At EasyTechJunkie, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Is Back-Face Culling?

Alex Newth
Alex Newth

Back-face culling is a rendering technique used in three-dimensional (3D) modeling for movies and games to help cut down on needed memory. When polygons are used, they point clockwise or counterclockwise and the user has to select what direction he or she wants to limit. After selecting this, back-face culling will take effect and make the other side of each polygon disappear, because they are not required. Based on how the player moves in a 3D game or through a 3D program, the polygons may toggle between invisible and visible. Fewer polygons will be needed overall, so the amount of memory and the processing requirements for the movie or game will be much less.

Polygons in a 3D game or movie often have a certain direction and winding and, for back-face culling to work, the user must select a direction to limit. For example, if clockwise polygons are limited, then any polygons that are moving clockwise will become invisible. The direction normally is selected based on the player’s common position, where the camera is located and how the general scenery is built.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Based on what the user chooses and how the camera or player moves, some or many of the polygons will disappear from the program. If the polygons still are needed to render an object, then the backside will become invisible, but they will not completely disappear from the program. For example, if the camera is looking head-on at an object, then the front and sides will be needed to compose the image but, since the backside is not seen, that angle will disappear.

In early 3D movies and games, it would be rare for the camera or player to see the backside of polygonal objects, so there was no need to rotate the viewable angle. More advanced 3D graphics often have an adjusting camera, so back-face culling does not just make polygons invisible. The invisible polygons will rotate based on where the user is moving. For example, if someone moves from the front to the back of a 3D object, then the polygons in the back will load as the user comes closer to the backside.

The purpose of back-face culling is to cut down on the amount of polygons required to run a 3D movie or game. Memory often runs high for many 3D projects, and this makes it harder to display and process the media. By reducing the number of required polygons, it becomes much easier for movies and games to be used in projectors or consumer-grade computers.

Discussion Comments



This must be a great relief to the video-audio professionals who use PC's to work with daily. There cannot be anything left to chance or fate when it comes to making that perfect recording or video that a person is making for major distribution to national media


Not this article is right up my alley! And yes the games of earlier in the lifetime of entertainment media were very glitchy and had many problems graphics being the major one. There were also issues with the various vendor VGA cards and almost all of them had a set resolution that once changed would render the game either unpleasant to play or else unplayable altogether. I for one am truly glad that video graphics have come so far. We are now on the 3-D front heading into even higher definition resolutions and more screen space as well so the future of video games for me are fine now.


I wonder if this is the reason why in early video games sometimes parts of a world or building or even parts of a human's face would either disappear or else appear as if they were "hollow" inside. I haven't seen those types of systems in decades or more, but when they first appeared they were truly annoying.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Man holding computer
      Man holding computer