Scene Graph - OpenGL Under QML#

Shows how to render OpenGL under a Qt Quick scene.


The OpenGL under QML example shows how an application can make use of the beforeRendering() signal to draw custom OpenGL content under a Qt Quick scene. This signal is emitted at the start of every frame, before the scene graph starts its rendering, thus any OpenGL draw calls that are made as a response to this signal, will stack under the Qt Quick items.

As an alternative, applications that wish to render OpenGL content on top of the Qt Quick scene, can do so by connecting to the afterRendering() signal.

In this example, we will also see how it is possible to have values that are exposed to QML which affect the OpenGL rendering. We animate the threshold value using a NumberAnimation in the QML file and this value is used by the OpenGL shader program that draws the squircles.

The example is equivalent in most ways to the Direct3D 11 Under QML , Metal Under QML , and Vulkan Under QML examples, they all render the same custom content, just via different native APIs.

class Squircle(QQuickItem):

    Q_PROPERTY(qreal t READ t WRITE setT NOTIFY tChanged)
# public
    qreal t() { return m_t; }
    def setT(t):
    def tChanged():
slots: = public()
    def sync():
    def cleanup():
slots: = private()
    def handleWindowChanged(win):
# private
    def releaseResources():
    m_t = qreal()
    m_renderer = SquircleRenderer()

First of all, we need an object we can expose to QML. This is a subclass of QQuickItem so we can easily access window() . We expose it to QML using the QML_ELEMENT macro.

class SquircleRenderer(QObject, QOpenGLFunctions):

# public
    def setT(t): m_t = t
    def setViewportSize(size): m_viewportSize = size
    def setWindow(window): m_window = window
slots: = public()
    def init():
    def paint():
# private
    m_viewportSize = QSize()
    m_t = 0.0
    m_program = None()
    m_window = None()

Then we need an object to take care of the rendering. This instance needs to be separated from the QQuickItem because the item lives in the GUI thread and the rendering potentially happens on the render thread. Since we want to connect to beforeRendering() , we make the renderer a QObject . The renderer contains a copy of all the state it needs, independent of the GUI thread.


Don’t be tempted to merge the two objects into one. QQuickItems may be deleted on the GUI thread while the render thread is rendering.

Lets move on to the implementation.

def __init__(self):
    self.m_t = 0
    , m_renderer(None)


The constructor of the Squircle class simply initializes the values and connects to the window changed signal which we will use to prepare our renderer.

def handleWindowChanged(self, win):

    if win:
        win.beforeSynchronizing.connect(self.sync, Qt::DirectConnection)
        win.sceneGraphInvalidated.connect(self.cleanup, Qt::DirectConnection)

Once we have a window, we attach to the beforeSynchronizing() signal which we will use to create the renderer and to copy state into it safely. We also connect to the sceneGraphInvalidated() signal to handle the cleanup of the renderer.


Since the Squircle object has affinity to the GUI thread and the signals are emitted from the rendering thread, it is crucial that the connections are made with DirectConnection . Failing to do so, will result in that the slots are invoked on the wrong thread with no OpenGL context present.

# Ensure we start with cleared to black. The squircle's blend mode relies on this.

The default behavior of the scene graph is to clear the framebuffer before rendering. This is fine since we will insert our own rendering code after this clear is enqueued. Make sure however that we clear to the desired color (black).

def sync(self):

    if not m_renderer:
        m_renderer = SquircleRenderer()
        connect(window(), &QQuickWindow::beforeRendering, m_renderer.init, Qt::DirectConnection)
        connect(window(), &QQuickWindow::beforeRenderPassRecording, m_renderer.paint, Qt::DirectConnection)

    m_renderer.setViewportSize(window().size() * window().devicePixelRatio())

We use the sync() function to initialize the renderer and to copy the state in our item into the renderer. When the renderer is created, we also connect the beforeRendering() and beforeRenderPassRecording() to the renderer’s init() and paint() slots.


The beforeSynchronizing() signal is emitted on the rendering thread while the GUI thread is blocked, so it is safe to simply copy the value without any additional protection.

def cleanup(self):

    del m_renderer
    m_renderer = None

class CleanupJob(QRunnable):

# public
    CleanupJob(SquircleRenderer renderer) : m_renderer(renderer) { }
    def run(): delete m_renderer
# private
    m_renderer = SquircleRenderer()

def releaseResources(self):

    window().scheduleRenderJob(CleanupJob(m_renderer), QQuickWindow.BeforeSynchronizingStage)
    m_renderer = None


    del m_program

In the cleanup() function we delete the renderer which in turn cleans up its own resources. This is complemented by reimplementing releaseResources() since just connecting to the sceneGraphInvalidated() signal is not sufficient on its own to handle all cases.

def setT(self, t):

    if t == m_t:
    m_t = t
    if window():

When the value of t changes, we call update() rather than update() because the former will force the entire window to be redrawn, even when the scene graph has not changed since the last frame.

def init(self):

    if not m_program:
        rif = m_window.rendererInterface()
        Q_ASSERT(rif.graphicsApi() == QSGRendererInterface.OpenGL)
        m_program = QOpenGLShaderProgram()
                                                    "attribute highp vec4 vertices;"
                                                    "varying highp vec2 coords;"
                                                    "void main() {"
                                                    " gl_Position = vertices;"
                                                    " coords = vertices.xy;"
                                                    "uniform lowp float t;"
                                                    "varying highp vec2 coords;"
                                                    "void main() {"
                                                    " lowp float i = 1. - (pow(abs(coords.x), 4.) + pow(abs(coords.y), 4.));"
                                                    " i = smoothstep(t - 0.8, t + 0.8, i);"
                                                    " i = floor(i * 20.) / 20.;"
                                                    " gl_FragColor = vec4(coords * .5 + .5, i, i);"
        m_program.bindAttributeLocation("vertices", 0)

In the SquircleRenderer’s init() function we start by initializing the shader program if not yet done. The OpenGL context is current on the thread when the slot is invoked.

We use the shader program to draw the squircle in paint().

if __name__ == "__main__":

    app = QGuiApplication(argc, argv)
    view = QQuickView()
    return QGuiApplication.exec()

The application’s main() function instantiates a QQuickView and launches the main.qml file.

import QtQuick 2.0
import OpenGLUnderQML 1.0

Item {

    width: 320
    height: 480

    Squircle {
        SequentialAnimation on t {
            NumberAnimation { to: 1; duration: 2500; easing.type: Easing.InQuad }
            NumberAnimation { to: 0; duration: 2500; easing.type: Easing.OutQuad }
            loops: Animation.Infinite
            running: true

We import the Squircle QML type with the name we registered in the main() function. We then instantiate it and create a running NumberAnimation on its t property.

    Rectangle {
        color: Qt.rgba(1, 1, 1, 0.7)
        radius: 10
        border.width: 1
        border.color: "white"
        anchors.fill: label
        anchors.margins: -10

    Text {
        id: label
        color: "black"
        wrapMode: Text.WordWrap
        text: "The background here is a squircle rendered with raw OpenGL using the 'beforeRender()' signal in QQuickWindow. This text label and its border is rendered using QML"
        anchors.right: parent.right
        anchors.left: parent.left
        anchors.bottom: parent.bottom
        anchors.margins: 20

Then we overlay a short descriptive text, so that it is clearly visible that we are in fact rendering OpenGL under our Qt Quick scene.

Example project @