Some notes about ir3, the compiler and machine-specific IR for the shader ISA introduced with adreno a3xx. The same shader ISA is present, with some small differences, in adreno a4xx.

Compared to the previous generation a2xx ISA (ir2), the a3xx ISA is a “simple” scalar instruction set. However, the compiler is responsible, in most cases, to schedule the instructions. The hardware does not try to hide the shader core pipeline stages. For a common example, a common (cat2) ALU instruction takes four cycles, so a subsequent cat2 instruction which uses the result must have three intervening instructions (or nops). When operating on vec4’s, typically the corresponding scalar instructions for operating on the remaining three components could typically fit. Although that results in a lot of edge cases where things fall over, like:

MUL TEMP[0], TEMP[1], TEMP[0].wzyx

Here, the second instruction needs the output of the first group of scalar instructions in the wrong order, resulting in not enough instruction spots between the add r0.w, r1.w, r2.w and mul r0.x, r1.x, r0.w. Which is why the original (old) compiler which merely translated nearly literally from TGSI to ir3, had a strong tendency to fall over.

So the current compiler instead, in the frontend, generates a directed-acyclic-graph of instructions and basic blocks, which go through various additional passes to eventually schedule and do register assignment.

For additional documentation about the hardware, see wiki: a3xx ISA.

External Structure

A single vertex/fragment/etc shader from gallium perspective (ie. maps to a single TGSI shader), and manages a set of shader variants which are generated on demand based on the shader key.
The configuration key that identifies a shader variant. Ie. based on other GL state (two-sided-color, render-to-alpha, etc) or render stages (binning-pass vertex shader) different shader variants are generated.
The actual hw shader generated based on input TGSI and shader key.
Compiler frontend which generates ir3 and runs the various backend stages to schedule and do register assignment.

The IR

The ir3 IR maps quite directly to the hardware, in that instruction opcodes map directly to hardware opcodes, and that dst/src register(s) map directly to the hardware dst/src register(s). But there are a few extensions, in the form of meta instructions. And additionally, for normal (non-const, etc) src registers, the IR3_REG_SSA flag is set and reg->instr points to the source instruction which produced that value. So, for example, the following TGSI shader:

  1: DP3 TEMP[0].x, IN[0].xyzz, IN[1].xyzz
  2: MOV OUT[0], TEMP[0].xxxx
  3: END

eventually generates:

digraph G {
subgraph clusterdce198 {
inputdce198 [shape=record,label="inputs|<in0> i0.x|<in1> i0.y|<in2> i0.z|<in4> i1.x|<in5> i1.y|<in6> i1.z"];
instrdcf348 [shape=record,style=filled,fillcolor=lightgrey,label="{mov.f32f32|<dst0>|<src0> }"];
instrdcedd0 [shape=record,style=filled,fillcolor=lightgrey,label="{mad.f32|<dst0>|<src0> |<src1> |<src2> }"];
inputdce198:<in2>:w -> instrdcedd0:<src0>
inputdce198:<in6>:w -> instrdcedd0:<src1>
instrdcec30 [shape=record,style=filled,fillcolor=lightgrey,label="{mad.f32|<dst0>|<src0> |<src1> |<src2> }"];
inputdce198:<in1>:w -> instrdcec30:<src0>
inputdce198:<in5>:w -> instrdcec30:<src1>
instrdceb60 [shape=record,style=filled,fillcolor=lightgrey,label="{mul.f|<dst0>|<src0> |<src1> }"];
inputdce198:<in0>:w -> instrdceb60:<src0>
inputdce198:<in4>:w -> instrdceb60:<src1>
instrdceb60:<dst0> -> instrdcec30:<src2>
instrdcec30:<dst0> -> instrdcedd0:<src2>
instrdcedd0:<dst0> -> instrdcf348:<src0>
instrdcf400 [shape=record,style=filled,fillcolor=lightgrey,label="{mov.f32f32|<dst0>|<src0> }"];
instrdcedd0:<dst0> -> instrdcf400:<src0>
instrdcf4b8 [shape=record,style=filled,fillcolor=lightgrey,label="{mov.f32f32|<dst0>|<src0> }"];
instrdcedd0:<dst0> -> instrdcf4b8:<src0>
outputdce198 [shape=record,label="outputs|<out0> o0.x|<out1> o0.y|<out2> o0.z|<out3> o0.w"];
instrdcf348:<dst0> -> outputdce198:<out0>:e
instrdcf400:<dst0> -> outputdce198:<out1>:e
instrdcf4b8:<dst0> -> outputdce198:<out2>:e
instrdcedd0:<dst0> -> outputdce198:<out3>:e

(after scheduling, etc, but before register assignment).

