OGRE-Next  2.3
Object-Oriented Graphics Rendering Engine
Root Layouts

Ogre 2.3 introduced the concept of root layouts, and they need to be setup for Vulkan.

If you're familiar with D3D12, you may have noted we borrowed this concept.

Old APIs (i.e. D3D11 and GL)

Older APIs like D3D11 and GL (and Metal 1) use a 'table binding' model. It is very simple to understand:

D3D11 offers 128 texture slots, thus textures can be bound to each slot:

table[textures][0] = textureA; // Bind to slot 0
table[textures][10] = textureB; // Bind to slot 10
table[textures][50] = nullptr; // Bind nothing to slot 50
table[textures][127] = anotherTexture; // Bind to slot 127

And its corresponding shader declaration:

uniform Texture2D textureA : register( t0 );
uniform Texture2D textureB : register( t10 );
uniform Texture2D textureA : register( t127 );

IHVs recommend to not leave gaps because they flush based on min-max. touched slots, e.g. if we have 10 textures and bind the first 9 at slots [0; 8] and the last one at slot 127, the driver will flush all 127 slots instead of just flushing 10.

The same table model is used for other resources: Const buffers, UAV buffers, UAV textures:

table[const_buffers][2] = materialConstBufferA; // Bind to slot 2
cbuffer myObject : register(b2)
float4x4 matWorld;
float3 vObjectPosition;
int arrayIndex;

This table model is simple to understand, although not all APIs agree on what goes together, e.g. in Metal regular textures and UAV textures share the same table. In D3D11 they have separate tables, thus regularTexture can be bound to slot t1 and uavTexture to slot u1; while on Metal only one of them can be bound to slot [[ texture( 1 ) ]]

Ogre tries to abstract these differences.

New APIs and Root Layouts

In newer APIs, these tables don't exist. Developers can layout resources in arbitrary ways and then describe the API what is in each offset. A binding can contain ANYTHING: sampler, const buffer, textures, etc

e.g. in pseudo code:

// Example A
uniform Texture2D textureA : register( slot 0 );
uniform Texture2D textureB : register( slot 1 );
cbuffer myObject : register( slot 2 ) {};
uniform Texture2D textureD : register( slot 3 );
// Example B
uniform Texture2D textureA : register( slot 0 );
uniform Texture2D textureB : register( slot 1 );
uniform Texture2D textureC : register( slot 2 );
uniform Texture2D textureD : register( slot 3 );

Two shaders that have the same root layout (even if they don't need to use all the resources declared) are said to be compatible.

In the example A & B are not compatible because slot 2 uses a different type. This means their size in bytes could be different, so even though textureD is in slot 3 in both shaders, their offset in bytes could be completely different.

Thus when switching from A to B we'd need to rebind everything again (or at best rebind slots 2 and 3, not just slot 2)

Sharing root layouts maximize CPU & GPU performance by lowering the amount of switching. Conversely, very big root layouts can hurt GPU performance due to their size and amount of registers consumed.

Ultimately we want to share as much as possible but not make the Root Layout gigantic to just to achieve maximum sharing.

The fact that resource declaration can be so arbitrary gives a lot of power and flexibility but it can be difficult to setup, easy to mess up; and how to approach the problem can be overwhelming.

There are three ways to approach it:

  1. The shader is first compiled, the layout is manually and carefully maintained. The C++ and shader code assume the layout is preserved as is. Ogre cannot do this as we have to preserve compatibility with other APIs and we cannot enforce a layout to nor from our user either. This is too low level.
  2. The shader is first compiled, reflected, their slots extracted, a Root Layout is created out of it, the Root Layout is modified to work with how Ogre expects to bind data, and then the shader is recompiled again with patched binding slots.
  3. The root layout is first specified, then the shader is built with patched binding slots

Ogre follows the 3rd approach (except when arrays of textures are used, which use the 2nd approach).

Root Layouts can have up to 4 sets (which is the minimum guaranteed by Vulkan).

It is common practice in Ogre to leave set 0 for resources bound in the traditional way (i.e. like a table model in D3D11 / OpenGL) while set 1 is set to 'baked' where DescriptorSetTexture/Sampler/Texture2/Uav are bound to it.

