Long Week

Blog Returns

Once again, I ended up not blogging for most of the week. When this happens, there’s one of two possibilities: I’m either taking a break or I’m so deep into some code that I’ve forgotten about everything else in my life including sleep.

This time was the latter. I delved into the deepest parts of zink and discovered that the driver is, in fact, functioning only through a combination of sheer luck and a truly unbelievable amount of driver stalls that provide enough forced synchronization and slow things down enough that we don’t explode into a flaming mess every other frame.


I’ve fixed all of the crazy things I found, and, in the process, made some sizable performance gains that I’m planning to spend a while blogging about in considerable depth next week.

And when I say sizable, I’m talking in the range of 50-100% fps gains.

But it’s Friday, and I’m sure nobody wants to just see numbers or benchmarks. Let’s get into something that’s interesting on a technical level.


Yes, samplers.

In Vulkan, samplers have a lot of rules to follow. Specifically, I’m going to be examining part of the spec that states “If a VkImageView is sampled with VK_FILTER_LINEAR as a result of this command, then the image view’s format features must contain VK_FORMAT_FEATURE_SAMPLED_IMAGE_FILTER_LINEAR_BIT”.

This is a problem for zink. Gallium gives us info about the sampler in the struct pipe_context::create_sampler_state hook, but the created sampler won’t actually be used until draw time. As a result, there’s no way to know which image is going to be sampled, and thus there’s no way to know what features the sampled image’s format flags will contain. This only becomes known at the time of draw.

The way I saw it, there were two options:

  • Dynamically create the sampler just before draw and swizzle between LINEAR and NEAREST based on the format features
  • Create both samplers immediately when LINEAR is passed and swizzle between them at draw time

In theory, the first option is probably more performant in the best case scenario where a sampler is only ever used with a single image, as it would then only ever create a single sampler object.

Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic. Just as an example, u_blitter creates a number of samplers up front, and then it also makes assumptions about filtering based on ideal operations which may not be in sync with the underlying Vulkan driver’s capabilities. So for these persistent samplers, the first option may initially allow the sampler to be created with LINEAR filtering, but it may later then be used for an image which can’t support it.

So I went with the second option. Now any time a LINEAR sampler is created by gallium, we’re actually creating both types so that the appropriate one can be used, ensuring that we can always comply with the spec and avoid any driver issues.


Written on September 18, 2020