overshadowed by temporal-based solutions, it generally provides a sharp image compared to the standard bilinear upscaling most games used. An advantage of FSR 1.0 is its ease of implementation, not requiring motion vectors like temporal upscalers do. Do note though that FSR's standardized presets are not enforced, so some titles such as Dota 2 offer resolution sliders instead. [8] The driver level implementation of FSR 1.0 is known as Radeon Super Resolution.

FSR 2.0 is a new version that changes the upscaler to a temporal one similar to DLSS and TAAU and was touted to have significantly better picture quality than FSR 1.0 at all modes while still not using machine learning algorithms, being open source and being supported on a wide range of hardware. Announced on March 17 2022 alongside Radeon Super Resolution and Adrenalin 22.3.1, it released on May 12th 2022, with the first title supporting it being Deathloop.[9] and the source code being published on June 22nd 2022[10] Reception for FSR 2.0 is positive as it has much improved picture quality compared to FSR 1.0 and can come close to DLSS 2.x's while still providing a similar performance uplift and working on non-RTX GPUs, even though it falls short at some fine detail or moving objects when compared to DLSS or native image.[11]

First major improvement to FSR 2.0, dubbed FSR 2.1, released on September 8th 2022, promising significant improvements in overall image quality and reducing ghosting and shimmering artifacts present, as highlighted in Farming Simulator 22, being the first game to support this new iteration.[12]

FSR 2.2 and FSR 3 were revealed during AMD's RDNA 3 announcement. FSR 2.2 is a minor update and is said to improve ghosting issues in cases where fast on-screen motion occurs. It was first released in Forza Horizon 5 on November 8th 2022 and later in Need for Speed Unbound on December 2nd, 2022. FSR 2.2's source code was released on February 16th, 2023.[13]

FSR 3

Although technically not an upscaler itself, FSR 3 is documented here due to the lack of another appropriate place for it.

FSR 3 was announced during AMD's RDNA 3 announcement in November 2022, but at the time details were sparse. FSR 3 was further detailed in AMD's Gamescom announcement on August 25th, 2023. FSR 3 will be a competitor to Nvidia's DLSS Frame Generation and will include an enhanced version of the temporal upscaler in FSR 2.2 and AMD's Fluid Motion Frame technology to generate interpolated frames between actively rendered frames to give the feeling of smoother performance and input with the additions of built-in latency reduction and a native Anti-Aliasing mode for improved visual quality. FSR 3 will technically work on any GPU but AMD recommends GPUs which can already run the game decent at roughly 60 fps, citing the RX 5000/RDNA 1 and RTX 20/Turing series of GPUs as the minimum confirmed working GPUs. FSR 3 will release in several games in Fall of 2023 including Forspoken and Immortals of Aveum and will be available as a driver feature for RDNA 3 Hardware in Q1 2024.[14]

First two games to receive FSR 3 support were Forspoken and Immortals of Aveum on 29 September 2023, and on that same day AMD released a beta driver for Fluid Motion Frames to test the feature for RX 7000 users with 12 games whitelisted for support.[15]

The third game to receive FSR 3 was Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora on 7 December 2023, featuring a newer implementation with better consistency between generated frames and proper variable refresh rate support, garnering much more positive feedback.[16]

FSR 3's source code was released on 14 December 2023, initially for DirectX12 and Unreal Engine 5, with Vulkan support still in development. There also exists a version which doesn't use asynchronous Compute.[17]

Radeon Super Resolution (RSR)

Radeon's equivalent of Nvidia's Image Scaling, a driver-level implementation of FSR 1.0 added in Adrenalin 22.3.1, only usable on Radeon RX 5000 GPUs and above and require games with exclusive full-screen mode initially.[18]

In Adrenalin 22.7.1, RSR received enhanced support for borderless full-screen applications.[19]

AMD Fluid Motion Frames (AFMF)

AFMF is a driver based version of AMD's FSR 3 Frame generation technology which works with any DirectX11 or DirectX12 game but only relies on the current framerate and not motion vectors so it's of lower image fidelity, it's automatically disabled whenever heavy camera motion occurs to alleviate fidelity issues. Originally announced alongside FSR 3, with a release date of Q1 2024, the feature has been in beta testing through specified driver branches.[20][21]

The feature has been officially released with AMD's 24.1.1 driver on 24 January 2024, compatible with RDNA 2 and 3 GPUs.[22]

Misc.