Another way to look at Ogre's RootLayout is that it basically tells Ogre what resources will the shader use so that we can properly emulate tables and compile the shader using slot locations calculated by us while the shader author can use binding slot index that have the same number as the shader code for other APIs (i.e. D3D11, GL)

Setting up root layouts

An HLSL shader that ONLY declares and uses the following resources:

cbuffer myConstBuffer0 : register(b4) {};
cbuffer myConstBuffer1 : register(b5) {};
cbuffer myConstBuffer2 : register(b6) {};
Buffer<float4> myTexBuffer : register(t1);
Texture2D myTex0 : register(t3);
Texture2D myTex1 : register(t4);
SamplerState mySampler : register(s1);
RWTexture3D<float> myUavTex : register(u0);
RWBuffer<float> myUavBuffer : register(u1);

Would work using the following RootLayout:

"0" :
"const_buffers" : [4,7],
"tex_buffers" : [1,2],
"textures" : [3,4],
"samplers" : [1,2],
"uav_buffers" : [1,2],
"uav_textures" : [0,1]

That is, explicitly declare that you're using const buffer range [4; 7), tex buffer range [1; 2) etc.

In Vulkan we will automatically generate macros for use in bindings (buffers are uppercase letter, textures lowercase):

// Const buffers
#define ogre_B4 set = 0, binding = 0
#define ogre_B5 set = 0, binding = 1
#define ogre_B6 set = 0, binding = 2
// Texture buffers
#define ogre_T1 set = 0, binding = 3
// Textures
#define ogre_t3 set = 0, binding = 4
// Samplers
#define ogre_s1 set = 0, binding = 5
// UAV buffers
#define ogre_U1 set = 0, binding = 6
// UAV textures
#define ogre_u0 set = 0, binding = 7

Thus a GLSL shader can use it like this:

layout( ogre_B4 ) uniform bufferName
uniform float myParam;
uniform float2 myParam2;
layout( ogre_t3 ) uniform texture2D myTexture;

Could you have used e.g. "const_buffers" : [0,7] instead of [4,7]?

i.e. declare slots in range [0;4) even though they won't be used?

Yes. But you would be consuming more memory.

Note that if your vertex shader uses slots [0; 3) and pixel shader uses range [4; 7) then BOTH shaders must use a RootLayout that at least declares range [0; 7) so they can be paired together

RootLayouts have a memory vs performance trade off:

  • Declaring unused slots helps reusing RootLayout. Reuse leads to fewer descriptor swapping
  • Unused slots waste RAM and VRAM

That's why low level materials provide prefab RootLayouts, in order to maximize RootLayout reuse while also keeping reasonable memory consumption.

See GpuProgram::setPrefabRootLayout

Declaring Root Layouts in shaders

Shaders can declare their Root Layouts in JSON in comments as long as it starts with ## ROOT LAYOUT BEGIN and end with ## ROOT LAYOUT END:

"0" :
"has_params" : true
"const_buffers" : [2, 4]
"tex_buffers" : [0, 1]
"samplers" : [1, 2],
"textures" : [1, 2]
#version 450
layout( ogre_P0 ) uniform Params {
uniform float myParams;
layout( ogre_B2 ) uniform MyUBO {
uniform float anotherParam;
layout( ogre_t1 ) texture2d myTexA;
void main()
// glsl code...

Or it can be declared in C++. This is the preferred method for Hlms shader code to maximize performance.

HlmsUnlit::setupRootLayout has a simple example:

void HlmsUnlit::setupRootLayout( RootLayout &rootLayout )
DescBindingRange *descBindingRanges = rootLayout.mDescBindingRanges[0];
// We have up to 3 const buffers at slots 0, 1 and 2
descBindingRanges[DescBindingTypes::ConstBuffer].end = 3u;
// When there's texture matrix animations, we must consume one extra buffer slot
if( getProperty( UnlitProperty::TextureMatrix ) == 0 )
descBindingRanges[DescBindingTypes::ReadOnlyBuffer].end = 1u;
descBindingRanges[DescBindingTypes::ReadOnlyBuffer].end = 2u;
// Baked sets are the ones that use DescriptorSetTexture/Sampler/Texture2/Uav
rootLayout.mBaked[1] = true;
DescBindingRange *bakedRanges = rootLayout.mDescBindingRanges[1];
bakedRanges[DescBindingTypes::Sampler].start = (uint16)mSamplerUnitSlotStart;
bakedRanges[DescBindingTypes::Sampler].end =
(uint16)mSamplerUnitSlotStart + (uint16)getProperty( UnlitProperty::NumSamplers );
bakedRanges[DescBindingTypes::Texture].start = (uint16)mTexUnitSlotStart;
bakedRanges[DescBindingTypes::Texture].end =
(uint16)mTexUnitSlotStart + (uint16)getProperty( UnlitProperty::NumTextures );
mListener->setupRootLayout( rootLayout, mSetProperties );
@ Sampler
Definition: OgreRootLayout.h:84
@ ReadOnlyBuffer
Definition: OgreRootLayout.h:81
@ ConstBuffer
Definition: OgreRootLayout.h:80
@ Texture
Definition: OgreResourceTransition.h:52
::uint16_t uint16
Definition: OgrePlatform.h:511

Baked sets

Non-baked sets are meant to behave very similarly to table models in D3D11 and OpenGL.

