All VR VR Rendering

Optimizing the Unreal Engine 4 Renderer for VR


For Farlands, the Oculus team wrote an experimental, fast, single-pass forward renderer for Unreal Engine. It’s also used in Dreamdeck and the Oculus Store version of Showdown. We’re sharing the renderer’s source as a sample to help developers reach higher quality levels and frame rates in their own applications. As of today, you can get it as an Unreal developer from

【Oculus团队写了一个试验性的,快速的,单pass forward renderer的unreal engine工具,在这里我们分享出来见github,这工具已经应用在了Dreamdecks等Oculus应用上了】


Rendering immersive VR worlds at a solid 90Hz is complex and technically challenging. Creating VR content is, in many ways, unlike making traditional monitor-only content—it brings us a stunning variety of new interactions and experiences, but forces developers to re-think old assumptions and come up with new tricks. The recent wave of VR titles showcase the opportunities and ingenuity of developers.



As we worked, we re-evaluated some of the traditional assumptions made for VR rendering, and developed technology to help us deliver high-fidelity content at 90Hz. Now, we’re sharing some results: an experimental forward renderer for Unreal Engine 4.11.



We’ve developed the Oculus Unreal Renderer with the specific constraints of VR rendering in mind. It lets us more easily create high-fidelity, high-performance experiences, and we’re eager to share it with all UE4 developers.





As the team began production on Farlands, we took a moment to reflect on what we learned with the demo experiences we showed at Oculus Connect, GDC, CES, and other events. We used Unreal Engine 4 exclusively to create this content, which provided us with an incredible editing environment and a wealth of advanced rendering features.



Unfortunately, the reality of rendering to Rift meant we’d only been able to use a subset of these features. We wanted to examine those we used most often, and see if we could design a stripped-down renderer that would deliver higher performance and greater visual fidelity, all while allowing the team to continue using UE4’s world-class editor and engine. While the Oculus Unreal Renderer is focused on the use cases of Oculus applications, it’s been retrofit into pre-existing projects (including Showdown and Oculus Dreamdeck) without needing major content work. In these cases, it delivered clearer visuals, and freed up enough GPU headroom to enable additional features or increase resolution 15-30%.



Comparison at high resolution: The Oculus Unreal Renderer runs at 90fps while Unreal’s default deferred renderer is under 60fps.

【oculus采用 forward 渲染效率秒杀Unreal 默认的 defered渲染】


The Trouble With Deferred VR


【这边相关的基础知识可以见Base里面讲述forward/defered rendering的内容】


Unreal Engine is known for its advanced rendering feature set and fidelity. So, what was our rationale for changing it for VR? It mostly came down our experiences building VR content, and the differences rendering to a monitor vs Rift.



When examining the demos we’d created for Rift, we found most shaders were fairly simple and relied mainly on detailed textures with few lookups and a small amount of arithmetic. When coupled with a deferred renderer, this meant our GBuffer passes were heavily texture-bound—we read from a large number of textures, wrote out to GBuffers, and didn’t do much in between.

【VR更高的分辨率要求如果采用defered rendering带来的是对GBuffer数据传输的超高要求】


We also used dynamic lighting and shadows sparingly and leaned more heavily on precomputed lighting. In practice, switching to a renderer helped us provide a more limited set of features in a single pass, yielded better GPU utilization, enabled optimization, removed bandwidth overhead, and made it easier for us to hit 90 Hz.

【我们尽量少的使用动态光照和阴影,取而代之的是使用预计算光照。在使用中使用我们提供的渲染器限制了single pass的一些功能,开启了必要的优化关闭了大量的无效功能,最终有助于提升帧率。】


We also wanted to compare hardware accelerated multi-sample anti-aliasing (MSAA) with Unreal’s temporal antialiasing (TAA). TAA works extremely well in monitor-only rendering and is a very good match for deferred rendering, but it causes noticeable artifacts in VR. In particular, it can cause judder and geometric aliasing during head motion. To be clear, this was made worse by some of our own shader and vertex animation tricks. But it’s mostly due to the way VR headsets function.


