Box pruning revisited - part 14c - that’s how I roll

Part 14c – that’s how I roll

Our goal today is to look at the details of what Fabian “Ryg” Giesen did in version 14b (an assembly version), and replicate them in our C++ unrolled version (14a) if possible.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: I will not switch back to integer comparisons in this post. I like to do one optimization at a time, as you can probably tell by now, so I will leave this stuff for later. This means we can ignore the MungeFloat function and the integer-related changes in Fabian’s code.

Then, the first thing you can see is that the code has been separated in two distinct loops: a fast one (starting with the FastLoop label), and a safe one (starting with the CarefulLoop label).

One problem when unrolling the initial loop is that we don’t know ahead of time how many iterations we will have to do (it can stop at any time depending on the value of X we read from the buffer). It is much easier to unroll loops that are executed a known number of times when the loop starts.

Sometimes in this situation, one can use what I call the “radix sort strategy”: just use two passes. Count how many iterations or items you will have to deal with in a first pass, then do a second pass taking advantage of the knowledge. That’s what a radix-sort does, creating counters and histograms in a first pass. But that kind of approach does not work well here (or at least I didn’t manage to make it work).

Fabian’s approach is to just “look ahead” and check that the buffer still has at least 4 valid entries. If it does, he uses the “fast loop”. Otherwise he falls back to the “safe loop”, which is actually just our regular non-unrolled loop from version 12. In order to look ahead safely, the sentinel values are replicated as many times as we want to unroll the loop. This is a rather simple change in the non-assembly part of the code. First there:

SIMD_AABB_X* BoxListX = new SIMD_AABB_X[nb+5];

And then there:

BoxListX[nb+1].mMinX = ~0u;
BoxListX[nb+2].mMinX = ~0u;
BoxListX[nb+3].mMinX = ~0u;
BoxListX[nb+4].mMinX = ~0u;

That’s not assembly so no problem porting this bit to the C++ version.

Now, the “fast loop” is fast for three different reasons. First, it is unrolled four times, getting rid of the corresponding branching instructions – same as in our version 14a. Second, because we looked ahead and we know the four next input values are all valid, the tests against the MaxLimit value can also be removed. And finally, the idea we wanted to test at the end of 14a has also been implemented, i.e. we don’t need to increase the Offset value for each box (we can encode that directly into the address calculation).

At the end of the day, the core loop in Fabian’s version is thus:

// Unroll 0
movaps xmm3, xmmword ptr [edx+ecx*2+0] // Box1YZ
cmpnleps xmm3, xmm2
movmskps eax, xmm3
cmp eax, 0Ch
je FoundSlot0

// Unroll 1
movaps xmm3, xmmword ptr [edx+ecx*2+16] // Box1YZ
cmpnleps xmm3, xmm2
movmskps eax, xmm3
cmp eax, 0Ch
je FoundSlot1

// Unroll 2
movaps xmm3, xmmword ptr [edx+ecx*2+32] // Box1YZ
cmpnleps xmm3, xmm2
movmskps eax, xmm3
cmp eax, 0Ch
je FoundSlot2

// Unroll 3
movaps xmm3, xmmword ptr [edx+ecx*2+48] // Box1YZ
add ecx, 32 // Advance
cmpnleps xmm3, xmm2
movmskps eax, xmm3
cmp eax, 0Ch
jne FastLoop

That is only 5 instructions per box, compared to the 8 we got in version 14a. Color-coding it reveals what happened: in the same way that we moved the green blocks out of the loop in version 14a, Fabian’s version moved the blue blocks out of the (fast) loop. There is only one surviving blue instruction, to increase our offset only once for 4 boxes.

Pretty neat.

In our C++ code it would mean that the two lines marked in bold letters would / should vanish from our BLOCK macro:

Now another difference is that since we don’t increase the offset each time, we cannot jump to the same address at each stage of the unrolled code. You can see that in Fabian’s code, which jumps to different labels (FoundSlot0, FoundSlot1, FoundSlot2, or FastFoundOne). This is easy to replicate in C++ using goto. If you don’t want to use goto, well, good luck.

And that’s pretty much it. Let’s try to replicate this in C++.

As we said, replicating the setup code is trivial (it was already done in C++).

For the safe loop, we are actually going to use our previous unrolled VERSION3 from part 14a. In that respect this is an improvement over Fabian’s code: even our safe loop is unrolled. From an implementation perspective it couldn’t be more trivial: we just leave the code from part 14a as-is, and start writing another “fast” unrolled loop just before – the fallback to the safe loop happens naturally.

