[PATCH v4 02/14] Documentation: media: description of DMABUF importing in V4L2

Laurent Pinchart laurent.pinchart at ideasonboard.com
Sat Apr 21 10:10:27 PDT 2012

Hi Rémi,

On Friday 20 April 2012 15:03:17 Rémi Denis-Courmont wrote:
> On Fri, 20 Apr 2012 14:25:01 +0200, Tomasz Stanislawski wrote:
> >>> The USERPTR simplifies userspace code but introduce
> >>> a lot of complexity problems for the kernel drivers
> >>> and frameworks.
> >> 
> >> It is not only a simplification. In some cases, USERPTR is the only I/O
> >> method that supports zero copy in pretty much any circumstance.
> > 
> > Only for devices that have its own IOMMU that can access system memory.
> Newer versions of the UVC driver have USERTPR, and simingly gspca seems
> too. That is practically all USB capture devices... That might be
> irrelevant for a smartphone manufacturer. That is very relevant for desktop
> applications.
> > Moreover the userptr must come from malloc or be a mmaped file.
> > The other case are drivers that touch memory using CPU in the kernel
> > space like VIVI or USB drivers.
> I'd argue that USB is the most common case of V4L2 on the desktop...
> >> When the user cannot reliably predict the maximum number of required
> >> buffers, predicts a value larger than the device will negotiate, or
> >> needs buffers to outlive STREAMOFF (?), MMAP requires memory copying.
> >> USERPTR does not.
> > 
> > What does outlive STREAMOFF means in this context?
> Depending how your multimedia pipeline is built, it is plausible that the
> V4L2 source is shutdown (STREAMOFF then close()) before buffers coming from
> it are released/destroyed downstream. I might be wrong, but I would expect
> that V4L2 MMAP buffers become invalid after STREAMOFF+close()?

If the buffer is mmap()ed to userspace, it will not be freed before being 

> > Anyway, IMO allocation of the buffers at VIDIOC_REQBUFS was not the best
> > idea because it introduces an allocation overhead for negotiations of
> > the number of the buffers. An allocation at mmap was to late. There is a
> > need for some intermediate state between REQBUFS and mmap. The ioctl
> > BUF_PREPARE may help here.
> > 
> > Can you give me an example of a sane application is forced to negotiate
> > a larger number of buffers than it is actually going to use?
> Outside the embedded world, the application typically does not know what
> the latency of the multimedia pipeline is. If the latency is not known, the
> number of buffers needed for zero copy cannot be precomputed for REQBUFS,
> say:
> count = 1 + latency / frame interval.
> Even for a trivial analog TV viewer application, lip synchronization
> requires picture frames to be bufferred to be long enough to account for
> the latency of the audio input, dejitter, filtering and audio output. Those
> values are usually not well determined at the time of requesting buffers
> from the video capture device. Also the application may want to play nice
> with PulseAudio. Then it will get very long audio buffers with very few
> audio periods... more latency.
> It gets harder or outright impossible for frameworks dealing with
> complicated or arbitrary pipelines such as LibVLC or gstreamer. There is
> far too much unpredictability and variability downstream of the V4L2 source
> to estimate latency, and infer the number of buffers needed.

If I'm not mistaken VIDIOC_CREATEBUF allows you to create additional buffers 
at runtime. You can thus cope with a latency increase (provided that the 
allocation overhead isn't prohibitive, in which case you're stuck whatever 
method you select). Deleting buffers at runtime is currently not possible 

> >> Now, I do realize that some devices cannot support USERPTR efficiently,
> >> then they should not support USERPTR.
> > 
> > The problem is not there is *NO* device that can handle USERPTR reliably.
> > The can handle USERPTR generated by malloc or page cache (not sure).
> > Memory mmaped from other devices, frameworks etc may or may not work.
> > Even if the device has its IOMMU the DMA layer provides no generic way to
> > transform from one device to the mapping in some other device.
> I'm not saying that USERPTR should replace DMABUF. I'm saying USERPTR has
> advantages over MMAP that DMABUF does not seem to cover as yet (if only
> libv4l2 would not inhibit USERPTR...).
> I'm definitely not saying that applications should rely on USERPTR being
> supported. We agree that not all devices can support USERPTR.
> > The userptr has its niches were it works pretty well like Web cams or
> > VIVI.
> >
> > I am saying that if ever DMABUF becomes a good alternative for USERPTR
> > than maybe we should consider encouraging dropping USERPTR in the new
> > drivers as 'obsolete' feature and providing some emulation layer in
> > libv4l2 for legacy applications.
> Sure.

Laurent Pinchart

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