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In general, branching in shaders is not a good idea. But now I have a shader with a condition that is constant with respect to the entire draw call. So the branch that is executed is always the same for one draw call.

Is such kind of branching still more costly than having multiple shaders without these branches and switch between them?

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1 Answer 1

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On modern hardware if all invocations in a group follow the same path then the unused path doesn't get evaluated.

in pseudo code:

if(cond){
   res = ...
}else{
   res = ...
}

becomes

if(anyInvocationARB(cond)){
    res1 = ...
}
if(anyInvocationARB(!cond)){
    res2 = ...
}
res = cond?res1:res2;

Where anyInvocationARB will be true if any invocation of the shader will have true as cond (from the opengl extension ARB_shader_group_vote).

If cond is derivable from uniforms alone then the driver may optimize and evaluate the condition before starting the render and replace the if with a goto to the correct branch. OpenGL has a feature called uniform subroutines that makes it explicit.

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    $\begingroup$ This is true, but it is not the only thing you need to consider for performance. GPUs still statically schedule resources per shader, so this may still resources as though you were executing both branches, which may hurt occupancy. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2015 at 6:16

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