[gst-devel] [RFC] Encoding and Profiles

Edward Hervey edward.hervey at collabora.co.uk
Mon Oct 19 18:53:41 CEST 2009

Hi all,

  I have been working lately on researching ways to make the whole
encoding experience better and more streamlined for applications using
GStreamer, and have come up with a proposal.

  You will find the proposal below, and attached to the mail the
research and proposed C API.

  Comments and feedback are most welcome


 A. Problems
 B. Goals
 1. EncodeBin
 2. Encoding Profile System
 3. Helper Library for Profiles

A. Problems this proposal attempts to solve

* Duplication of pipeline code for gstreamer-based applications
  wishing to encode and or mux streams, leading to subtle differences
  and inconsistencies accross those applications.

* No unified system for describing encoding targets for applications
  in a user-friendly way.

* No unified system for creating encoding targets for applications,
  resulting in duplication of code accross all applications,
  differences and inconsistencies that come with that duplication,
  and applications hardcoding element names and settings resulting in
  poor portability.

B. Goals

1. Convenience encoding element

  Create a convenience GstBin for encoding and muxing several streams,
  hereafter called 'EncodeBin'.

  This element will only contain one single property, which is a

2. Define a encoding profile system

2. Encoding profile helper library

  Create a helper library to:
  * create EncodeBin instances based on profiles, and
  * help applications to create/load/save/browse those profiles.

1. EncodeBin

1.1 Proposed API

  EncodeBin is a GstBin subclass.

  It implements the GstTagSetter interface, by which it will proxy the
  calls to the muxer.

  Only two introspectable property (i.e. usable without extra API):
  * A GstEncodingProfile*
  * The name of the profile to use

  When a profile is selected, encodebin will:
  * Add REQUEST sinkpads for all the GstStreamProfile
  * Create the muxer and expose the source pad

  Whenever a request pad is created, encodebin will:
  * Create the chain of elements for that pad
  * Ghost the sink pad
  * Return that ghost pad

  This allows reducing the code to the minimum for applications
  wishing to encode a source for a given profile:


  encbin = gst_element_factory_make("encodebin, NULL);
  g_object_set (encbin, "profile", "N900/H264 HQ", NULL);
  gst_element_link (encbin, filesink);


  vsrcpad = gst_element_get_src_pad(source, "src1");
  vsinkpad = gst_element_get_request_pad (encbin, "video_%d");
  gst_pad_link(vsrcpad, vsinkpad);


1.2 Explanation of the Various stages in EncodeBin

  This describes the various stages which can happen in order to end
  up with a multiplexed stream that can then be stored or streamed.

1.2.1 Incoming streams

  The streams fed to EncodeBin can be of various types:

  * Video
   * Uncompressed (but maybe subsampled)
   * Compressed
  * Audio
   * Uncompressed (audio/x-raw-{int|float})
   * Compressed
  * Timed text
  * Private streams

1.2.2 Steps involved for raw video encoding

(0) Incoming Stream

(1) Transform raw video feed (optional)

 Here we modify the various fundamental properties of a raw video
 stream to be compatible with the intersection of:
  * The encoder GstCaps and
  * The specified "Stream Restriction" of the profile/target

 The fundamental properties that can be modified are:
  * width/height
    This is done with a video scaler.
    The DAR (Display Aspect Ratio) MUST be respected.
    If needed, black borders can be added to comply with the target DAR.
  * framerate
  * format/colorspace/depth
    All of this is done with a colorspace converter

(2) Actual encoding (optional for raw streams)

 An encoder (with some optional settings) is used.

(3) Muxing

 A muxer (with some optional settings) is used.

(4) Outgoing encoded and muxed stream

1.2.3 Steps involved for raw audio encoding

 This is roughly the same as for raw video, expect for (1)

(1) Transform raw audo feed (optional)

 We modify the various fundamental properties of a raw audio stream to
 be compatible with the intersection of:
  * The encoder GstCaps and
  * The specified "Stream Restriction" of the profile/target

 The fundamental properties that can be modifier are:
 * Number of channels
 * Type of raw audio (integer or floating point)
 * Depth (number of bits required to encode one sample)

1.2.4 Steps involved for encoded audio/video streams

 Steps (1) and (2) are replaced by a parser if a parser is available
 for the given format.

1.2.5 Steps involved for other streams

 Other streams will just be forwarded as-is to the muxer, provided the
 muxer accepts the stream type.


2. Encoding Profile System

 This work is based on:
 * The existing GstPreset system for elements [0]
 * The gnome-media GConf audio profile system [1]
 * The investigation done into device profiles by Arista and
 Transmageddon [2 and 3]

2.2 Terminology

* Encoding Target Category
  A Target Category is a classification of devices/systems/use-cases
  for encoding.

