Rendering Graphics

Libobs has a custom-made programmable graphics subsystem that wraps both Direct3D 11 and OpenGL. The reason why it was designed with a custom graphics subsystem was to accommodate custom capture features only available on specific operating systems.

(Author’s note: In retrospect, I probably should have used something like ANGLE, but I would have to modify it to accommodate my specific use-cases.)

Most rendering is dependent upon effects. Effects are used by all video objects in libobs; they’re used to easily bundle related vertex/pixel shaders in to one file.

An effect file has a nearly identical syntax to Direct3D 11 HLSL effect files. The only differences are as follows:

  • Sampler states are named “sampler_state”

  • Position semantic is called “POSITION” rather than “SV_Position”

  • Target semantic is called “TARGET” rather than “SV_Target”

(Author’s note: I’m probably missing a few exceptions here, if I am please let me know)

The Graphics Context

Using graphics functions isn’t possible unless the current thread has entered a graphics context, and the graphics context can only be used by one thread at a time. To enter the graphics context, use obs_enter_graphics(), and to leave the graphics context, use obs_leave_graphics().

Certain callback will automatically be within the graphics context: obs_source_info.video_render, and the draw callback parameter of obs_display_add_draw_callback(), and obs_add_main_render_callback().

Creating Effects

Effect Parameters

To create an effect, it’s recommended to start with the uniforms (parameters) of the effect.

There are a number of different types of uniforms:

Floating points:


















To get the effect uniform parameters, you use gs_effect_get_param_by_name() or gs_effect_get_param_by_idx().

Then the uniforms are set through the following functions:

There are two “universal” effect parameters that may be expected of effects: ViewProj, and image. The ViewProj parameter (which is a float4x4) is used for the primary view/projection matrix combination. The image parameter (which is a texture2d) is a commonly used parameter for the main texture; this parameter will be used with the functions obs_source_draw(), gs_draw_sprite(), and obs_source_process_filter_end().

Here is an example of effect parameters:

uniform float4x4 ViewProj;
uniform texture2d image;

uniform float4 my_color_param;
uniform float my_float_param;

Effect parameters can also have default values. Default parameters of elements that have multiple elements should be treated as an array.

Here are some examples of default parameters:

uniform float4x4 my_matrix = {1.0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0,
                              0.0, 1.0, 0.0, 0.0,
                              0.0, 0.0, 1.0, 0.0,
                              0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 1.0};

uniform float4 my_float4 = {1.0, 0.5, 0.25, 0.0};
uniform float my_float = 4.0;
uniform int my_int = 5;

Effect Sampler States

Then, if textures are used, sampler states should be defined. Sampler states have certain sub-parameters:

  • Filter - The type of filtering to use. Can be one of the following values:

    • Anisotropy

    • Point

    • Linear







  • AddressU, AddressV - Specifies how to handle the sampling when the coordinate goes beyond 0.0..1.0. Can be one of the following values:

    • Wrap or Repeat

    • Clamp or None

    • Mirror

    • Border (uses BorderColor to fill the color)

    • MirrorOnce

  • BorderColor - Specifies the border color if using the “Border” address mode. This value should be a hexadecimal value representing the color, in the format of: AARRGGBB. For example, 7FFF0000 would have its alpha value at 127, its red value at 255, and blue and green at 0. If Border is not used as an addressing type, this value is ignored.

Here is an example of writing a sampler state in an effect file:

sampler_state defaultSampler {
        Filter      = Linear;
        AddressU    = Border;
        AddressV    = Border;
        BorderColor = 7FFF0000;

This sampler state would use linear filtering, would use border addressing for texture coordinate values beyond 0.0..1.0, and the border color would be the color specified above.

When a sampler state is used, it’s used identically to the HLSL form:


uniform texture2d image;

sampler_state defaultSampler {
        Filter      = Linear;
        AddressU    = Clamp;
        AddressV    = Clamp;


float4 MyPixelShaderFunc(VertInOut vert_in) : TARGET
        return image.Sample(def_sampler, vert_in.uv);

Effect Vertex/Pixel Semantics

Then structures should be defined for inputs and outputs vertex semantics.

Vertex components can have the following semantics:

  • COLOR - Color value (float4).

  • POSITION - Position value (float4).

  • NORMAL - Normal value (float4).

  • TANGENT - Tangent value (float4).

  • TEXCOORD[0..7] - Texture cooordinate value (float2, float3, or float4).