【TAA对于显示器终端的渲染效果非常好且可以很好的配合deferred rendering,但是在VR渲染中使用明显让人感觉到假像。在head motion的过程中会导致judder和geometric aliasing. 】


Compared to a monitor, each Rift pixel covers a larger part of the viewer’s field of view. A typical monitor has over 10 times more pixels per solid angle than a VR headset. Images provided to the Oculus SDK also pass through an additional layer of resampling to compensate for the effects of the headset’s optics. This extra filtering tends to slightly over-smooth the image.

【相比较显示器,头盔的每一个像素覆盖的真实范围视觉比较大。Oculus SDK通过一额外的层来resampling补偿来使得最终的效果更平滑】


All these factors together contribute to our desire to preserve as much image detail as possible when rendering. We found MSAA to produce sharper, more detailed images that we preferred.



Deferred compared with forward. Zoom in to compare.


A Better Fit With Forward


Current state-of-the-art rendering often leverages(杠杆) screen-space effects, such as screen-space ambient occlusion (SSAO) and screen-space reflections (SSR). Each of these are well known for their realistic and high-quality visual impact, but they make tradeoffs that aren’t ideal in VR. Operating purely in screen-space can introduce incorrect stereo disparities (differences in the images shown to each eye), which some find uncomfortable. Along with the cost of rendering these effects, this made us more comfortable forgoing support of those features in our use case.

【现在的渲染方式通过采用屏幕空间的一些方式来达到更好的效果,比如SSAO,SSR. 但是这些方法都无法直接在VR渲染上面采用。】


Our decision to implement a forward renderer took all these considerations into account. Critically, forward rendering lets us use MSAA for anti-aliasing, adds arithmetic(算数) to our texture-heavy shaders (and removes GBuffer writes), removes expensive full-screen passes that can interfere with(干扰) asynchronous timewarp, and—in general—gives us a moderate speedup over the more featureful deferred renderer. Switching to a forward renderer has also allowed the easy addition of monoscopic(单视场) background rendering, which can provide a substantial performance boost for titles with large, complex distant geometry. However, these advantages come with tradeoffs that aren’t right for everyone. Our aim is to share our learnings with VR developers as they continue fighting to make world-class content run at 90Hz.

【我们决定采用一种把上面这些因素考虑在内的forward renderer。 采用MSAA,texture-heavy shader,去掉了full-screen passes(会干扰异步timewarp),还有增加了forward renderer  支持的 monoscopic(单视场) background rendering(就是说原理相机的背景部分不用渲染两次,而是渲染一次同时提交给左右眼,Oculus的SDk里面有。)】


Our implementation is based on Ola Olsson’s 2012 HPG paper, Clustered Deferred and Forward Shading. Readers familiar with traditional forward rendering may be concerned about the CPU and GPU overhead of dynamic lights when using such a renderer. Luckily, modern approaches to forward lighting do not require additional draw calls: All geometry and lights are rendered in a single pass (with an optional z-prepass). This is made possible by using a compute shader to pre-calculate which lights influence 3D “clusters” of the scene (subdivisions of each eye’s viewing frustum, yielding a frustum-voxel grid). Using this data, each pixel can cheaply determine a list of lights that has high screen-space coherence, and perform a lighting loop that leverages the efficient branching capability of modern GPUs. This provides accurate culling and efficiently handles smaller numbers of dynamic lights, without the overhead of additional draw calls and render passes.

【这里的实现是 forward+ 的方法,具体内容见2012年的论文,相关基本的概念见我总结的三种渲染方式的比较。这边后面讲的就是forward+的基本原理:通过与处理来挑选对每个pixel有较大影响的光源,在后面处理的时候只考虑这几个光照,就是light-culling的意思。】


(Visualization of 3D light grid, illustrating the lighting coherence and culling)


Beyond the renderer, we’ve modified UE4 to allow for additional GPU and CPU optimizations. The renderer is provided as an unmaintained sample and not an officially-supported SDK, but we’re excited to give projects using Unreal Engine’s world-class engine and editor additional options for rendering their VR worlds.



You can grab it today from our Github repository as an Unreal Developer at To see it in action, try out Farlands, Dreamdeck, and Showdown.