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<chapter id="chapter-autoplugging">
In <xref linkend="chapter-helloworld"/>, you've learned to build a
simple media player for Ogg/Vorbis files. By using alternative elements,
you are able to build media players for other media types, such as
Ogg/Speex, MP3 or even video formats. However, you would rather want
to build an application that can automatically detect the media type
of a stream and automatically generate the best possible pipeline
by looking at all available elements in a system. This process is called
autoplugging, and &GStreamer; contains high-quality autopluggers. If
you're looking for an autoplugger, don't read any further and go to
<xref linkend="chapter-playback-components"/>. This chapter will explain the
<emphasis>concept</emphasis> of autoplugging and typefinding. It will
explain what systems &GStreamer; includes to dynamically detect the
type of a media stream, and how to generate a pipeline of decoder
elements to playback this media. The same principles can also be used
for transcoding. Because of the full dynamicity of this concept,
&GStreamer; can be automatically extended to support new media types
without needing any adaptations to its autopluggers.
We will first introduce the concept of Media types as a dynamic and
extendible way of identifying media streams. After that, we will introduce
the concept of typefinding to find the type of a media stream. Lastly,
we will explain how autoplugging and the &GStreamer; registry can be
used to setup a pipeline that will convert media from one mediatype to
another, for example for media decoding.
<sect1 id="section-media">
<title>Media types as a way to identify streams</title>
We have previously introduced the concept of capabilities as a way
for elements (or, rather, pads) to agree on a media type when
streaming data from one element to the next (see <xref
linkend="section-caps"/>). We have explained that a capability is
a combination of a media type and a set of properties. For most
container formats (those are the files that you will find on your
hard disk; Ogg, for example, is a container format), no properties
are needed to describe the stream. Only a media type is needed. A
full list of media types and accompanying properties can be found
in <ulink type="http"
Plugin Writer's Guide</ulink>.
An element must associate a media type to its source and sink pads
when it is loaded into the system. &GStreamer; knows about the
different elements and what type of data they expect and emit through
the &GStreamer; registry. This allows for very dynamic and extensible
element creation as we will see.
In <xref linkend="chapter-helloworld"/>, we've learned to build a
music player for Ogg/Vorbis files. Let's look at the media types
associated with each pad in this pipeline. <xref
linkend="section-mime-img"/> shows what media type belongs to each
pad in this pipeline.
<figure float="1" id="section-mime-img">
<title>The Hello world pipeline with media types</title>
<imagedata scale="75" fileref="images/mime-world.&image;" format="&IMAGE;"/>
Now that we have an idea how &GStreamer; identifies known media
streams, we can look at methods &GStreamer; uses to setup pipelines
for media handling and for media type detection.
<sect1 id="section-typefinding">
<title>Media stream type detection</title>
Usually, when loading a media stream, the type of the stream is not
known. This means that before we can choose a pipeline to decode the
stream, we first need to detect the stream type. &GStreamer; uses the
concept of typefinding for this. Typefinding is a normal part of a
pipeline, it will read data for as long as the type of a stream is
unknown. During this period, it will provide data to all plugins
that implement a typefinder. When one of the typefinders recognizes
the stream, the typefind element will emit a signal and act as a
passthrough module from that point on. If no type was found, it will
emit an error and further media processing will stop.
Once the typefind element has found a type, the application can
use this to plug together a pipeline to decode the media stream.
This will be discussed in the next section.
Plugins in &GStreamer; can, as mentioned before, implement typefinder
functionality. A plugin implementing this functionality will submit
a media type, optionally a set of file extensions commonly used for this
media type, and a typefind function. Once this typefind function inside
the plugin is called, the plugin will see if the data in this media
stream matches a specific pattern that marks the media type identified
by that media type. If it does, it will notify the typefind element of
this fact, telling which mediatype was recognized and how certain we
are that this stream is indeed that mediatype. Once this run has been
completed for all plugins implementing a typefind functionality, the
typefind element will tell the application what kind of media stream
it thinks to have recognized.
The following code should explain how to use the typefind element.
It will print the detected media type, or tell that the media type
was not found. The next section will introduce more useful behaviours,
such as plugging together a decoding pipeline.
<programlisting><!-- example-begin typefind.c a -->
#include &lt;gst/gst.h&gt;
<!-- example-end typefind.c a -->
[.. my_bus_callback goes here ..]<!-- example-begin typefind.c b --><!--
static gboolean
my_bus_callback (GstBus *bus,
GstMessage *message,
gpointer data)
GMainLoop *loop = data;
switch (GST_MESSAGE_TYPE (message)) {
GError *err;
gchar *debug;
gst_message_parse_error (message, &amp;err, &amp;debug);
g_print ("Error: %s\n", err-&gt;message);
g_error_free (err);
g_free (debug);
g_main_loop_quit (loop);
/* end-of-stream */
g_main_loop_quit (loop);
/* remove from queue */
return TRUE;
--><!-- example-end typefind.c b -->
<!-- example-begin typefind.c c -->
static gboolean
idle_exit_loop (gpointer data)
g_main_loop_quit ((GMainLoop *) data);
/* once */
return FALSE;
static void
cb_typefound (GstElement *typefind,
guint probability,
GstCaps *caps,
gpointer data)
GMainLoop *loop = data;
gchar *type;
type = gst_caps_to_string (caps);
g_print ("Media type %s found, probability %d%%\n", type, probability);
g_free (type);
/* since we connect to a signal in the pipeline thread context, we need
* to set an idle handler to exit the main loop in the mainloop context.
* Normally, your app should not need to worry about such things. */
g_idle_add (idle_exit_loop, loop);
main (gint argc,
gchar *argv[])
GMainLoop *loop;
GstElement *pipeline, *filesrc, *typefind, *fakesink;
GstBus *bus;
/* init GStreamer */
gst_init (&amp;argc, &amp;argv);
loop = g_main_loop_new (NULL, FALSE);
/* check args */
if (argc != 2) {
g_print ("Usage: %s &lt;filename&gt;\n", argv[0]);
return -1;
/* create a new pipeline to hold the elements */
pipeline = gst_pipeline_new ("pipe");
bus = gst_pipeline_get_bus (GST_PIPELINE (pipeline));
gst_bus_add_watch (bus, my_bus_callback, NULL);
gst_object_unref (bus);
/* create file source and typefind element */
filesrc = gst_element_factory_make ("filesrc", "source");
g_object_set (G_OBJECT (filesrc), "location", argv[1], NULL);
typefind = gst_element_factory_make ("typefind", "typefinder");
g_signal_connect (typefind, "have-type", G_CALLBACK (cb_typefound), loop);
fakesink = gst_element_factory_make ("fakesink", "sink");
/* setup */
gst_bin_add_many (GST_BIN (pipeline), filesrc, typefind, fakesink, NULL);
gst_element_link_many (filesrc, typefind, fakesink, NULL);
gst_element_set_state (GST_ELEMENT (pipeline), GST_STATE_PLAYING);
g_main_loop_run (loop);
/* unset */
gst_element_set_state (GST_ELEMENT (pipeline), GST_STATE_NULL);
gst_object_unref (GST_OBJECT (pipeline));
return 0;
<!-- example-end typefind.c c --></programlisting>
Once a media type has been detected, you can plug an element (e.g. a
demuxer or decoder) to the source pad of the typefind element, and
decoding of the media stream will start right after.
<sect1 id="section-dynamic">
<title>Dynamically autoplugging a pipeline</title>
See <xref linkend="chapter-playback-components"/> for using the high
level object that you can use to dynamically construct pipelines.