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Arcball Module in C# - Tao.OpenGL

, 11 Jan 2008 CPOL
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Arcball module using Tao.OpenGL in C#.


This article is the continuation on my Arcball module for C#. Previously, I had posted a code using CsGL. In this version, I have utilized the Tao.OpenGL wrapper and I have added Rotation/Zoom/Pan functions. I have also made use of Display Lists to speed up plot rendering. The Arcball module written here is general and not limited to OpenGL, and can be used in GDI+ and DirectX as well. Please note that my main focus in this tutorial is on the Arcball module, not on OpenGL application.


Arcball (also know as RollerBall) is probably the most intuitive method to view three dimensional objects. The principle of the Arcball is based on creating a sphere around the object and letting users to click a point on the sphere and drag it to a different location. There is a bit of math involved and you can Google for it. Here are few good links to educate yourself:

The code here is a C# source code implementing an Arcball in OpenGL (Tap.OpenGL).

Screenshot - pic1.png

Here is the same object but zoomed using the mouse middle button:

Screenshot - pic2.png

And, here is when it is panned to the left using the mouse right button:

Screenshot - pic3.png

Using the code

In this version, I am using Display List, Lighting, and Blending functions. I am not going to go into the details of OpenGL programming for the sake of brevity. Create a new form, create an instance of the Arcball class, and make if fill the form rectangle. All plots should go in the public function PlotGL in Form1.cs. I am plotting a torus and a backward torus in this example.

public void PlotGL()

        lock (matrixLock)


        Gl.glPushMatrix();                  // NEW: Prepare Dynamic Transform
        Gl.glMultMatrixf(matrix);           // NEW: Apply Dynamic Transform

        #region plot something
        Gl.glPolygonMode(Gl.GL_FRONT, Gl.GL_FILL);
        Gl.glColor3f(0.8f, 0.3f, 0.1f);
        Gl.glCallList(plot_glList1); // plot using display list 

        //Gl.glPolygonMode(Gl.GL_FRONT, Gl.GL_LINE);
        Gl.glColor3f(0.5f, 0.5f, 0.9f);
        Gl.glCallList(plot_glList2); // plot using display list 

        #endregion plot something

        Gl.glPopMatrix(); // NEW: Unapply Dynamic Transform
        Gl.glFlush();     // Flush the GL Rendering Pipeline



I have defined the transformation matrices in here (Arcball.cs):

public class Matrix4f


    public Quat4f Rotation
            float n, s;
            float xs, ys, zs;
            float wx, wy, wz;
            float xx, xy, xz;
            float yy, yz, zz;

            M = new float[4, 4];

            n = (value.x * value.x) + (value.y * value.y) + 
                (value.z * value.z) + (value.w * value.w);
            s = (n > 0.0f) ? 2.0f / n : 0.0f;

            xs = value.x * s;
            ys = value.y * s;
            zs = value.z * s;
            wx = value.w * xs;
            wy = value.w * ys;
            wz = value.w * zs;
            xx = value.x * xs;
            xy = value.x * ys;
            xz = value.x * zs;
            yy = value.y * ys;
            yz = value.y * zs;
            zz = value.z * zs;

            // rotation
            M[0, 0] = 1.0f - (yy + zz);
            M[0, 1] = xy - wz;
            M[0, 2] = xz + wy;

            M[1, 0] = xy + wz;
            M[1, 1] = 1.0f - (xx + zz);
            M[1, 2] = yz - wx;

            M[2, 0] = xz - wy;
            M[2, 1] = yz + wx;
            M[2, 2] = 1.0f - (xx + yy);

            M[3, 3] = 1.0f;

            // translation (pan)
            M[0, 3] = pan.x;
            M[1, 3] = pan.y;

            // scale (zoom)
            for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++)
                for (int j = 0; j < 3; j++)
                    M[i, j] *= scl;


    public float Scale
        set { scl = value; }


    public Vector3f Pan
        set { pan = value; }



You don't need to change anything else and the code should work. I have included comments as much as possible, but feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Note: For almost any code, you do not need to modify the Arcball class at all.


  • This is release 1.01. Please let me know if you find any bugs.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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Comments and Discussions

QuestionAfter translation, rotation and scaling anomaly PinmemberMember 1030771720-Nov-13 16:07 
QuestionWhy do you use lock? Pinmembernightrider138-Feb-13 23:36 
QuestionThank you very much , but do you know how to do this kind of graphics Pinmemberderek091925-Nov-11 21:12 
QuestionThank you PinmemberMember 819926712-Sep-11 21:18 
GeneralThanks! Keeping Y axis vertical PinmembernorrisMiou27-Feb-11 3:07 
GeneralRe: Thanks! Keeping Y axis vertical PinmemberKam3-Mar-11 10:23 
GeneralRotate camera Pinmembersajmon4423-Sep-10 0:30 
GeneralThanks! PinmemberLimeMan26-May-10 8:01 
GeneralPan is reversed PinmemberRajeev Lochan15-Apr-10 0:06 
GeneralRe: Pan is reversed PinmemberKam26-Apr-10 20:11 
GeneralZoom and Viewing directions [modified] PinmemberM.Siyamalan19-Mar-10 1:22 
GeneralRe: Zoom and Viewing directions PinmemberKam30-Mar-10 9:57 
GeneralInverse Transformation PinmemberMember 266410825-Nov-09 19:17 
GeneralRe: Inverse Transformation PinmemberKam27-Nov-09 19:34 
Questionhow to implement this in DirectX PinmemberSodrohu1-Oct-09 22:43 
AnswerRe: how to implement this in DirectX PinmemberKam27-Nov-09 19:35 
QuestionStandard views Pinmembersamjoe30-Apr-09 19:32 
AnswerRe: Standard views PinmemberKam11-Jun-09 20:14 
GeneralExcelent work PinmemberTiagoRibeiro23-Apr-09 15:27 
GeneralRe: Excelent work PinmemberKam28-Apr-09 18:24 
GeneralRe: Excelent work PinmemberFransiscus Herry10-Mar-10 20:13 
QuestionHow can I change the BackColor? PinmemberGerber Samuel27-Mar-09 0:02 
AnswerRe: How can I change the BackColor? PinmemberGerber Samuel27-Mar-09 1:07 
GeneralGood Pinmemberuaterelelli9-Jan-09 2:52 
GeneralRe: Good PinmemberKam21-Jan-09 14:04 

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