Buffering strategies

What follows are some ideas for implementing different buffering strategies based on the buffering messages and buffering query.

No-rebuffer strategy

We would like to buffer enough data in the pipeline so that playback continues without interruptions. What we need to know to implement this is know the total remaining playback time in the file and the total remaining download time. If the buffering time is less than the playback time, we can start playback without interruptions.

We have all this information available with the DURATION, POSITION and BUFFERING queries. We need to periodically execute the buffering query to get the current buffering status. We also need to have a large enough buffer to hold the complete file, worst case. It is best to use this buffering strategy with download buffering (see the section called “Download buffering ”).

This is what the code would look like:

#include <gst/gst.h>

GstState target_state;
static gboolean is_live;
static gboolean is_buffering;

static gboolean
buffer_timeout (gpointer data)
  GstElement *pipeline = data;
  GstQuery *query;
  gboolean busy;
  gint percent;
  gint64 estimated_total;
  gint64 position, duration;
  guint64 play_left;

  query = gst_query_new_buffering (GST_FORMAT_TIME);

  if (!gst_element_query (pipeline, query))
    return TRUE;

  gst_query_parse_buffering_percent (query, &busy, &percent);
  gst_query_parse_buffering_range (query, NULL, NULL, NULL, &estimated_total);

  if (estimated_total == -1)
    estimated_total = 0;

  /* calculate the remaining playback time */
  if (!gst_element_query_position (pipeline, GST_FORMAT_TIME, &position))
    position = -1;
  if (!gst_element_query_duration (pipeline, GST_FORMAT_TIME, &duration))
    duration = -1;

  if (duration != -1 && position != -1)
    play_left = GST_TIME_AS_MSECONDS (duration - position);
    play_left = 0;

  g_message ("play_left %" G_GUINT64_FORMAT", estimated_total %" G_GUINT64_FORMAT
      ", percent %d", play_left, estimated_total, percent);

  /* we are buffering or the estimated download time is bigger than the
   * remaining playback time. We keep buffering. */
  is_buffering = (busy || estimated_total * 1.1 > play_left);

  if (!is_buffering)
    gst_element_set_state (pipeline, target_state);

  return is_buffering;

static void
on_message_buffering (GstBus *bus, GstMessage *message, gpointer user_data)
  GstElement *pipeline = user_data;
  gint percent;

  /* no state management needed for live pipelines */
  if (is_live)

  gst_message_parse_buffering (message, &percent);

  if (percent < 100) {
    /* buffering busy */
    if (is_buffering == FALSE) {
      is_buffering = TRUE;
      if (target_state == GST_STATE_PLAYING) {
        /* we were not buffering but PLAYING, PAUSE  the pipeline. */
        gst_element_set_state (pipeline, GST_STATE_PAUSED);

static void
on_message_async_done (GstBus *bus, GstMessage *message, gpointer user_data)
  GstElement *pipeline = user_data;

  if (is_buffering == FALSE)
    gst_element_set_state (pipeline, target_state);
    g_timeout_add (500, buffer_timeout, pipeline);

main (gint   argc,
      gchar *argv[])
  GstElement *pipeline;
  GMainLoop *loop;
  GstBus *bus;
  GstStateChangeReturn ret;

  /* init GStreamer */
  gst_init (&amp;argc, &amp;argv);
  loop = g_main_loop_new (NULL, FALSE);

  /* make sure we have a URI */
  if (argc != 2) {
    g_print ("Usage: %s &lt;URI&gt;\n", argv[0]);
    return -1;

  /* set up */
  pipeline = gst_element_factory_make ("playbin", "pipeline");
  g_object_set (G_OBJECT (pipeline), "uri", argv[1], NULL);
  g_object_set (G_OBJECT (pipeline), "flags", 0x697 , NULL);

  bus = gst_pipeline_get_bus (GST_PIPELINE (pipeline));
  gst_bus_add_signal_watch (bus);

  g_signal_connect (bus, "message::buffering",
    (GCallback) on_message_buffering, pipeline);
  g_signal_connect (bus, "message::async-done",
    (GCallback) on_message_async_done, pipeline);
  gst_object_unref (bus);

  is_buffering = FALSE;
  target_state = GST_STATE_PLAYING;
  ret = gst_element_set_state (pipeline, GST_STATE_PAUSED);

  switch (ret) {
      is_live = FALSE;

      g_warning ("failed to PAUSE");
      return -1;

      is_live = TRUE;


  /* now run */
  g_main_loop_run (loop);

  /* also clean up */
  gst_element_set_state (pipeline, GST_STATE_NULL);
  gst_object_unref (GST_OBJECT (pipeline));
  g_main_loop_unref (loop);

  return 0;


See how we set the pipeline to the PAUSED state first. We will receive buffering messages during the preroll state when buffering is needed. When we are prerolled (on_message_async_done) we see if buffering is going on, if not, we start playback. If buffering was going on, we start a timeout to poll the buffering state. If the estimated time to download is less than the remaining playback time, we start playback.