Baked sets on the other hand are meant exclusively for binding DescriptorSetTexture, DescriptorSetSampler, DescriptorSetTexture2 and DescriptorSetUav

The size of the DescriptorSet* must match exactly the amount of bindings slots in the RootLayout

Prefab Root Layouts for low level materials

To ease porting of low level materials (i.e. *.material and *.program scripts), most low level materials don't need to declare Root Layouts because we have prefabs for them:

Prefab Description
None Defined in shader source or externally via C++
Standard 4 textures per material, VS and PS only (default)
High 8 textures per material, VS and PS only
Max 32 textures per material, all shader stages

The majority of low level materials are fine with Standard, and this allows us to maximize Root Layout reuse.

If you need something different, you can either:

Change the prefab with root_layout standard|high|max|none in the shader program script definition, or declare the root layout inside the shader code.

Arrays of Textures

When a shader contains arrays of textures or samplers with an array length > 1, e.g.

layout( ogre_t0 ) texture2d myTexA[5];
layout( ogre_t6 ) texture2d myTexB[4];
layout( ogre_s0 ) texture2d mySamplers[3];
layout( ogre_s4 ) texture2d anotherSampler;

We need one of the following to specify that these slots are array, and what's their length:


rootLayout.addArrayBinding( DescBindingTypes::Texture, ArrayDesc( 0, 5 ) );
rootLayout.addArrayBinding( DescBindingTypes::Texture, ArrayDesc( 6, 4 ) );
rootLayout.addArrayBinding( DescBindingTypes::Sampler, ArrayDesc( 0, 3 ) );

Inline shader declaration

"0" :
"textures" : [0, 10],
"samplers" : [0, 4],
"baked" : false
"arrays" :
"textures" : [[0, 5], [0, 4]],
"samplers" : [[0, 3]],


In automatic, arrays are not declared. But the shader will be compiled, reflected, and then compiled again with a patched Root Layout (unless there were no arrays).

On Debug builds, Ogre will always reflect shaders to check the declared arrays in root layouts match the arrays used by the shader.

Automatic is the default behavior for low level materials. For Hlms shaders it's turned off

Automatic can be turned on or off via GpuProgram::setAutoReflectArrayBindingsInRootLayout or its script counterpart uses_array_bindings

Compute Shaders can turn on automatic mode by setting the uses_array_bindings property via Hlms, e.g.

@pset( uses_array_bindings, 1 )

Making GLSL shaders compatible with both Vulkan and OpenGL

Vulkan and OpenGL both use GLSL. However there are a few differences mostly because of the different binding model.

As a result we provide a few abstractions to separate these differences:

Expression Vulkan OpenGL
vulkan() macro Anything inside is kept Anything inside is removed
vulkan_layout() macro It is converted to layout() It is removed
#version ogre_glsl_ver_xxx The ogre_glsl_ver_ part is removed and will be translated to #version xxx Always converted to #version 450


#version ogre_glsl_ver_330
vulkan_layout( ogre_t0 ) uniform texture2D tex;
vulkan( layout( ogre_s0 ) uniform sampler texSampler );
vulkan_layout( location = 0 )
in block
vec2 uv0;
} inPs;
vulkan( layout( ogre_P0 ) uniform Params { )
uniform float4x4 worldViewProjMatrix;
uniform uint vertexBase;
uniform uint3 bandMaskPower;
uniform float2 sectionsBandArc;
uniform uint3 numProbes;
uniform float3 aspectRatioFixer;
vulkan( }; )


#version 330
uniform texture2D tex;
in block
vec2 uv0;
} inPs;
uniform float4x4 worldViewProjMatrix;
uniform uint vertexBase;
uniform uint3 bandMaskPower;
uniform float2 sectionsBandArc;
uniform uint3 numProbes;
uniform float3 aspectRatioFixer;


#version 450
layout( ogre_t0 ) uniform texture2D tex;
layout( ogre_s0 ) uniform sampler texSampler;
layout( location = 0 )
in block
vec2 uv0;
} inPs;
layout( ogre_P0 ) uniform Params {
uniform float4x4 worldViewProjMatrix;
uniform uint vertexBase;
uniform uint3 bandMaskPower;
uniform float2 sectionsBandArc;
uniform uint3 numProbes;
uniform float3 aspectRatioFixer;