A System for Rapid Exploration of Shader Optimization Choices

Yong He, CMU
Theresa Foley, NVIDIA
Kayvon Fatahalian, CMU

ACM Transactions on Graphics, 35(4), July 2016
Proceedings of ACM SIGGRAPH 2016


We present Spire, a shading language and compiler framework that facilitates rapid exploration of shader optimization choices (such as frequency reduction and algorithmic approximation) afforded by modern real-time graphics engines. Our design combines ideas from rate-based shader programming with new language features that expand the scope of shader execution beyond traditional GPU hardware pipelines, and enable a diverse set of shader optimizations to be described by a single mechanism: overloading shader terms at various spatio-temporal computation rates provided by the pipeline. In contrast to prior work, neither the shading language's design, nor our compiler framework's implementation, is specific to the capabilities of any one rendering pipeline, thus Spire establishes architectural separation between the shading system and the implementation of modern rendering engines (allowing different rendering pipelines to utilize its services). We demonstrate use of Spire to author complex shaders that are portable across different rendering pipelines and to rapidly explore shader optimization decisions that span multiple compute and graphics passes and even offline asset preprocessing. We further demonstrate the utility of Spire by developing a shader level-of-detail library and shader auto-tuning system on top of its abstractions, and demonstrate rapid, automatic re-optimization of shaders for different target hardware platforms.


Download Paper (15 MB)

Also see our SIGGRAPH 2017 paper that extends Spire with shader components.


Code and Tutorials on Github