javascript – Controlling fps with requestAnimationFrame?

These are all good ideas in theory, until you go deep. The problem is you can’t throttle an RAF without de-synchronizing it, defeating it’s very purpose for existing. So you let it run at full-speed, and update your data in a separate loop, or even a separate thread!

Yes, I said it. You can do multi-threaded JavaScript in the browser!

There are two methods I know that work extremely well without jank, using far less juice and creating less heat. Accurate human-scale timing and machine efficiency are the net result.

Apologies if this is a little wordy, but here goes…

Method 1: Update data via setInterval, and graphics via RAF.

Use a separate setInterval for updating translation and rotation values, physics, collisions, etc. Keep those values ​​in an object for each animated element. Assign the transform string to a variable in the object each setInterval ‘frame’. Keep these objects in an array. Set your interval to your desired fps in ms: ms=(1000/fps). This keeps a steady clock that allows the same fps on any device, regardless of RAF speed. Do not assign the transforms to the elements here!

In a requestAnimationFrame loop, iterate through your array with an old-school for loop– do not use the newer forms here, they are slow!

for(var i=0; i<sprite.length-1; i++){  rafUpdate(sprite[i]);  }

In your rafUpdate function, get the transform string from your js object in the array, and its elements id. You should already have your ‘sprite’ elements attached to a variable or easily accessible through other means so you don’t lose time ‘get’-ing them in the RAF. Keeping them in an object named after their html id’s works pretty good. Set that part up before it even goes into your SI or RAF.

Use the RAF to update your transforms only, use only 3D transforms (even for 2d), and set css “will-change: transform;” on elements that will change. This keeps your transforms synced to the native refresh rate as much as possible, kicks in the GPU, and tells the browser where to concentrate most.

So you should have something like this pseudocode…

// refs to elements to be transformed, kept in an array
var element = [
   mario: document.getElementById('mario'),
   luigi: document.getElementById('luigi')

var sprite = [  // read/write this with SI.  read-only from RAF
   mario: { id: mario  ....physics data, id, and updated transform string (from SI) here  },
   luigi: {  id: luigi  .....same  }
   //...and so forth
] // also kept in an array (for efficient iteration)

//update one sprite js object
//data manipulation, CPU tasks for each sprite object
//(physics, collisions, and transform-string updates here.)
//pass the object (by reference).
var SIupdate = function(object){
  // get pos/rot and update with movement
  object.pos.x +=;  // example, motion along x axis
  // and so on for y and z movement
  // and xyz rotational motion, scripted scaling etc

  // build transform string ie
  object.transform =
   ') '+

   // assign rotations, order depends on purpose and set-up. 
   'rotationZ('+object.rot.z+') '+
   'rotationY('+object.rot.y+') '+
   'rotationX('+object.rot.x+') '+

   'scale3d('.... if desired
  ;  //...etc.  include 

var fps = 30; //desired controlled frame-rate

// CPU TASKS - SI psuedo-frame data manipulation
  // update each objects data
  for(var i=0; i<sprite.length-1; i++){  SIupdate(sprite[i]);  }
},1000/fps); //  note ms = 1000/fps

// GPU TASKS - RAF callback, real frame graphics updates only
var rAf = function(){
  // update each objects graphics
  for(var i=0; i<sprite.length-1; i++){  rAF.update(sprite[i])  }
  window.requestAnimationFrame(rAF); // loop

// assign new transform to sprite's element, only if it's transform has changed.
rAF.update = function(object){     
  if(object.old_transform !== object.transform){
    element[].style.transform = transform;
    object.old_transform = object.transform;

window.requestAnimationFrame(rAF); // begin RAF

This keeps your updates to the data objects and transform strings synced to desired ‘frame’ rate in the SI, and the actual transform assignments in the RAF synced to GPU refresh rate. So the actual graphics updates are only in the RAF, but the changes to the data, and building the transform string are in the SI, thus no jankies but ‘time’ flows at the desired frame-rate.


[setup js sprite objects and html element object references]

[setup RAF and SI single-object update functions]

[start SI at percieved/ideal frame-rate]
  [iterate through js objects, update data transform string for each]
  [loop back to SI]

[start RAF loop]
  [iterate through js objects, read object's transform string and assign it to it's html element]
  [loop back to RAF]

Method 2. Put the SI in a web-worker. This one is FAAAST and smooth!

Same as method 1, but put the SI in web-worker. It’ll run on a totally separate thread then, leaving the page to deal only with the RAF and UI. Pass the sprite array back and forth as a ‘transferable object’. This is buko fast. It does not take time to clone or serialize, but it’s not like passing by reference in that the reference from the other side is destroyed, so you will need to have both sides pass to the other side, and only update them when present, sort of like passing a note back and forth with your girlfriend in high-school.

Only one can read and write at a time. This is fine so long as they check if it’s not undefined to avoid an error. The RAF is FAST and will kick it back immediately checking, then go through a bunch of GPU frames just if it’s been sent back yet. The SI in the web-worker will have the sprite array most of the time, and will update positional, movement and physics data, as well as creating the new transform string, then pass it back to the RAF in the page.

This is the fastest way I know to animate elements via script. The two functions will be running as two separate programs, on two separate threads, taking advantage of multi-core CPU’s in a way that a single js script does not. Multi-threaded javascript animation.

And it will do so smoothly without jank, but at the actual specified frame-rate, with very little divergence.


Either of these two methods will ensure your script will run at the same speed on any PC, phone, tablet, etc (within the capabilities of the device and the browser, of course).

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