  Such a classification is required in order for:
  * Applications with a very-specific use-case to limit the number of
    profiles they can offer the user. A screencasting application has
    no use with the online services targets for example. 
  * Offering the user some initial classification in the case of a
    more generic encoding application (like a video editor or a

   Consumer devices
   Online service
   Intermediate Editing Format

* Encoding Profile Target
  A Profile Target describes a specific entity for which we wish to
  A Profile Target must belong to at least one Target Category.
  It will define at least one Encoding Profile.

  Ex (with category):
   Nokia N900 (Consumer device)
   Sony PlayStation 3 (Consumer device)
   Youtube (Online service)
   DNxHD (Intermediate editing format)
   HuffYUV (Screencast)
   Theora (Computer)

* Encoding Profile
  A specific combination of muxer, encoders, presets and limitations.

   Nokia N900/H264 HQ
   Ipod/High Quality
   Youtube/High Quality
   HTML5/Low Bandwith

2.3 Encoding Profile

An encoding profile requires the following information:

 * Name
   This string is not translatable and must be unique.
   A recommendation to guarantee uniqueness of the naming could be:
 * Description
   This is a translatable string describing the profile
 * Muxing format
   This is a string containing the GStreamer media-type of the
   container format.
 * Muxing preset
   This is an optional string describing the preset(s) to use on the
 * Multipass setting
   This is a boolean describing whether the profile requires several
 * List of Stream Profile

2.3.1 Stream Profiles

A Stream Profile consists of:

 * Type
   The type of stream profile (audio, video, text, private-data)
 * Encoding Format
   This is a string containing the GStreamer media-type of the encoding
   format to be used. If encoding is not to be applied, the raw audio
   media type will be used.
 * Encoding preset
   This is an optional string describing the preset(s) to use on the
 * Restriction
   This is an optional GstCaps containing the restriction of the
   stream that can be fed to the encoder.
   This will generally containing restrictions in video
   width/heigh/framerate or audio depth.
 * presence
   This is an integer specifying how many streams can be used in the
   containing profile. 0 means that any number of streams can be
 * pass
   This is an integer which is only meaningful if the multipass flag
   has been set in the profile. If it has been set it indicates which
   pass this Stream Profile corresponds to.
2.4 Example profile

The representation used here is XML only as an example. No decision is
made as to which formatting to use for storing targets and profiles.

  <name>Nokia N900</name>
  <category>Consumer Device</category>
    <profile>Nokia N900/H264 HQ</profile>
    <profile>Nokia N900/MP3</profile>
    <profile>Nokia N900/AAC</profile>

  <name>Nokia N900/H264 HQ</name>
    High Quality H264/AAC for the Nokia N900
      <preset>Quality High/Main</preset>
      <preset>Profile Baseline/Quality High</preset>
        video/x-raw-yuv,width=[16, 800],\
	height=[16, 480],framerate=[1/1, 30000/1001]

2.5 API
  A proposed C API is contained in the gstprofile.h file in this

2.6 Modifications required in the existing GstPreset system

2.6.1. Temporary preset.

  Currently a preset needs to be saved on disk in order to be

  This makes it impossible to have temporary presets (that exist only
  during the lifetime of a process), which might be required in the
  new proposed profile system

2.6.2 Categorisation of presets.

  Currently presets are just aliases of a group of property/value
  without any meanings or explanation as to how they exclude each

  Take for example the H264 encoder. It can have presets for:
  * passes (1,2 or 3 passes)
  * profiles (Baseline, Main, ...)
  * quality (Low, medium, High)

  In order to programmatically know which presets exclude each other,
  we here propose the categorisation of these presets.

  This can be done in one of two ways
  1. in the name (by making the name be [<category>:]<name>)
    This would give for example: "Quality:High", "Profile:Baseline"
  2. by adding a new _meta key
    This would give for example: _meta/category:quality

2.6.3 Aggregation of presets.

  There can be more than one choice of presets to be done for an
  element (quality, profile, pass).

  This means that one can not currently describe the full
  configuration of an element with a single string but with many.

  The proposal here is to extend the GstPreset API to be able to set
  all presets using one string and a well-known separator ('/').

  This change only requires changes in the core preset handling code.

  This would allow doing the following:
  gst_preset_load_preset (h264enc,

2.7 Points to be determined

  This document hasn't determined yet how to solve the following

2.7.1 Storage of profiles

  One proposal for storage would be to use a system wide directory
  (like $prefix/share/gstreamer-0.10/profiles) and store XML files for
  every individual profiles.

  Users could then add their own profiles in ~/.gstreamer-0.10/profiles

  This poses some limitations as to what to do if some applications
  want to have some profiles limited to their own usage.

