An overview of the new PowerVR Framework

It is 2016, and a new year brings new developments in the field of APIs! In preparation for these, we have created the PowerVR Framework. But what exactly is it?

Simply put, the Framework is a cross-platform and cross-API framework which is fully optimised for PowerVR. It supports PowerVR assets and shows you how to use a variety of PowerVR techniques such as Pixel Local Storage, and also can work as scaffolding around which to build your own render engine. It comes with the MIT industry-standard open source license, which lets you use not only our Framework but also our latest PowerVR Graphics SDK freely for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

The premise behind our Framework is that explicit APIs (such as Vulkan) are becoming more and more widespread – and whilst they are very powerful tools, they are also very verbose and difficult to get to grips with. As a result, intermediate layers have become more important, since the APIs themselves offer less guidance to developers.

Therefore, the PowerVR Framework was designed with the goal of making the developer’s job easier, by offering better support for explicit APIs through the addition of a facilitation layer enabling cross-API development.

The PowerVR Framework modules

The Framework consists of several modules compiled as static libraries and divided by functionality. These modules are:

  • PVRCore
  • PVRAssets
  • PVRShell
  • PVRUIRenderer

PVRCore is the supporting code that is used by the rest of the Framework. It features not only interfaces that bind other modules together (e.g. GraphicsContext.h, OSManager.h), but also utility classes and specialized data structures used by the Framework (RingBuffer.h, ListOfInterfaces.h).

This module also provides the main Smart Pointer class used by the Framework (RefCounted.h), the data streams (e.g. FileStream.h, MemoryStream.h), as well as logging and error reporting (Log.h). It also deals with any required special math (bounding boxes, shadow volumes).


PVRAssets is one of the most important modules within the PowerVR Framework. It contains classes and functions to work with objects like Model, Mesh, Texture, Effect, Animation, Camera and others. It provides built-in support for handling all PowerVR deployment formats (PVR textures, POD models and PFX effects), usually with a single line of code. PVRAssets also works to provide you with flexible classes that you can dynamically adapt for your own use.


PVRShell is the foundation on top of which the SDK applications are written. This module abstracts the display system and contains, among others, the application’s entry point, command line arguments, events, main loop, etc., abstracting the native platform. PVRShell effectively makes it easier to develop your application on Windows, Linux and OS X desktop OS’s with emulation and deploy to iOS, Android and Linux devices.


PVRAPI leverages PVRAssets and PVRShell in order to abstract the graphics API. PVRAPI is very ambitious in that it provides a graphics API abstraction layer inspired by modern APIs such as Vulkan and Mantle, while also supporting existing APIs such as OpenGL ES. The 4.0 SDK includes an OpenGL ES back-end that utilises OpenGL ES 2.0, 3.0 & 3.1 features. Future SDK releases will include new back-ends. Combined with PVRShell (which provides a common codebase across platforms), PVRAPI supports the cross-platform, cross-API nature of the Framework.

PVRAPI - PowerVR frameworkGnomes!


PVRUIRenderer makes use of PVRAPI to provide a simple, platform- and API-agnostic library for rendering 2D elements in a 3D environment. Specifically, PVRUIRenderer was written with text and sprites in mind.


PVRCamera provides an easy-to-use interface between the platform’s hardware camera system and the rest of the Framework.

PVRCamera - texture streaming

The latest PowerVR Tools and SDK installers (Windows, OS X and Linux) can be downloaded from here. For a full list of the latest features and fixes, please check out our comprehensive release notes page.

Remember to also follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationTech, @PowerVRInsider) for  the latest news and announcements from the PowerVR Insider team.

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