Here is an example of a vertex semantic structure:

struct VertexIn {
        float4 my_position : POSITION;
        float2 my_texcoord : TEXCOORD0;

These semantic structures are then passed in as a parameter to the primary shader entry point, and used as a return value for the vertex shader. Note that the vertex shader is allowed to return different semantics than it takes in; but the return type of the vertex shader and the parameter of the pixel shader must match.

The semantic structure used for the parameter to the vertex shader function will require that the vertex buffer have those values, so if you have POSITION and TEXCOORD0, the vertex buffer will have to have at least a position buffer and a texture coordinate buffer in it.

For pixel shaders, they need to return with a TARGET semantic (which is a float4 RGBA value). Here is an example of how it’s usually used with a pixel shader function:

float4 MyPixelShaderFunc(VertInOut vert_in) : TARGET
        return image.Sample(def_sampler, vert_in.uv);

Effect Techniques

Techniques are used to define the primary vertex/pixel shader entry functions per pass. One technique can have multiple passes or custom pass setup.

(Author’s note: These days, multiple passes aren’t really needed; GPUs are powerful enough to where you can perform all actions in the same shader. Named passes can be useful for custom draw setups, but even then you can just make it a separate technique. For that reason, it’s best to just ignore the extra pass functionality.)

If you’re making an effect filter for video sources, typically you’d name the pass Draw, and then obs_source_process_filter_end() will automatically call that specific effect name. However, you can also use obs_source_process_filter_tech_end() to make the filter use a specific technique by its name.

The first parameter of the vertex/pixel shader functions in passes should always be the name of its vertex semantic structure parameter.

For techniques, it’s better to show some examples of how techniques would be used:

uniform float4x4 ViewProj;
uniform texture2d image;

struct VertInOut {
        float4 my_position : POSITION;
        float2 my_texcoord : TEXCOORD0;

VertInOut MyVertexShaderFunc(VertInOut vert_in)
        VertInOut vert_out;
        vert_out.pos = mul(float4(, 1.0), ViewProj);
        vert_out.uv  = vert_in.uv;
        return vert_out;

float4 MyPixelShaderFunc(VertInOut vert_in) : TARGET
        return image.Sample(def_sampler, vert_in.uv);

technique Draw
                vertex_shader = MyVertexShaderFunc(vert_in);
                pixel_shader  = MyPixelShaderFunc(vert_in);

Using Effects

The recommended way to use effects is like so:

for (gs_effect_loop(effect, "technique")) {
        [draw calls go here]

This will automatically handle loading/unloading of the effect and its shaders for a given technique name.

Rendering Video Sources

A synchronous video source renders in its obs_source_info.video_render callback.

Sources can render with custom drawing (via the OBS_SOURCE_CUSTOM_DRAW output capability flag), or without. When sources render without custom rendering, it’s recommended to render a single texture with obs_source_draw(). Otherwise the source is expected to perform rendering on its own and manage its own effects.

Libobs comes with a set of default/standard effects that can be accessed via the obs_get_base_effect() function. You can use these effects to render, or you can create custom effects with gs_effect_create_from_file() and render with a custom effect.

Rendering Video Effect Filters

For most video effect filters, it comprises of adding a layer of processing shaders to an existing image in its obs_source_info.video_render callback. When this is the case, it’s expected that the filter has its own effect created, and to draw the effect, one would simply use the obs_source_process_filter_begin() function, set the parameters on your custom effect, then call either obs_source_process_filter_end() or obs_source_process_filter_tech_end() to finish rendering the filter.

Here’s an example of rendering a filter from the color key filter:

static void color_key_render(void *data, gs_effect_t *effect)
        struct color_key_filter_data *filter = data;

        if (!obs_source_process_filter_begin(filter->context, GS_RGBA,

        gs_effect_set_vec4(filter->color_param, &filter->color);
        gs_effect_set_float(filter->contrast_param, filter->contrast);
        gs_effect_set_float(filter->brightness_param, filter->brightness);
        gs_effect_set_float(filter->gamma_param, filter->gamma);
        gs_effect_set_vec4(filter->key_color_param, &filter->key_color);
        gs_effect_set_float(filter->similarity_param, filter->similarity);
        gs_effect_set_float(filter->smoothness_param, filter->smoothness);

        obs_source_process_filter_end(filter->context, filter->effect, 0, 0);