Optimizing With Octrees

How To Optimize Your Scene with Octrees

Octrees are a really powerful data structure that can quickly select entities based on space coordinates. More on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octree

Babylon.js supports octrees through a class named BABYLON.Octree. Dedicated functions are available to help you create these octrees when required:

Optimizing Meshes Selection for Rendering

If your scene has a lot of meshes, it can be useful to create an octree to speed visible meshes selection (e.g. finding meshes the camera can see). To do so, just call this function:

var octree = scene.createOrUpdateSelectionOctree(capacity, maxDepth)

You can call the function each time you want to update your octree. This function accepts two parameters:

  • capacity: defines the maximum number of meshes you want on your octree's leaves. The default value is 64.
  • maxDepth: defines the maximum depth (sub-levels) for your octree. Default value is 2, which means 8 * 8 * 8 = 512 blocks :) (This parameter takes precedence over capacity.)

Warning: Octrees can be counterproductive if there are not enough meshes in your scene

The main problem with octrees is that your meshes must be static. Indeed, an octree is not dynamic which means that it cannot take into account a mesh's movement. If you want to have dynamic meshes while keeping your octree, you can just register a mesh as dynamic like this:


In this case, the octree will always select the dynamic mesh.

Optimizing Collisions and Picking

Computing collisions or clicking-on complex meshes (more than 10k vertices for instance) can be really slow. You can speed things up by subdividing your mesh into submeshes using mesh.subdivide(x) where x is the number of submeshes you want.

Then you can optimize the selection of submeshes for collisions or picking by creating an octree on the mesh for its submeshes:

mesh.createOrUpdateSubmeshesOctree(capacity, maxDepth)

You can even specify the usage of your octree independently:

  • mesh.useOctreeForCollisions
  • mesh.useOctreeForPicking
  • mesh.useOctreeForRenderingSelection : Octree for submeshes can even be used during mesh selection based on camera field of view. Once a mesh is selected by the camera, if the mesh has submeshes, the camera has to select which one is visible. In this case, having an octree can be really helpful.


For the specific case of ground meshes, Babylon.js provides a class called BABYLON.GroundMesh that you can create using BABYLON.Mesh.CreateGround and BABYLON.Mesh.CreateGroundFromHeightMap.

By calling groundMesh.optimize(chunkSize) where chunkSize defines the number of submeshes you want, the mesh will be optimized for rendering, picking and collisions by creating an internal octree (Be sure to select a correct chunkSize).

Using Octrees Manually

You can also use octrees from your code to get a list of meshes or submeshes.

Here are the helpful functions you can find on an octree:

  • select(frustumPlanes: Plane[], allowDuplicate: boolean)
  • intersects(sphereCenter: Vector3, sphereRadius: number, allowDuplicate: boolean)
  • intersectsRay(ray: Ray)

These functions return a SmartArray where duplicates are present or not according to allowDuplicate parameter/