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T-2: Command Buffers & Pool

16 May, 2020

4 min read

This doc is mostly theoretical, where practical examples mentioned in this docs might not be functional. So bear with me and try to grasp the theory as much as you can, as it will help in later tutorials, when we will actually re-use this knowledge to create a functional example.

Following diagram is a very high-level illustration of what Command Buffers and Command Pools are:

Flow of Command Buffer from Command Pool

Flow of Command Buffer from Command Pool

Command Buffer

Command Buffers can be thought of as a place to record set of execution commands (pushed to a buffer), and then later release those recorded commands to Device Queue to get executed by GPU.

It's kind of SQL transactions, where a Command Buffer acts as a collection of instructions inside a transaction, and when the transaction is committed, they all get processed (in one go or chunks, is decided by Command Pool).

If you have read my Client Log Upload Blog, then you can get the importance of buffering too frequent events. Buffering is mainly used to defer the work load from CPU/GPU. Up here Command Buffers are doing the same thing.

For Eg., Let's say we want to process 500 instructions in a second, but our GPU can only handle 50 instructions a second, buffering will help deferring that work load, and do it in chunks of instructions. This increases performance, also giving more control to developer on how to manage too heavy tasks in a queue.

One more benefit of Command Buffers is that they can be multiple and can be recorded in parallel. Thus increase any application's concurrency.

Command Pool

If there are too many instructions to process from Command Buffer, dividing them into chunks and submitting them to CPU/GPU to process, can become costly.

To handle such situations, Vulkan has separated the storage of commands (Command Buffer) and execution of commands (Command Pool). Command Buffers are pre-registered in Command Pool, and once the Command Buffer flushes it's recorded instructions, Command Pool takes care of the execution of the Commands, depending on the state of GPU.

Command Pool is derived from Logical Device instance. They are not manually created, instead we ask the Logical Device to provide us the Command Pool.

Using the Command Pool, we then get Command Buffer (one or many depends), or re-use the already fetched Command Buffer from the pool.

Primary vs Secondary Command Buffers

This section could be too much info, so just read it and if you fail to understand, try understanding Render Passes first. Point is, many things in Vulkan is correlated, thus understanding just one concept is not enough.

Quoting directly from Vulkan Tutorial

  • PRIMARY: Can be submitted to a queue for execution, but cannot be called from other command buffers.
  • SECONDARY: Cannot be submitted directly, but can be called from primary command buffers.

To understand this the above quote, we can take an example. Let's say, we have 500 commands to execute, where GPU can take only 5 at a time. Since, Primary Command buffers can be registered to a render pass, one at a time, doing parallelism is difficult with single Primary CB. For such cases, Secondary CB is introduced, which cannot directly interact with Render Pass execution, but can execute commands passed to it in Primary CB, which then passes those committed commands to Render Pass. Currently, even I am having hard time understanding it, but I am sure once we start building applications, these things will get more clear.

You can get a detailed explanation in the following Youtube Video, Command Buffers & Pipelines

Code Sample

Let's now understand all this from a code sample

We need a new struct to manage resources related to Frame Buffers and Mutex and Locks. FrameBufferState would create and manage them.

struct FrameBufferState<B: Backend> {
    command_pool: Option<B::CommandPool>,
    command_buffer: B::CommandBuffer,

impl<B: Backend> FrameBufferState<B> {
    fn new(deviceState: &DeviceState<B>) -> Self {
        let (command_pool, mut command_buffer) = unsafe {
            let mut command_pool = deviceState
                .create_command_pool(, CommandPoolCreateFlags::empty())
                .expect("Out of memory");

            let command_buffer = command_pool.allocate_one(command::Level::Primary);

            (command_pool, command_buffer)
        Self {
            command_pool: Some(command_pool),

In the above code, we are getting two things, Command Pool and Command Buffer.

command_pool is created once, using logical device. create_command_pool is the api which creates a command pool, respective to what queue family that Command Pool will serve to and what types commands it can process (like Graphics only commands or computational commands). Let's not worry about CommandPoolCreateFlags for now.

command_buffer is fetched (allocated) from Command Pool, as we have already mentioned before. Here, we just need one Primary Command Buffer, but we can create multiple Primary or Secondary buffers, using command_pool.allocate() api.

What to do now

With Command Buffer present, we can Start Recording on the Buffer to record, all the Commands we want to later execute on GPU.

Once all the commands are recorded, Stop Recording and Pass the updated Command Buffer to the Device Queue.

We will discuss on this whole flow in later chapters.


You can find the full code for this Doc, here 003-command_buffers

© Copyright 2020 Subroto Biswas