Writing to 3-components buffers using the image API in OpenGL

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As I’ve describe in detail in another blogpost, atomic counters used in conjunction with the image API and indirect draw buffers can be an excellent and highly performant alternative/replacement to the transformFeedback mechanism (oh wait, I still haven’t published that previous blogpost… and performant is not actually a real word).

Anyway, one place where this atomic counter + image API + indirect buffers approach becomes a little cumbersome, is its slightly less than elegant handling of 3-components buffer texture formats.

In the OpenGL 4.2 spec the list of supported buffer texture formats is listed in table 3.15, while the list of supported image unit formats is listed in table 3.21.  The takeaway from comparing these tables is that the supported image unit formats generally omit 3 components formats (other than the GL_R11F_G11F_B10F format).  So how to deal with this if you have a say a GL_RGB32F, or GL_RGB32UI internal format? Well, its actually pretty easy; just bind the proxy texture as the one component version of the internal format (GL_R32F, or GL_R32UI).

glBindImageTexture(0, buffer_proxy_tex, 0, GL_TRUE, 0, GL_WRITE_ONLY, GL_R32F);

Then in the shader put a 3-component stride on the atomic counter, then store each component with its own imageStore operation.

layout(binding = 0)         uniform atomic_uint atomicCount;
layout(rgb32f, binding = 0) uniform imageBuffer positionBuffer;

void main()
  //Some other code...

  int index = 3*int(atomicCounterIncrement(atomicCount));

  imageStore(positionBuffer, index+0, vec4(x));
  imageStore(positionBuffer, index+1, vec4(y));
  imageStore(positionBuffer, index+2, vec4(z));

  //Some more code...

And that actually works great, in my experience, replacing transformFeedback with this approach has been as fast or faster despite the multiple imageStore calls.

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