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How Rendering Works


Applications will typically used the Model class in module to issue draw calls. While the Model class handles some of the necessary setup, it is still useful to understand how rendering is done with the underlying Renderpipeline

A major feature of any GPU API is the ability to issue GPU draw calls. has been designed to offer developers full control over draw calls as outlined below.

Note that the documentation includes a series of tutorials that explain how to render with the API.

Creating a RenderPipeline

const pipeline = device.createRenderPipeline({
id: 'my-pipeline',
vs: vertexShaderSourceString,
fs: fragmentShaderSourceString

Set or update uniforms, in this case world and projection matrices

uMVMatrix: view,
uPMatrix: projection


Once all bindings have been set up, call pipeline.draw()

const pipeline = device.createRenderPipeline({vs, fs});

// Create a `VertexArray` to store buffer values for the vertices of a triangle and drawing
const vertexArray = device.createVertexArray();

const success = pipeline.draw({vertexArray, ...});

Transform Feedback (WebGL)

Creating a pipeline for transform feedback, specifying which varyings to use

const pipeline = device.createRenderPipeline({vs, fs, varyings: ['gl_Position']});

Set or update uniforms, in this case world and projection matrices

uMVMatrix: view,
uPMatrix: projection

Create a VertexArray to store buffer values for the vertices of a triangle and drawing

const pipeline = device.createRenderPipeline({vs, fs});

const vertexArray = new VertexArray(gl, {pipeline});

aVertexPosition: new Buffer(gl, {data: new Float32Array([0, 1, 0, -1, -1, 0, 1, -1, 0])})

pipeline.draw({vertexArray, ...});

Creating a pipeline for transform feedback, specifying which varyings to use

const pipeline = device.createRenderPipeline({vs, fs, varyings: ['gl_Position']});

Rendering into a canvas

To render to the screen requires rendering into a canvas, a special Framebuffer should be obtained from a CanvasContext using canvasContext.getDefaultFramebuffer(). A device context Framebuffer and has a (single) special color attachment that is connected to the current swap chain buffer, and also a depth buffer, and is automatically resized to match the size of the canvas associated.

To draw to the screen in, simply create a RenderPass by calling device.beginRenderPass() and start rendering. When done rendering, call renderPass.end()

  // A renderpass without parameters uses the default framebuffer of the device's default CanvasContext 
const renderPass = device.beginRenderPass();

For more detail. device.canvasContext.getDefaultFramebuffer() returns a special framebuffer that lets you render to screen (into the device's swap chain textures). This framebuffer is used by default when a device.beginRenderPass() is called without providing a framebuffer:

  const renderPass = device.beginRenderPass({framebuffer: device.canvasContext.getDefaultFramebuffer()});

Clearing the screen

Framebuffer attachments are cleared by default when a RenderPass starts. Control is provided via the RenderPassProps.clearColor parameter, setting this will clear the attachments to the corresponding color. The default clear color is a fully transparent black [0, 0, 0, 0].

  const renderPass = device.beginRenderPass({clearColor: [0, 0, 0, 1]});

Depth and stencil buffers are also cleared to default values:

  const renderPass = device.beginRenderPass({
clearColor: [0, 0, 0, 1],
depthClearValue: 1,
stencilClearValue: 0

Clearing can be disabled by setting any of the clear properties to the string constant 'load'. Instead of clearing before rendering, this loads the previous contents of the framebuffer. Clearing should generally be expected to be more performant.

Offscreen rendering

While is possible to render into an OffscreenCanvas, offscreen rendering usually refers to rendering into one or more application created Textures.

To help organize and resize these textures, provides a Framebuffer class. A Framebuffer is a simple container object that holds textures that will be used as render targets for a RenderPass, containing

  • one or more color attachments
  • optionally, a depth, stencil or depth-stencil attachment

Framebuffer also provides a resize method makes it easy to efficiently resize all the attachments of a Framebuffer with a single method call.

device.createFramebuffer constructor enables the creation of a framebuffer with all attachments in a single step.

When no attachments are provided during Framebuffer object creation, new resources are created and used as default attachments for enabled targets (color and depth).

For color, new Texture2D object is created with no mipmaps and following filtering parameters are set.

Texture parameterValue

An application can render into an (HTML or offscreen) canvas by obtaining a Framebuffer object from a CanvasContext using canvasContext.getDefaultFramebuffer().

Alternatively an application can create custom framebuffers for rendering directly into textures.

The application uses a Framebuffer by providing it as a parameter to device.beginRenderPass(). All operations on that RenderPass instance will render into that framebuffer.

A Framebuffer is shallowly immutable (the list of attachments cannot be changed after creation), however a Framebuffer can be "resized".

Framebuffer Attachments

A Framebuffer holds:

  • an array of "color attachments" (often just one) that store data (one or more color Textures)
  • an optional depth, stencil or combined depth-stencil Texture).

All attachments must be in the form of Textures.

Resizing Framebuffers

Resizing a framebuffer effectively destroys all current textures and creates new textures with otherwise similar properties. All data stored in the previous textures are lost. This data loss is usually a non-issue as resizes are usually performed between render passes, (typically to match the size of an off screen render buffer with the new size of the output canvas).

A default Framebuffer should not be manually resized.

const framebuffer = device.createFramebuffer({
width: window.innerWidth,
height: window.innerHeight,
color: 'true',
depthStencil: true

Attaching textures and renderbuffers

depthStencil: device.createRenderbuffer({...}),
color0: device.createTexture({...})
framebuffer.checkStatus(); // optional

Resizing a framebuffer to the size of a window. Resizes (and possibly clears) all attachments.

framebuffer.resize(window.innerWidth, window.innerHeight);

Specifying a framebuffer for rendering in each render calls

const offScreenBuffer = device.createFramebuffer(...);
const offScreenRenderPass = device.beginRenderPass({framebuffer: offScreenFramebuffer});
framebuffer: offScreenBuffer,
parameters: {}
framebuffer: null, // the default drawing buffer
parameters: {}

Clearing a framebuffer

framebuffer.clear({color: [0, 0, 0, 0], depth: 1, stencil: 0});

Binding a framebuffer for multiple render calls

const framebuffer1 = device.createFramebuffer({...});
const framebuffer2 = device.createFramebuffer({...});

const renderPass1 = device.beginRenderPass({framebuffer: framebuffer1});

const renderPass2 = device.beginRenderPass({framebuffer: framebuffer1});

Using Multiple Render Targets

The colorAttachments can be referenced in the shaders

Writing to multiple framebuffer attachments in GLSL fragment shader

#extension GL_EXT_draw_buffers : require
precision highp float;
void main(void) {
gl_FragData[0] = vec4(0.25);
gl_FragData[1] = vec4(0.5);
gl_FragData[2] = vec4(0.75);
gl_FragData[3] = vec4(1.0);