WMS overlay with MapBox-gl-js 0.5.2

alt textQuick and dirty test of the WMS capabilities of the new MapBox-gl-js 0.5.2 API. First of all, yes ! it is possible to overlay (legacy) WMS over the vector WebGL rendered base map … however the way is not straightforward:


  • Needs some ‘hacks’ as current version of the API doesn’t have enough events to supply custom URL before it is loaded. But check latest version of mapbox, it might have better support for this.
  • Another issue is that WMS server has to provide HTTP header with Access-Control-Allow-Origin:* to avoid WebGL CORS failure when loading image (gl.texImage2D). Usually WMS servers don’t care about this, as for normal img tags CORS doesn’t apply. Here WebGL has access to raw image data so WMS provider has to explicitly agree with this.
  • Build process of mapbox-gl-js tend to be as many other large js projects complicated, slow, complex. And specifically on Windows platform it is more difficult to get mapbox-gl-js install and build running then on Mac.

Code is documented to guide you through the process, few highlights:

 // -- rutine originaly found in GlobalMercator.js, simplified
 // -- calculates spherical mercator coordinates from tile coordinates
 function tileBounds(tx, ty, zoom, tileSize) {
    function pixelsToMeters(px, py, zoom) {
     var res = (2 * Math.PI * 6378137 / 256) / Math.pow(2, zoom),
         originShift = 2 * Math.PI * 6378137 / 2,
         x = px * res - originShift,
         y = py * res - originShift;
     return [Math.abs(x), Math.abs(y)];
   var min = pixelsToMeters(tx * tileSize, ty * tileSize, zoom),
         max = pixelsToMeters((tx + 1) * tileSize, (ty + 1) * tileSize, zoom);
return min.concat(max);


// -- save orig _loadTile function so we can call it later
 // -- there was no good pre-load event at mapbox API to get hooked and patch url
// -- we need to use undocumented _loadTile
 var origFunc = sourceObj._loadTile;
    // -- replace _loadTile with own implementation
 sourceObj._loadTile = function (id) {
    // -- we have to patch sourceObj.url, dirty !
    // -- we basically change url on the fly with correct BBOX coordinates
    // -- and leave rest on original _loadTile processing
     var origUrl =sourceObj.tiles[0]
     var origUrl = origUrl +"&BBOX={mleft},{mbottom},{mright},{mtop}";
     sourceObj.tiles[0] = patchUrl(id, [origUrl]);
     // -- call original method
     return  origFunc.call(sourceObj, id);



gist available here


WebGL polyline tessellation with pixi.js

update 09/2015  : another triangulation methods (mapbox, tesspathy) mentioned here

pixi.js is a 2D open source library for gaming that includes WebGL support for primitives rendering. Why not to utilize it for polyline renderings on map ? It turned out, however, that the  tesselation of the polylines is not handled well.

most important code snippets:

<script src="Pixi.js"></script>
<script src="Point.js"></script>
<script src="WebGLGraphics.js"></script>

<script src="route.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

var graphicsData = {
 points: verts,
 lineWidth: 0.00015,
 lineColor: 0x33FF00,
 lineAlpha: 0.8
var webGLData = {
   points: [],
   indices: []
 // -- from pixi/utils
 PIXI.hex2rgb = function (hex) {
   return [(hex >> 16 & 0xFF) / 255,
           (hex >> 8 & 0xFF) / 255,
           (hex & 0xFF) / 255];

PIXI.WebGLGraphics.buildLine(graphicsData, webGLData);

I have put sample here:

Another implementaiton of polyline tessellation (seems like more functional) is in mapbox-gl-js  in LineBucket  .Mapbox-gl-js code took quite more time to get it running and debug on Windows platform,I  had to run npm install  from VS command shell and read carefully what all the npm errors are saying (e.g. Python version should be < 3). Then FireFox for some reason haven’t triggered breakpoint on LineBucket.addLine, this took another time to find out that I should debug thiOstravaRailwayss rather in Chrome.   See the blog here.Anyway good  experience with all the messy npm modules, their install requirements and unnecessary complexity. Also all the npm modules takes more than 200 MB, but some of them are optional in the install.

After all basic LINE draw in WebGL (without the thicknes and styling) is useful too, as on picture above you can see railways in CZ city Ostrava.