This article is about a simple method of generating dynamic images on the client side, without using new HTML5
<canvas> element. Why this? I got very interested in this topic seeing all the features coming with the new HTML5 standard on its way. The new
<canvas> element offers a lot of freedom to a web developer. In this article, I did a simple experiment using available data-URI feature of images on the web page.
Here, I would suggest to the reader to visit this place where the author is speaking about client-side generated image animation using data-URI but is focused on the old-school palette based animation of a static GIF image, and also this place where another author has built an image drawing tool upon data-URI feature.
But, in order to better understand what data-URI is useful for, I would suggest this place on Wiki containing general discussion.
Basically, data-URI would allow you to embed an image data inside the image
src attribute. You don't need to get it from the server, or to draw it using
<img> element is shown below:
<img id="myImage" src="http://image-url">
To load the image from the web server, you put the image URL as the value for the image
To load the embedded image from the web page, you put the following as the value for the image
<img id="myImage" src="data:image/bmp;base64,image-data">
The browser knows that, in the second case, image data would not be obtained by sending HTTP request to the web server, but rather is inside the
src attribute of the image tag. The browser parses this and displays the image on the page correctly.
So, what is contained inside the
src attribute in the second case? First of all, you tell the browser that you have image data by specifying the
data:image/bmp value. This contains the definition for data-URI and a MIME-type for the image data that is following. If the image data is
base64 encoded, you put this information also. So, general data-URI header is
The next part is the raw image data. Where does it come from?
Well, as I said before, it can be obtained somewhere else and embedded into the web page, or rather directly into the
src attribute of the image tag. If you need a generator for this, please visit this place. This web page generates the code you need to put inside your web page using the image you provide. It also offers you to preview the generated image. Nice work, isn't it.
At the beginning, we will keep it simple, that is, we will work only with BMP images, and later when you find some extra time, you can extend this to any other image format supported by the modern browsers.
Here on the Wiki, you can find everything you need to know about BMP image format. Now, see below the general structure of every bitmap image:
- File header [exactly 14 bytes long]
- Bitmap header [exactly 40 bytes long]
- Color palette [0 or n*3 bytes long, where n is the number of colors inside the palette]
- Bitmap data [exactly height*pitch bytes long, where pitch is width*bits-per-pixel bytes long, rounded to 4 bytes boundary]
To make it more clear, I have borrowed the following picture from the Wiki:
var imageHeader = ('BM' + num_file_bytes + '\x00\x00' + '\x00\x00' + '\x36\x00\x00\x00' + '\x28\x00\x00\x00' + width + height + '\x01\x00' + '\x20\x00' + '\x00\x00\x00\x00' + '\x00\x00\x00\x00' + '\x13\x0B\x00\x00' + '\x13\x0B\x00\x00' + '\x00\x00\x00\x00' + '\x00\x00\x00\x00' );
This way, we have created the header for the 32bpp bitmap image of the size
height. This bitmap type does not have the color table, so it is missing from the header.
Since we have the correct header, we can now allocate the image data. See below:
var imageData = new Array();
It is basically an
Array object that we will use to store the image pixels. Speaking about pixels, I have created the following class to store the color information:
function Color(r, g, b)
this.red = parseInt(r) % 256;
this.green = parseInt(g) % 256;
this.blue = parseInt(b) % 256;
Now, to create the value for the single pixel, having in mind the 32bpp color depth, I used the following:
var color = new Color(red, green, blue);
var newColor = String.fromCharCode(color.blue, color.green, color.red, 0);
When I wanted to put the value (the color) for some pixel in the image, I used the following:
imageData[y*width+x] = newColor;
It hardly can be simpler than this, right?
Using the Code
var graphics = createGraphics(320, 240);
NOTE: This will work correctly only in Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari.
Again, Why This?
DIV elements is created during rendering process and image creation on the client-side. It is another alternative, also.
The first issue I would point out here is a rendering speed. Although some will say it is not to slow (and it really isn't), I say it cannot match HTML5
The second thing is the type (or number of the colors) of the bitmap. I was using the 32bpp bitmaps, they offer quality, but they are the largest you can find on the market these days. If you use paletized bitmaps, you will work with less data and it will for sure be faster, but you will have the maximum of 256 different colors available, so you are making a compromise to quality to gain more speed.
The last thing is a constant image loading from the beginning. Each time you set the image
Points of Interest
I have found out that there are some tricks and techniques that can be used to overcome problems that look impossible at first. I had a very good time developing this library and I hope that the reader of this article will find it useful to implement it in his work. Somehow, someway...
He has a master degree in Computer Science at Faculty of Electronics in Nis (Serbia), and works as a C++/C# application developer for Windows platforms since 2001. He likes traveling, reading and meeting new people and cultures.