Xe Super Sampling (XeSS)

XeSS, an image upscaling technology developed by Intel, combines the best of both DLSS and FSR into one package - it utilises a deep learning algorithm, while also being cross-platform and vendor-agnostic. It upscales non-native resolution utilising one of the available instructions in the order of best performance: XMX (Xe Matrix Extensions) available exclusively on Intel's own ARC GPUs, DP4a or Shader Model 6.4, which are both more broadly available, but come with reduced image quality and a higher performance cost.[23]

First XeSS 1.0 game released was The DioField Chronicle on September 22nd, 2022, followed by Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Death Stranding: Director's Cut. Visual Quality is close to DLSS 2.x, but lacking in certain areas like transparencies and it can produce unwanted moiré patterns. Performance improvement is mixed, where weaker DP4a GPUs, like the GTX 1060, and Shader Model 6.4 supported GPUs, like AMD's pre-RDNA line-up, don't see a benefit at all, meanwhile higher-end GPUs see performance similar to that of enabling DLSS, albeit a little lower.[24][25]

XeSS 1.1 was revealed by Intel on March 23rd, 2023 and released the following day, promising improved image quality and performance for XMX and DP4A models. XeSS uses DLL files and thus game implementations could be independantly updated by users, although results may be worse in performance.[26]

XeSS 1.2 was released alongside Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart on July 26, 2023 and its code released on August 16, 2023. This version comes with dynamic resolution scaling support, performance improvements, and consolidating the files to only the libxess.dll file, negating the need for XeFXLoader and others while still maintaining backwards compatibility with older versions.[27]

Temporal Anti-Aliasing Upsample (TAAU)

Released alongside Unreal Engine 4.19, TAAU is an upscaling technique that combines TAA and spatial upscaling into one pass. This allows the technique to converge to sharper images than if the spatial upscaling was performed as a later separate pass. However, it is important to note that there are other developers using similar techniques, but with slight variations in the implementation. Unreal Engine's TAAU implementation has been superseded by TSR.[28]

Temporal Super Resolution (TSR)

TSR is a temporal upscaler made as a successor to TAAU. It was made by Epic Games for their new Unreal Engine 5, but has also been backported to UE4. The quality of the image is said by Digital Foundry to be better then FSR 1 but not as good as DLSS 2.x.[29]

MetalFX (MTLFX)

MetalFX (MTLFX) is an upscaling framework developed by Apple that integrates with their Metal graphics API and provides the ability to upscale a low-resolution image to a higher output resolution. The framework supports two different modes: a spatial upscaling mode akin to FSR 1.0, as well as a temporal anti-aliased upscaling mode similar to FSR 2.0. The framework requires a Mac with the M1 chip or an Intel-based Mac running macOS 13 or later.[30]

Game Support

For a list of games, see games with high-fidelity upscaling.

Force upscaling in unsupported games

There are various methods to add upscaling to unsupported games, some are universal whereas others are engine specific.

Magpie

A free and open-source program which allows scaling any windowed application to act as if it is fullscreen borderless, has options for various scaling algorithms including FSR 1 and NIS, and has various settings for sharpness, can incur a performance impact on the CPU.

Upscale using Magpie
  1. Open Magpie.
  2. Switch to a windowed application/game.
  3. Press Win+ Shift+A.

Driver Scaling

NIS and FSR 1 are available for use from the driver suite of Nvidia GPUs starting from Maxwell (GTX 700) and newer, and AMD GPUs starting from RDNA 1 (RX 5000) and newer, although do note while NIS is both available in Nvidia's Control Panel and Geforce Experience, both do not have to be enabled and may conflict with one another.

Upscale using Nvidia Control Panel
  1. Open Nvidia Control Panel.
  2. Navigate to Manage 3D settings > Global Settings.
  3. Set Image Scaling to On and set preferred sharpness value.
  4. Select a lower resolution in whatever game being played.
Once enabled, 85%, 77%, 67%, 59% and 50% of the monitor's resolution will be available as selectable options.
Sharpness Could be tweaked further in-game using the Nvidia overlay.
Upscale using Radeon Software
  1. Open AMD Radeon Software.
  2. Navigate to Gaming > Global Graphics.
  3. Toggle Radeon Super Resolution On.
  4. Select a lower resolution in whatever game being played.
The setting can also be accessed in game through the Radeon Overlay Alt+R.

Unreal Engine 4 Games

Unreal Engine 4 comes with TAAU and TSR in version 4.19 and 4.26 respectively, but not all UE4 games do make use of these upscalers and go unused, nevertheless either upscaler can be forced on by following the commands outlined here, although do note not all games will scale properly and visuals may bug out.

AMD Fluid Motion Frames

AMD's frame generation technology can be enabled for all DX11/12 compatible games if you own a discrete RDNA2 or 3 GPU and are on Driver version 24.1.1. Do note that visual fidelity is lower than that of FSR 3 becuase of the lack of motion vectors.

