half-float Conversion Configuration OptionsΒΆ

The Imath library supports three options for conversion between 16-bit half and 32-bit float:

  1. Conversion from half to float via a 16-bit lookup table. Prior to Imath v3.1, this was the only method supported.

  2. F16C SSE instructions: single-instruction conversion for machine architectures that support it. When available, this is the fastest option, by far.

  3. Bit-shift conversion algorithm.

To use the F16C SSE instruction set on an architecture that supports it, simply provide the appropriate compiler flags when building an application that includes half.h. For g++ and clang, for example:

% cmake -DCMAKE_CXX_FLAGS="-m16fc" <source directory>

When code including half.h is compiled with F16C enabled, it will automatically perform conversions using the instruction set. F16C compiler flags take precedence over other lookup-table-related Imath CMake settings.

On architectures that do not support F16C, you may choose at compile-time between the bit-shift conversion and lookup table conversion via the IMATH_HALF_USE_LOOKUP_TABLE CMake option:

% cmake -DIMATH_HALF_USE_LOOKUP_TABLE=OFF <source directory>

Note that when building and installing the Imath library itself, the 65,536-entry lookup table symbol will be compiled into the library even if the IMATH_HALF_USE_LOOKUP_TABLE setting is false. This allows applications using that installed Imath library downstream to choose at compile time which conversion method to use.

Applications with memory limitations that cannot accomodate the conversion lookup table can eliminate it from the library by building Imath with the C preprocessor define IMATH_HALF_NO_LOOKUP_TABLE defined. Note that this is a compile-time option, not a CMake setting (making it possible for application code to choose the desired behavior). Simply add:


before including half.h, or define the symbol on the compile command line.

Furthermore, an implementation wishing to receive FE_OVERFLOW and FE_UNDERFLOW floating point exceptions when converting float to half by the bit-shift algorithm can define the preprocessor symbol IMATH_HALF_ENABLE_FP_EXCEPTIONS prior to including half.h:


By default, no exceptions are raised on overflow and underflow.