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This document describes the design for arbitrary per-buffer metadata.
Buffer metadata typically describes the low level properties of the buffer
content. These properties are commonly not negotiated with caps but they are
negotiated in the bufferpools.
Some examples of metadata:
- interlacing information
- video alignment, cropping, panning information
- extra container information such as granulepos, ...
- extra global buffer properties
- It must be fast
* allocation, free, low fragmentation
* access to the metadata fields, preferably not much slower than directly
accessing a C structure field
- It must be extensible. Elements should be able to add new arbitrary metadata
without requiring much effort. Also new metadata fields should not break API
or ABI.
- It plays nice with subbuffers. When a subbuffer is created, the various
buffer metadata should be copied/updated correctly.
- We should be able to negotiate metadata between elements
Use cases
* Video planes
Video data is sometimes allocated in non-contiguous planes for the Y and the UV
data. We need to be able to specify the data on a buffer using multiple
pointers in memory. We also need to be able to specify the stride for these
* Extra buffer data
Some elements might need to store extra data for a buffer. This is typically
done when the resources are allocated from another subsystem such as OMX or
* Processing information
Pan and crop information can be added to the buffer data when the downstream
element can understand and use this metadata. An imagesink can, for example,
use the pan and cropping information when blitting the image on the screen
with little overhead.
A GstMeta is a structure as follows:
struct _GstMeta {
GstMetaFlags flags;
const GstMetaInfo *info; /* tag and info for the meta item */
The purpose of the this structure is to serve as a common header for all metadata
information that we can attach to a buffer. Specific metadata, such as timing metadata,
will have this structure as the first field. For example:
struct _GstMetaTiming {
GstMeta meta; /* common meta header */
GstClockTime dts; /* decoding timestamp */
GstClockTime pts; /* presentation timestamp */
GstClockTime duration; /* duration of the data */
GstClockTime clock_rate; /* clock rate for the above values */
Or another example for the video memory regions that consists of both fields and
struct GstMetaVideo {
GstMeta meta;
GstBuffer *buffer;
GstVideoFlags flags;
GstVideoFormat format;
guint id
guint width;
guint height;
guint n_planes;
gsize offset[GST_VIDEO_MAX_PLANES]; /* offset in the buffer memory region of the
* first pixel. */
gint stride[GST_VIDEO_MAX_PLANES]; /* stride of the image lines. Can be negative when
* the image is upside-down */
gpointer (*map) (GstMetaVideo *meta, guint plane, gpointer * data, gint *stride,
GstMapFlags flags);
gboolean (*unmap) (GstMetaVideo *meta, guint plane, gpointer data);
gpointer gst_meta_video_map (GstMetaVideo *meta, guint plane, gpointer * data,
gint *stride, GstMapflags flags);
gboolean gst_meta_video_unmap (GstMetaVideo *meta, guint plane, gpointer data);
GstMeta derived structures define the API of the metadata. The API can consist of
fields and/or methods. It is possible to have different implementations for the
same GstMeta structure.
The implementation of the GstMeta API would typically add more fields to the
public structure that allow it to implement the API.
GstMetaInfo will point to more information about the metadata and looks like this:
struct _GstMetaInfo {
GType api; /* api type */
GType type; /* implementation type */
gsize size; /* size of the structure */
GstMetaInitFunction init_func;
GstMetaFreeFunction free_func;
GstMetaTransformFunction transform_func;
api will contain a GType of the metadata API. A repository of registered MetaInfo
will be maintained by the core. We will register some common metadata structures
in core and some media specific info for audio/video/text in -base. Plugins can
register additional custom metadata.
For each implementation of api, there will thus be a unique GstMetaInfo. In the
case of metadata with a well defined API, the implementation specific init
function will setup the methods in the metadata structure. A unique GType will
be made for each implementation and stored in the type field.
Along with the metadata description we will have functions to initialize/free (and/or refcount)
a specific GstMeta instance. We also have the possibility to add a custom
transform function that can be used to modify the metadata when a transformation
There are no explicit methods to serialize and deserialize the metadata. Since
each type has a GType, we can reuse the GValue transform functions for this.
The purpose of the separate MetaInfo is to not have to carry the free/init functions in
each buffer instance but to define them globally. We still want quick access to the info
so we need to make the buffer metadata point to the info.
Technically we could also specify the field and types in the MetaInfo and
provide a generic API to retrieve the metadata fields without the need for a
header file. We will not do this yet.
Allocation of the GstBuffer structure will result in the allocation of a memory region
of a customizable size (512 bytes). Only the first sizeof (GstBuffer) bytes of this
region will initially be used. The remaining bytes will be part of the free metadata
region of the buffer. Different implementations are possible and are invisible
in the API or ABI.
The complete buffer with metadata could, for example, look as follows:
GstMiniObject | GType (GstBuffer) |
| refcount, flags, copy/disp/free |
GstBuffer | pool,pts,dts,duration,offsets |
| <private data> |
| next ---+
+- | info ------> GstMetaInfo
GstMetaTiming | | | |
| | dts | |
| | pts | |
| | duration | |
+- | clock_rate | |
+ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . + |
| next <--+
GstMetaVideo +- +- | info ------> GstMetaInfo
| | | | |
| | | flags | |
| | | n_planes | |
| | | planes[] | |
| | | map | |
| | | unmap | |
+- | | | |
| | private fields | |
GstMetaVideoImpl | | ... | |
| | ... | |
+- | | |
+ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . + .
. .