Internal Structure


Represents a basic block.

TODO: currently blocks are nested, but I think I need to change that to a more conventional arrangement before implementing proper flow control. Currently the only flow control handles is if/else which gets flattened out and results chosen with sel instructions.

Represents a machine instruction or meta instruction. Has pointers to dst register (regs[0]) and src register(s) (regs[1..n]), as needed.
Represents a src or dst register, flags indicate const/relative/etc. If IR3_REG_SSA is set on a src register, the actual register number (name) has not been assigned yet, and instead the instr field points to src instruction.

In addition there are various util macros/functions to simplify manipulation/traversal of the graph:

foreach_src(srcreg, instr)
Iterate each instruction’s source ir3_registers
foreach_src_n(srcreg, n, instr)
Like foreach_src, also setting n to the source number (starting with 0).
foreach_ssa_src(srcinstr, instr)
Iterate each instruction’s SSA source ir3_instructions. This skips non-SSA sources (consts, etc), but includes virtual sources (such as the address register if relative addressing is used).
foreach_ssa_src_n(srcinstr, n, instr)
Like foreach_ssa_src, also setting n to the source number.

For example:

foreach_ssa_src_n(src, i, instr) {
  unsigned d = delay_calc_srcn(ctx, src, instr, i);
  delay = MAX2(delay, d);

TODO probably other helper/util stuff worth mentioning here

Meta Instructions

Used for shader inputs (registers configured in the command-stream to hold particular input values, written by the shader core before start of execution. Also used for connecting up values within a basic block to an output of a previous block.
Used to hold outputs of a basic block.
Groups registers which need to be assigned to consecutive scalar registers, for example sam (texture fetch) src instructions (see register groups) or array element dereference (see relative addressing).
The counterpart to fanin, when an instruction such as sam writes multiple components, splits the result into individual scalar components to be consumed by other instructions.

Flow Control


Register Groups

Certain instructions, such as texture sample instructions, consume multiple consecutive scalar registers via a single src register encoded in the instruction, and/or write multiple consecutive scalar registers. In the simplest example:

sam (f32)(xyz)r2.x, r0.z, s#0, t#0

for a 2d texture, would read to get the coordinate, and write

Before register assignment, to group the two components of the texture src together:

digraph G {
  { rank=same;
  { rank=same;
  sam -> fanin [label="regs[1]"];
  fanin -> coord_x [label="regs[1]"];
  fanin -> coord_y [label="regs[2]"];
  coord_x -> coord_y [label="right",style=dotted];
  coord_y -> coord_x [label="left",style=dotted];
  coord_x [label="coord.x"];
  coord_y [label="coord.y"];

The frontend sets up the SSA ptrs from sam source register to the fanin meta instruction, which in turn points to the instructions producing the coord.x and coord.y values. And the grouping pass sets up the left and right neighbor pointers to the fanin’s sources, used later by the register assignment pass to assign blocks of scalar registers.

And likewise, for the consecutive scalar registers for the destination:

digraph {
  { rank=same;
  { rank=same;
  A -> fanout_0;
  B -> fanout_1;
  C -> fanout_2;
  fanout_0 [label="fanout\noff=0"];
  fanout_0 -> sam;
  fanout_1 [label="fanout\noff=1"];
  fanout_1 -> sam;
  fanout_2 [label="fanout\noff=2"];
  fanout_2 -> sam;
  fanout_0 -> fanout_1 [label="right",style=dotted];
  fanout_1 -> fanout_0 [label="left",style=dotted];
  fanout_1 -> fanout_2 [label="right",style=dotted];
  fanout_2 -> fanout_1 [label="left",style=dotted];

Relative Addressing

Most instructions support addressing indirectly (relative to address register) into const or gpr register file in some or all of their src/dst registers. In this case the register accessed is taken from r<a0.x + n> or c<a0.x + n>, ie. address register (a0.x) value plus n, where n is encoded in the instruction (rather than the absolute register number).

Note that cat5 (texture sample) instructions are the notable exception, not supporting relative addressing of src or dst.

Relative addressing of the const file (for example, a uniform array) is relatively simple. We don’t do register assignment of the const file, so all that is required is to schedule things properly. Ie. the instruction that writes the address register must be scheduled first, and we cannot have two different address register values live at one time.

But relative addressing of gpr file (which can be as src or dst) has additional restrictions on register assignment (ie. the array elements must be assigned to consecutive scalar registers). And in the case of relative dst, subsequent instructions now depend on both the relative write, as well as the previous instruction which wrote that register, since we do not know at compile time which actual register was written.

