Chapter 5. Command Buffers

Command buffers are objects used to record commands which can be subsequently submitted to a device queue for execution. There are two levels of command buffers - primary command buffers, which can execute secondary command buffers, and which are submitted to queues, and secondary command buffers, which can be executed by primary command buffers, and which are not directly submitted to queues.

Recorded commands include commands to bind pipelines and descriptor sets to the command buffer, commands to modify dynamic state, commands to draw (for graphics rendering), commands to dispatch (for compute), commands to execute secondary command buffers (for primary command buffers only), commands to copy buffers and images, and other commands.

Each command buffer manages state independently of other command buffers. There is no inheritance of state across primary and secondary command buffers, or between secondary command buffers. When a command buffer begins recording, all state in that command buffer is undefined. When secondary command buffer(s) are recorded to execute on a primary command buffer, the secondary command buffer inherits no state from the primary command buffer, and all state of the primary command buffer is undefined after an execute secondary command buffer command is recorded. There is one exception to this rule - if the primary command buffer is inside a render pass instance, then the render pass and subpass state is not disturbed by executing secondary command buffers. Whenever the state of a command buffer is undefined, the application must set all relevant state on the command buffer before any state dependent commands such as draws and dispatches are recorded, otherwise the behavior of executing that command buffer is undefined.

Unless otherwise specified, and without explicit synchronization, the various commands submitted to a queue via command buffers may execute in arbitrary order relative to each other, and/or concurrently. Also, the memory side-effects of those commands may not be directly visible to other commands without memory barriers. This is true within a command buffer, and across command buffers submitted to a given queue. See Section 6.3, “Events”, Section 6.5, “Pipeline Barriers” and Section 6.5.3, “Memory Barriers” about synchronization primitives suitable to guarantee execution order and side-effect visibility between commands on a given queue.

Each command buffer is always in one of three states:

Resetting a command buffer is an operation that discards any previously recorded commands and puts a command buffer in the initial state. Resetting occurs as a result of vkResetCommandBuffer or vkResetCommandPool, or as part of vkBeginCommandBuffer (which additionally puts the command buffer in the recording state).