API examples
Buffers are created using the normal gst_buffer_new functions. The standard fields
are initialized as usual. A memory area that is bigger than the structure size
is allocated for the buffer metadata.
gst_buffer_new ();
After creating a buffer, the application can set caps and add metadata
To add or retrieve metadata, a handle to a GstMetaInfo structure needs to be
obtained. This defines the implementation and API of the metadata. Usually, a
handle to this info structure can be obtained by calling a public _get_info()
method from a shared library (for shared metadata).
The following defines can usually be found in the shared .h file.
GstMetaInfo * gst_meta_timing_get_info();
#define GST_META_TIMING_INFO (gst_meta_timing_get_info())
Adding metadata to a buffer can be done with the gst_buffer_add_meta() call.
This function will create new metadata based on the implementation specified by
the GstMetaInfo. It is also possible to pass a generic pointer to the add_meta()
function that can contain parameters to initialize the new metadata fields.
Retrieving the metadata on a buffer can be done with the
gst_buffer_meta_get() method. This function retrieves an existing metadata
conforming to the API specified in the given info. When no such metadata exists,
the function will return NULL.
GstMetaTiming *timing;
timing = gst_buffer_get_meta (buffer, GST_META_TIMING_INFO);
Once a reference to the info has been obtained, the associated metadata can be
added or modified on a buffer.
timing->timestamp = 0;
timing->duration = 20 * GST_MSECOND;
Other convenience macros can be made to simplify the above code:
#define gst_buffer_get_meta_timing(b) \
((GstMetaTiming *) gst_buffer_get_meta ((b), GST_META_TIMING_INFO)
This makes the code look like this:
GstMetaTiming *timing;
timing = gst_buffer_get_meta_timing (buffer);
timing->timestamp = 0;
timing->duration = 20 * GST_MSECOND;
To iterate the different metainfo structures, one can use the
gst_buffer_meta_get_next() methods.
GstMeta *current = NULL;
/* passing NULL gives the first entry */
current = gst_buffer_meta_get_next (buffer, current);
/* passing a GstMeta returns the next */
current = gst_buffer_meta_get_next (buffer, current);
Memory management
* allocation
We initially allocate a reasonable sized GstBuffer structure (say 512 bytes).
Since the complete buffer structure, including a large area for metadata, is
allocated in one go, we can reduce the number of memory allocations while still
providing dynamic metadata.
When adding metadata, we need to call the init function of the associated
metadata info structure. Since adding the metadata requires the caller to pass
a handle to the info, this operation does not require table lookups.
Per-metadata memory initialisation is needed because not all metadata is
initialized in the same way. We need to, for example, set the timestamps to
NONE in the MetaTiming structures.
The init/free functions can also be used to implement refcounting for a metadata
structure. This can be useful when a structure is shared between buffers.
When the free_size of the GstBuffer is exhausted, we will allocate new memory
for each newly added Meta and use the next pointers to point to this. It
is expected that this does not occur often and we might be able to optimize
this transparently in the future.
* free
When a GstBuffer is freed, we potentially might have to call a custom free
function on the metadata info. In the case of the Memory metadata, we need to
call the associated free function to free the memory.
When freeing a GstBuffer, the custom buffer free function will iterate all of
the metadata in the buffer and call the associated free functions in the
MetaInfo associated with the entries. Usually, this function will be NULL.
When buffer should be sent over the wire or be serialized in GDP, we need a way
to perform custom serialization and deserialization on the metadata.
for this we can use the GValue transform functions.
After certain transformations, the metadata on a buffer might not be relevant
Consider, for example, metadata that lists certain regions of interest
on the video data. If the video is scaled or rotated, the coordinates might not
make sense anymore. A transform element should be able to adjust or remove the
associated metadata when it becomes invalid.
We can make the transform element aware of the metadata so that it can adjust or
remove in an intelligent way. Since we allow arbitrary metadata, we can't do
this for all metadata and thus we need some other way.
One proposition is to tag the metadata type with keywords that specify what it
functionally refers too. We could, for example, tag the metadata for the regions
of interest with a tag that notes that the metadata refers to absolute pixel
positions. A transform could then know that the metadata is not valid anymore
when the position of the pixels changed (due to rotation, flipping, scaling and
so on).
Subbuffers are implemented with a generic copy. Parameters to the copy
are the offset and size. This allows each metadata structure to implement the
actions needed to update the metadata of the subbuffer.
It might not make sense for some metadata to work with subbuffers. For example
when we take a subbuffer of a buffer with a video frame, the GstMetaVideo
simply becomes invalid and is removed from the new subbuffer.
Relationship with GstCaps
The difference between GstCaps, used in negotiation, and the metadata is not
clearly defined.
We would like to think of the GstCaps containing the information needed to
functionally negotiate the format between two elements. The Metadata should then
only contain variables that can change between each buffer.
For example, for video we would have width/height/framerate in the caps but then
have the more technical details, such as stride, data pointers, pan/crop/zoom
etc in the metadata.
A scheme like this would still allow us to functionally specify the desired
video resolution while the implementation details would be inside the metadata.
Relationship with GstMiniObject qdata
qdata on a miniobject is element private and is not visible to other element.
Therefore qdata never contains essential information that describes the buffer
We need to make sure that elements exchange metadata that they both understand,
This is particularly important when the metadata describes the data layout in
memory (such as strides).
The ALLOCATION query is used to let upstream know what metadata we can suport.
It is also possible to have a bufferpool add certain metadata to the buffers
from the pool. This feature is activated by enabling a buffer option when
configuring the pool.
Some structures that we need to be able to add to buffers.
* Clean Aperture
* Arbitrary Matrix Transform
* Aspect ratio
* Pan/crop/zoom
* Video strides
Some of these overlap, we need to find a minimal set of metadata structures that
allows us to define all use cases.