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Debugging GPU code can be challenging. Standard CPU-side debugging tools like breakpoints and single stepping are not avaialble in GPU shaders. when shaders fail, the result is often a blank screen that does not provide much information about what went wrong. In addition, the error behind a failed render can be located in very different parts of the code:

  • it can be in the shader code itself
  • but it can also be in the data that was provided to the GPU (attributes, bindings, uniforms etc)
  • or in one of the many GPU pipeline settings
  • or in the way the APIs were called.

The good news is that provides a number of facilities for debugging your GPU code, to help you save time during development. These features include

  • All GPU objects have auto-populated but configurable id fields.
  • Configurable logging of GPU operations, with optional verbose logs that display all values being passed to each draw call.
  • Propagates detailed logs of errors and warnings during shader compilation.
  • WebGL Parameter validation.
  • Spector.js integration
  • Khronos WebGL debug integration - Synchronous WebGL error capture (optional module).

id strings

Most classes in allow you to supply an optional id string to their constructors. This allows you to later easily check in the debugger which object (which specific instance of that class) you are looking at when debugging code.

const program = device.createRenderPipeline({id: 'cube-program', ...});
const program = device.createRenderPipeline({id: 'pyramid-program', ...});

Apart from providing a human-readable id field when inspecting objects in the debugger,
the ids that the application provides are used in multiple places:

  •'s built-in logging (see next section) often includes object ids.
  • id is copied into the WebGPU object label field which is designed to support debugging.
  • id is exposed to Specter.js ( sets the [__SPECTOR_Metadata]( field on WebGL object handles).

Logging logs its activities.

Set the global variable luma.log.level (this can be done in the browser console at any time)

luma.log.level=1 will print
1modest amount of initialization information.
3tables for uniforms and attributes providing information about their values and types before each render call. This can be extremely helpful for checking that shaders are getting valid inputs.

Shader compilation errors extract as much information as possible about shader compiler errors etc, and will throw exceptions with messages intended to help narrow down the problematic shader code when a shader fails to compile.

When running in the browser, will open a shader source code viewer window inside the application's canvas. This window shows both the shader source as well as any error messages and warnings from the shader compiler. If available translated native source is also shown. Normally this window is shown only if errors occur. By setting Model.props.debugShaders: 'always' the application can force the debug window to always appear.

Note that also injects and parses glslify-style #define SHADER_NAME "shader names". Naming shaders directly in the shader code can help identify which shader is involved when debugging shader parsing errors occur.

Buffer data inspection

Buffer objects contain a CPU side copy of the first few bytes of data in the buffer.debugData field. This field is refreshed whenever data is written or read from the CPU side, using buffer.write(), buffer.readAsync() etc and can be inspected in the debugger to inspect the contents of the buffer.

Note that this CPU side data copy can become invalid when buffers are updated on the GPU by compute shaders or transform feedback operations, in which case reading from the buffer would be necessary to refresh the CPU side data.

Parameter Validation runs checks on attributes and buffers when they are being set, catching many trivial errors such as setting uniforms to undefined or wrong type (scalar vs array etc).

Buffers will also have their first values checked to ensure that they are not NaN. As an example, setting uniforms to illegal values now throws an exception containing a helpful error message including the name of the problematic uniform.

Resource Leak Detection

See the chapter on Profiling for tools that can help spot resource leaks.

WebGL API tracing integration (WebGL only) is pre-integrated with the Khronos group's WebGL developer tools (the WebGLDeveloperTools) which provide the following features:

  • WebGL API tracing - Logs each call to the WebGL context with parameters.
  • Synchronous WebGL Error Detections - Checks the WebGL error status after each WebGL call and throws an exception if an error was detected, breaking the debugger at the correct place, and also extract helpful information about the error.
  • WebGL Parameters Checking - Checks that WebGL parameters are set to valid values.

The most flexible way to enable WebGL API tracing is by typing the following command into the browser developer tools console:

Note that the developer tools module is loaded dynamically when a device is created with the debug flag set, so the developer tools can be activated in production code by opening the browser console and typing:

luma.set('debug', true)

then reload your browser tab.

While usually not recommended, it is also possible to activate the developer tools manually. Call luma.createDevice with debug: true to create a WebGL context instrumented with the WebGL developer tools:

import {luma} from '';
const device = luma.createDevice({type: 'webgl', debug: true});

Warning: WebGL debug contexts impose a significant performance penalty (luma waits for the GPU after each WebGL call to check error codes) and should not be activated in production code.

Spector.js integration (WebGL only) integrates with Spector.js, a powerful debug tool created by the BabylonJS team.

The most flexible way to enable Spector.js is by typing the following command into the browser developer tools console:

luma.log.set('spector', true);

And then restarting the application (e.g. via Command-R on MacOS),

You can also enable spector when creating a device by adding the spector: true option.

To display Spector.js stats when loaded.


Spector.js is dynamically loaded into your application, so there is no bundle size penalty.