Setting and Populating Descriptor Heaps

The descriptor heap types that can be set on a command list are those that contain descriptors for which descriptor tables can be used (at most one of each at a time).

Setting descriptor heaps

The types of descriptor heap that can be set on a command list are:


The heaps being set on the command list must also have been created as shader visible. There are three types of command list: DIRECT, BUNDLE, and COMPUTE.

After a descriptor heap is set on a command list, subsequent calls that define descriptor tables refer to the current descriptor heap. Descriptor table state is undefined at the beginning of a command list and after descriptor heaps are changed on a command list. Redundantly setting the same descriptor heap does not cause descriptor table settings to be undefined.

In a bundle, by contrast, the descriptor heaps can only be set once (redundant calls setting the same heap twice do not produce an error); otherwise, the behavior is undefined. The descriptor heaps that are set must match the state when any command list calls the bundle; otherwise, the behavior is undefined. This allows bundles to inherit and edit the command list’s descriptor table settings. Bundles that don’t change descriptor tables (only inherit them) don’t need to set a descriptor heap at all and will just inherit from the calling command list.

When descriptor heaps are set (using ID3D12GraphicsCommandList::SetDescriptorHeaps), all the heaps being used are set in a single call (and all previously set heaps are unset by the call). At most one heap of each type listed above can be set in the call.

Populating descriptor heaps

After an application has created a descriptor heap, it can then use methods on the heap or on a command list to either generate descriptors directly into the heap or copy descriptors from one place to another.

The initial contents of descriptor heap memory is undefined, so asking the GPU or driver to reference uninitialized memory for rendering can cause undefined results such as a device reset.

If the application configures a descriptor heap to be CPU visible, then the CPU can call methods to create descriptors into the heap and copy from place to place (including across heaps) in an immediate, free threaded manner. If the heap has been configured with a write combine property, reading by the CPU is not permitted.

Descriptors can also record a descriptor copy call on a command list in the event that the application does not want the copy to occur immediately, but rather when the GPU is executing the command list. This can also be useful if an application chooses to put a descriptor heap in a non CPU-visible memory pool and therefore needs to do a GPU operation to manipulate its contents, or if an application simply wants the update to occur on the GPU time-line. Command list descriptor copies require the source of the copy to be in a non shader visible descriptor heap (from which the command list snapshots a copy the source descriptors into the command list at record time), and the destination must be a shader visible descriptor heap (which at command list execution gets written to by the GPU). The API reference for copying descriptors goes into more detail.

For example, setting descriptor heaps when populating command lists.

void D3D12Bundles::PopulateCommandList(FrameResource* pFrameResource)
    // Command list allocators can only be reset when the associated
    // command lists have finished execution on the GPU; apps should use
    // fences to determine GPU execution progress.

    // However, when ExecuteCommandList() is called on a particular command
    // list, that command list can then be reset at any time and must be before
    // re-recording.
    ThrowIfFailed(m_commandList->Reset(m_pCurrentFrameResource->m_commandAllocator.Get(), m_pipelineState1.Get()));

    // Set necessary state.

    ID3D12DescriptorHeap* ppHeaps[] = { m_cbvSrvHeap.Get(), m_samplerHeap.Get() };
    m_commandList->SetDescriptorHeaps(_countof(ppHeaps), ppHeaps);

    m_commandList->RSSetViewports(1, &m_viewport);
    m_commandList->RSSetScissorRects(1, &m_scissorRect);

    // Indicate that the back buffer will be used as a render target.
    m_commandList->ResourceBarrier(1, &CD3DX12_RESOURCE_BARRIER::Transition(m_renderTargets[m_frameIndex].Get(), D3D12_RESOURCE_STATE_PRESENT, D3D12_RESOURCE_STATE_RENDER_TARGET));

    CD3DX12_CPU_DESCRIPTOR_HANDLE rtvHandle(m_rtvHeap->GetCPUDescriptorHandleForHeapStart(), m_frameIndex, m_rtvDescriptorSize);
    CD3DX12_CPU_DESCRIPTOR_HANDLE dsvHandle(m_dsvHeap->GetCPUDescriptorHandleForHeapStart());
    m_commandList->OMSetRenderTargets(1, &rtvHandle, FALSE, &dsvHandle);

    // Record commands.
    const float clearColor[] = { 0.0f, 0.2f, 0.4f, 1.0f };
    m_commandList->ClearRenderTargetView(rtvHandle, clearColor, 0, nullptr);
    m_commandList->ClearDepthStencilView(m_dsvHeap->GetCPUDescriptorHandleForHeapStart(), D3D12_CLEAR_FLAG_DEPTH, 1.0f, 0, 0, nullptr);

    if (UseBundles)
        // Execute the prebuilt bundle.
        // Populate a new command list.
        pFrameResource->PopulateCommandList(m_commandList.Get(), m_pipelineState1.Get(), m_pipelineState2.Get(), m_currentFrameResourceIndex, m_numIndices, &m_indexBufferView,
            &m_vertexBufferView, m_cbvSrvHeap.Get(), m_cbvSrvDescriptorSize, m_samplerHeap.Get(), m_rootSignature.Get());

    // Indicate that the back buffer will now be used to present.
    m_commandList->ResourceBarrier(1, &CD3DX12_RESOURCE_BARRIER::Transition(m_renderTargets[m_frameIndex].Get(), D3D12_RESOURCE_STATE_RENDER_TARGET, D3D12_RESOURCE_STATE_PRESENT));


Descriptor Heaps