Each instruction has an optional address pointer, to capture the dependency on the address register value when relative addressing is used for any of the src/dst register(s). This behaves as an additional virtual src register, ie. foreach_ssa_src() will also iterate the address register (last).

Note that nop’s for timing constraints, type specifiers (ie. add.f vs add.u), etc, omitted for brevity in examples
mova a0.x, hr1.y
sub r1.y, r2.x, r3.x
add r0.x, r1.y, c<a0.x + 2>

results in:

digraph {
  const [label="const file"];
  add -> mova;
  add -> sub;
  add -> const [label="off=2"];

The scheduling pass has some smarts to schedule things such that only a single a0.x value is used at any one time.

To implement variable arrays, values are stored in consecutive scalar registers. This has some overlap with register groups, in that fanin and fanout are used to help group things for the register assignment pass.

To use a variable array as a src register, a slight variation of what is done for const array src. The instruction src is a fanin instruction that groups all the array members:

mova a0.x, hr1.y
sub r1.y, r2.x, r3.x
add r0.x, r1.y, r<a0.x + 2>

results in:

digraph {
  a0 [label="r0.z"];
  a1 [label="r0.w"];
  a2 [label="r1.x"];
  a3 [label="r1.y"];
  add -> sub;
  add -> fanin [label="off=2"];
  add -> mova;
  fanin -> a0;
  fanin -> a1;
  fanin -> a2;
  fanin -> a3;

TODO better describe how actual deref offset is derived, ie. based on array base register.

To do an indirect write to a variable array, a fanout is used. Say the array was assigned to registers r0.z through r1.y (hence the constant offset of 2):

Note that only cat1 (mov) can do indirect write.
mova a0.x, hr1.y
min r2.x, r2.x, c0.x
mov r<a0.x + 2>, r2.x
mul r0.x, r0.z, c0.z

In this case, the mov instruction does not write all elements of the array (compared to usage of fanout for sam instructions in grouping). But the mov instruction does need an additional dependency (via fanin) on instructions that last wrote the array element members, to ensure that they get scheduled before the mov in scheduling stage (which also serves to group the array elements for the register assignment stage).

digraph {
  a0 [label="r0.z"];
  a1 [label="r0.w"];
  a2 [label="r1.x"];
  a3 [label="r1.y"];
  fanout [label="fanout\noff=0"];
  mul -> fanout;
  fanout -> mov;
  fanin -> a0;
  fanin -> a1;
  fanin -> a2;
  fanin -> a3;
  mov -> min;
  mov -> mova;
  mov -> fanin;

Note that there would in fact be fanout nodes generated for each array element (although only the reachable ones will be scheduled, etc).

Shader Passes

After the frontend has generated the use-def graph of instructions, they are run through various passes which include scheduling and register assignment. Because inserting mov instructions after scheduling would also require inserting additional nop instructions (since it is too late to reschedule to try and fill the bubbles), the earlier stages try to ensure that (at least given an infinite supply of registers) that register assignment after scheduling cannot fail.

Note that we essentially have ~256 scalar registers in the architecture (although larger register usage will at some thresholds limit the number of threads which can run in parallel). And at some point we will have to deal with spilling.


In this stage, simple if/else blocks are flattened into a single block with phi nodes converted into sel instructions. The a3xx ISA has very few predicated instructions, and we would prefer not to use branches for simple if/else.

Copy Propagation

Currently the frontend inserts movs in various cases, because certain categories of instructions have limitations about const regs as sources. And the CP pass simply removes all simple movs (ie. src-type is same as dst-type, no abs/neg flags, etc).

The eventual plan is to invert that, with the front-end inserting no movs and CP legalize things.


In the grouping pass, instructions which need to be grouped (for fanins, etc) have their left / right neighbor pointers setup. In cases where there is a conflict (ie. one instruction cannot have two unique left or right neighbors), an additional mov instruction is inserted. This ensures that there is some possible valid register assignment at the later stages.


In the depth pass, a depth is calculated for each instruction node within it’s basic block. The depth is the sum of the required cycles (delay slots needed between two instructions plus one) of each instruction plus the max depth of any of it’s source instructions. (meta instructions don’t add to the depth). As an instruction’s depth is calculated, it is inserted into a per block list sorted by deepest instruction. Unreachable instructions and inputs are marked.

TODO: we should probably calculate both hard and soft depths (?) to try to coax additional instructions to fit in places where we need to use sync bits, such as after a texture fetch or SFU.


After the grouping pass, there are no more instructions to insert or remove. Start scheduling each basic block from the deepest node in the depth sorted list created by the depth pass, recursively trying to schedule each instruction after it’s source instructions plus delay slots. Insert nops as required.

Register Assignment