Now for our fast loop, we transform the BLOCK macro as expected from the previous analysis:

As we mentioned, the lines previously marked in bold vanished. Then we added two extra parameters: one (“x”) to include the offset directly in the address calculation (as we wanted to do at the end of version 14a, and as is done Fabian’s code), and another one (“label”) to make the code jump to a different address like in the assembly version.

Now, one small improvement over Fabian’s code is that we will put the “overlap found” code before the fast loop starts, not after it ends. That’s what we did in version 14a already, and it saves one jump.

Another improvement is that we’re going to unroll 5 times instead of 4, as we did in version 14a. That’s where using BLOCK macros pays off: unrolling one more time is easy and doesn’t expand the code too much.

After all is said and done, the code becomes:

I know what you’re going to say (hell, I know what you did say after I posted a preview of part 14): it looks horrible.

Sure, sure. But once again: see through the C++, and check out the disassembly for our fast loop:

001E30B0 comiss xmm2,dword ptr [edi+esi+28h]
001E30B5 jb StartLoop4+12Fh (01E31D4h)
BLOCK4(0, FoundOverlap0)
001E30BB movaps xmm0,xmmword ptr [ecx-20h]
001E30BF cmpnltps xmm0,xmm1
001E30C3 movmskps eax,xmm0
001E30C6 cmp eax,0Fh
001E30C9 je StartLoop4+9Bh (01E3140h)
BLOCK4(8, FoundOverlap1)
001E30CB movaps xmm0,xmmword ptr [ecx-10h]
001E30CF cmpnltps xmm0,xmm1
001E30D3 movmskps eax,xmm0
001E30D6 cmp eax,0Fh
001E30D9 je StartLoop4+8Bh (01E3130h)
BLOCK4(16, FoundOverlap2)
001E30DB movaps xmm0,xmmword ptr [ecx]
001E30DE cmpnltps xmm0,xmm1
001E30E2 movmskps eax,xmm0
001E30E5 cmp eax,0Fh
001E30E8 je StartLoop4+7Bh (01E3120h)
BLOCK4(24, FoundOverlap3)
001E30EA movaps xmm0,xmmword ptr [ecx+10h]
001E30EE cmpnltps xmm0,xmm1
001E30F2 movmskps eax,xmm0
001E30F5 cmp eax,0Fh
001E30F8 je StartLoop4+6Dh (01E3112h)
// BLOCK4(32, FoundOverlap4)
Offset += 40;
BLOCK4(-8, FoundOverlap)
001E30FA movaps xmm0,xmmword ptr [ecx+20h]
001E30FE add ecx,50h
001E3101 cmpnltps xmm0,xmm1
001E3105 add esi,28h
001E3108 movmskps eax,xmm0
001E310B cmp eax,0Fh
001E310E jne StartLoop4+0Bh (01E30B0h)
001E3110 jmp StartLoop4+0ABh (01E3150h)

That’s pretty much perfect.

We get an initial comiss instruction instead of cmp because we didn’t bother switching X’s to integers, and we see the loop has been unrolled 5 times instead of 4, but other than that it’s virtually the same as Fabian’s code, which is what we wanted.

We get the following results:

Home PC

Timings (K-Cycles)

Delta (K-Cycles)


Overall X factor

Version2 - base





(Version12 – 2nd)





Version13 - safe





Version14a - VERSION3





Version14b – Ryg/Unsafe





Version14c - safe





Office PC

Timings (K-Cycles)

Delta (K-Cycles)


Overall X factor

Version2 - base





(Version12 – 2nd)





Version13 - safe





Version14a - VERSION3





Version14b – Ryg/Unsafe





Version14c - safe





The deltas in the results are compared to version 13, similar to what we did for version 14a.

Thanks to our small improvements, this new version is actually faster than version 14b (at least on my machines) – without using integers! As a bonus, this is based on the “safe” version 14a rather than the “unsafe” version 12.

What we learnt:

Once again the assembly version showed us the way. I am not sure I would have “seen” how to do this one without an assembly model I could copy.

Ugly C++ can generate pretty good looking assembly – and vice versa.

Unrolling is like SIMD: tricky. It’s easy to get gains from some basic unrolling but writing the optimal unrolled loop is quite another story.

Stay tuned. In the next post we will complete our port of Fabian’s code to C++, and revisit integer comparisons.

GitHub code for part 14c

Comments are closed. cialis