Interpolate using Radeon Software
  1. Open AMD Radeon Software.
  2. Navigate to Gaming.
  3. Select desired game.
  4. Toggle AMD Fluid Motion Frames On.
The setting can also be accessed in game through the Radeon Overlay Alt+R.
The option will be dynamically disabled during fast mouse movement to alleviate visual artifacts.

Comparisons


Notes

  1. Although way fewer VR games have implemented it compared to flatscreen games, and it's usually implemented way after release.

References

  1. NVIDIA DLSS: Your Questions, Answered - last accessed on 2019-02-16
  2. Nvidia DLSS in 2020: Stunning Results - last accessed on 2023-02-20
  3. NVIDIA DLSS 2.0: A Big Leap In AI Rendering - last accessed on 2020-03-27
  4. NVIDIA DLSS 3: AI-Powered Performance Multiplier Boosts Frame Rates By Up To 4X - last accessed on 2022-09-25
  5. AMD's FSR 3.0 emulated: Frame Generation with DLSS 3.0, FSR 2.1 and XeSS in benchmark and quality comparison - last accessed on 2023-02-23
    "We asked NVIDIA if this was intentional with the settings menus and got the confident answer that it was a feature and not an oversight, while they also pointed out that DLSS would provide the best picture quality, but that the frame generation would in principle also work with all other methods like AMD’s FSR and Intel’s XeSS."
  6. Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered v1.1011.1.0 Patch Notes - last accessed on 2022-11-07
  7. What is Nvidia Image Scaling? How to use the upscaling feature - last accessed on 2021-11-16
  8. Valve's Dota 2 Adds AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution - last accessed on 2021-06-24
  9. Announcing and First Look at AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0 - last accessed on 2022-03-17
  10. FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0.1 (FSR 2.0) - last accessed on 2022-06-22
  11. God of War PC: AMD FSR 2.0 vs Nvidia DLSS Image/ Motion Quality Face-Off - last accessed on 2022-06-24
  12. It’s time to upscale FSR 2 even further: Meet FSR 2.1! - last accessed on 2022-09-09
  13. AMD FSR 2.2 Now Available on GPUOpen and FSR Supported in 250 Available and Upcoming Games - last accessed on 2023-02-18
  14. First Look at AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution 3 - last accessed on 2023-08-25
  15. Forspoken becomes the first game to feature AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR3) - last accessed on 2023-09-29
    Immortals of Aveum™ – Update 1.0.5.0 Release Notes - last accessed on 2023-09-29
    AMD Fluid Motion Frames now available in 12 games with Adrenalin preview driver, only for Radeon RX 7000 series - last accessed on 2023-09-29
  16. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora: DLSS 2 vs. FSR 3 Comparison Review - last accessed on 2023-12-14
  17. With a seasonal frame of mind, in one fluid motion we’ve generated the AMD FSR 3 GitHub source code repo for gamedevs everywhere! - last accessed on 2023-12-14
  18. AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition 22.3.1 Release Notes - last accessed on 2022-03-18
  19. AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition 22.7.1 Release Notes - last accessed on 2022-09-10
  20. First Look at AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution 3 - last accessed on 2023-08-25
  21. AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition Preview Driver for AMD Fluid Motion Frames Release Notes - last accessed on 2023-12-14
  22. AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition 24.1.1 Release Notes - last accessed on 2024-01-27
  23. Intel shows off its answer to Nvidia’s DLSS, coming to Arc GPUs in 2022 - last accessed on 2021-08-19
  24. Exclusive - Intel XeSS ML Upscaling - The Digital Foundry Tech Review - XeSS vs DLSS vs Native! - last accessed on 2022-09-30
  25. We Tested Intel's XeSS in Shadow of the Tomb Raider XeSS on Multiple GPUs - last accessed on 2022-09-30
  26. XeSS / High Quality Super Sampling from iGPU to dGPU / Intel Software - last accessed on 2023-03-25
    XeSS SDK 1.1.0 - last accessed on 2023-03-25
    Verified by User:Mine18 on 2023-03-25
    Swapping DLLs in Shadow of the Tomb Raider led to worse performance and slightly better image quality on the SM 6.4 model.
  27. XeSS SDK 1.2.0 - last accessed on 2023-08-16
  28. Unreal Engine 4.19 Released! - last accessed on 2023-02-20
  29. Ghostwire: Tokyo on PC debuts impressive new DLSS competitor - last accessed on 2022-03-17
  30. Apple Developer Documentation - Applying temporal antialiasing and upscaling using MetalFX - last accessed on 2022-11-12