3. Helper library for profiles

 These helper methods could also be added to existing libraries (like
 GstPreset, GstPbUtils, ..).

 The various API proposed are in the accompanying gstprofile.h file.

3.1 Getting user-readable names for formats

 This is already provided by GstPbUtils.

3.2 Hierarchy of profiles

 The goal is for applications to be able to present to the user a list
 of combo-boxes for choosing their output profile:

 [      Category      ]       # optional, depends on the application
 [    Device/Site/..  ]       # optional, depends on the application
 [      Profile       ]

 Convenience methods are offered to easily get lists of categories,
 devices, and profiles.

3.3 Creating Profiles

 The goal is for applications to be able to easily create profiles.

 The applications needs to be able to have a fast/efficient way to:
 * select a container format and see all compatible streams he can use
 with it.
 * select a codec format and see which container formats he can use
 with it.

 The remaining parts concern the restrictions to encoder

3.4 Ensuring availability of plugins for Profiles

 When an application wishes to use a Profile, it should be able to
 query whether it has all the needed plugins to use it.

 This part will use GstPbUtils to query, and if needed install the
 missing plugins through the installed distribution plugin installer.

* Research links

  Some of these are still active documents, some other not

[0] GstPreset API documentation


[1] gnome-media GConf profiles

[2] Research on a Device Profile API

[3] Research on defining presets usage

-------------- next part --------------
GStreamer: Research into encoding and muxing

Use Cases

 This is a list of various use-cases where encoding/muxing is being

* Transcoding

  The goal is to convert with as minimal loss of quality any input
  file for a target use.
  A specific variant of this is transmuxing (see below).

  Example applications: Arista, Transmageddon

* Rendering timelines

  The incoming streams are a collection of various segments that need
  to be rendered.
  Those segments can vary in nature (i.e. the video width/height can
  This requires the use of identiy with the single-segment property
  activated to transform the incoming collection of segments to a
  single continuous segment.

  Example applications: PiTiVi, Jokosher

* Encoding of live sources

  The major risk to take into account is the encoder not encoding the
  incoming stream fast enough. This is outside of the scope of
  encodebin, and should be solved by using queues between the sources
  and encodebin, as well as implementing QoS in encoders and sources
  (the encoders emitting QoS events, and the upstream elements
  adapting themselves accordingly).

  Example applications: camerabin, cheese

* Screencasting applications

  This is similar to encoding of live sources.
  The difference being that due to the nature of the source (size and
  amount/frequency of updates) one might want to do the encoding in
  two parts:
  * The actual live capture is encoded with a 'almost-lossless' codec
  (such as huffyuv)
  * Once the capture is done, the file created in the first step is
  then rendered to the desired target format.

  Fixing sources to only emit region-updates and having encoders
  capable of encoding those streams would fix the need for the first
  step but is outside of the scope of encodebin.

  Example applications: Istanbul, gnome-shell, recordmydesktop

* Live transcoding

  This is the case of an incoming live stream which will be
  broadcasted/transmitted live.
  One issue to take into account is to reduce the encoding latency to
  a minimum. This should mostly be done by picking low-latency

  Example applications: Rygel, Coherence

* Transmuxing

  Given a certain file, the aim is to remux the contents WITHOUT
  decoding into either a different container format or the same
  container format.
  Remuxing into the same container format is useful when the file was
  not created properly (for example, the index is missing).
  Whenever available, parsers should be applied on the encoded streams
  to validate and/or fix the streams before muxing them.

  Metadata from the original file must be kept in the newly created

  Example applications: Arista, Transmaggedon

* Loss-less cutting

  Given a certain file, the aim is to extract a certain part of the
  file without going through the process of decoding and re-encoding
  that file.
  This is similar to the transmuxing use-case.

  Example applications: PiTiVi, Transmageddon, Arista, ...

* Multi-pass encoding

  Some encoders allow doing a multi-pass encoding.
  The initial pass(es) are only used to collect encoding estimates and
  are not actually muxed and outputted.
  The final pass uses previously collected information, and the output
  is then muxed and outputted.

* Archiving and intermediary format

  The requirement is to have lossless

* CD ripping

  Example applications: Sound-juicer

* DVD ripping

  Example application: Thoggen
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: gstencodebin.h
Type: text/x-chdr
Size: 1802 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://lists.freedesktop.org/archives/gstreamer-devel/attachments/20091019/6d457882/attachment.h>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: gstprofile.h
Type: text/x-chdr
Size: 7085 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://lists.freedesktop.org/archives/gstreamer-devel/attachments/20091019/6d457882/attachment-0001.h>

More information about the gstreamer-devel mailing list