9.7. Specialization Constants

Specialization constants are a mechanism whereby constants in a SPIR-V module can have their constant value specified at the time the VkPipeline is created. This allows a SPIR-V module to have constants that can be modified while executing an application that uses the Vulkan API.

[Note]Note

Specialization constants are useful to allow a compute shader to have its local workgroup size changed at runtime by the user, for example.

Each instance of the VkPipelineShaderStageCreateInfo structure contains a parameter pSpecializationInfo, which can be NULL to indicate no specialization constants, or point to a VkSpecializationInfo structure.

The VkSpecializationInfo structure is defined as:

 

typedef struct VkSpecializationInfo {
    uint32_t                           mapEntryCount;
    const VkSpecializationMapEntry*    pMapEntries;
    size_t                             dataSize;
    const void*                        pData;
} VkSpecializationInfo;

pMapEntries points to a structure of type VkSpecializationMapEntry.

The VkSpecializationMapEntry structure is defined as:

 

typedef struct VkSpecializationMapEntry {
    uint32_t    constantID;
    uint32_t    offset;
    size_t      size;
} VkSpecializationMapEntry;

If a constantID value is not a specialization constant ID used in the shader, that map entry does not affect the behavior of the pipeline.

In human readable SPIR-V:

OpDecorate %x SpecId 13 ; decorate .x component of WorkgroupSize with ID 13
OpDecorate %y SpecId 42 ; decorate .y component of WorkgroupSize with ID 42
OpDecorate %z SpecId 3  ; decorate .z component of WorkgroupSize with ID 3
OpDecorate %wgsize BuiltIn WorkgroupSize ; decorate WorkgroupSize onto constant
%i32 = OpTypeInt 32 0 ; declare an unsigned 32-bit type
%uvec3 = OpTypeVector %i32 3 ; declare a 3 element vector type of unsigned 32-bit
%x = OpSpecConstant %i32 1 ; declare the .x component of WorkgroupSize
%y = OpSpecConstant %i32 1 ; declare the .y component of WorkgroupSize
%z = OpSpecConstant %i32 1 ; declare the .z component of WorkgroupSize
%wgsize = OpSpecConstantComposite %uvec3 %x %y %z ; declare WorkgroupSize

From the above we have three specialization constants, one for each of the x, y & z elements of the WorkgroupSize vector.

Now to specialize the above via the specialization constants mechanism:

const VkSpecializationMapEntry entries[] =
{
    {
        13,                             // constantID
        0 * sizeof(uint32_t),           // offset
        sizeof(uint32_t)                // size
    },
    {
        42,                             // constantID
        1 * sizeof(uint32_t),           // offset
        sizeof(uint32_t)                // size
    },
    {
        3,                              // constantID
        2 * sizeof(uint32_t),           // offset
        sizeof(uint32_t)                // size
    }
};

const uint32_t data[] = { 16, 8, 4 }; // our workgroup size is 16x8x4

const VkSpecializationInfo info =
{
    3,                                  // mapEntryCount
    entries,                            // pMapEntries
    3 * sizeof(uint32_t),               // dataSize
    data,                               // pData
};

Then when calling vkCreateComputePipelines, and passing the VkSpecializationInfo we defined as the pSpecializationInfo parameter of VkPipelineShaderStageCreateInfo, we will create a compute pipeline with the runtime specified local workgroup size.

Another example would be that an application has a SPIR-V module that has some platform-dependent constants they wish to use.

In human readable SPIR-V:

OpDecorate %1 SpecId 0  ; decorate our signed 32-bit integer constant
OpDecorate %2 SpecId 12 ; decorate our 32-bit floating-point constant
%i32 = OpTypeInt 32 1   ; declare a signed 32-bit type
%float = OpTypeFloat 32 ; declare a 32-bit floating-point type
%1 = OpSpecConstant %i32 -1 ; some signed 32-bit integer constant
%2 = OpSpecConstant %float 0.5 ; some 32-bit floating-point constant

From the above we have two specialization constants, one is a signed 32-bit integer and the second is a 32-bit floating-point.

Now to specialize the above via the specialization constants mechanism:

struct SpecializationData {
    int32_t data0;
    float data1;
};

const VkSpecializationMapEntry entries[] =
{
    {
        0,                                    // constantID
        offsetof(SpecializationData, data0),  // offset
        sizeof(SpecializationData::data0)     // size
    },
    {
        12,                                   // constantID
        offsetof(SpecializationData, data1),  // offset
        sizeof(SpecializationData::data1)     // size
    }
};

SpecializationData data;
data.data0 = -42;    // set the data for the 32-bit integer
data.data1 = 42.0f;  // set the data for the 32-bit floating-point

const VkSpecializationInfo info =
{
    2,                                  // mapEntryCount
    entries,                            // pMapEntries
    sizeof(data),                       // dataSize
    &data,                              // pData
};

It is legal for a SPIR-V module with specializations to be compiled into a pipeline where no specialization info was provided. SPIR-V specialization constants contain default values such that if a specialization is not provided, the default value will be used. In the examples above, it would be valid for an application to only specialize some of the specialization constants within the SPIR-V module, and let the other constants use their default values encoded within the OpSpecConstant declarations.