Chapter 8. What are states?

Table of Contents

Managing filter state

A state describes whether the element instance is initialized, whether it is ready to transfer data and whether it is currently handling data. There are four states defined in GStreamer:

which will from now on be referred to simply as NULL, READY, PAUSED and PLAYING.

GST_STATE_NULL is the default state of an element. In this state, it has not allocated any runtime resources, it has not loaded any runtime libraries and it can obviously not handle data.

GST_STATE_READY is the next state that an element can be in. In the READY state, an element has all default resources (runtime-libraries, runtime-memory) allocated. However, it has not yet allocated or defined anything that is stream-specific. When going from NULL to READY state (GST_STATE_CHANGE_NULL_TO_READY), an element should allocate any non-stream-specific resources and should load runtime-loadable libraries (if any). When going the other way around (from READY to NULL, GST_STATE_CHANGE_READY_TO_NULL), an element should unload these libraries and free all allocated resources. Examples of such resources are hardware devices. Note that files are generally streams, and these should thus be considered as stream-specific resources; therefore, they should not be allocated in this state.

GST_STATE_PAUSED is the state in which an element is ready to accept and handle data. For most elements this state is the same as PLAYING. The only exception to this rule are sink elements. Sink elements only accept one single buffer of data and then block. At this point the pipeline is 'prerolled' and ready to render data immediately.

GST_STATE_PLAYING is the highest state that an element can be in. For most elements this state is exactly the same as PAUSED, they accept and process events and buffers with data. Only sink elements need to differentiate between PAUSED and PLAYING state. In PLAYING state, sink elements actually render incoming data, e.g. output audio to a sound card or render video pictures to an image sink.

Managing filter state

If at all possible, your element should derive from one of the new base classes (Pre-made base classes). There are ready-made general purpose base classes for different types of sources, sinks and filter/transformation elements. In addition to those, specialised base classes exist for audio and video elements and others.

If you use a base class, you will rarely have to handle state changes yourself. All you have to do is override the base class's start() and stop() virtual functions (might be called differently depending on the base class) and the base class will take care of everything for you.

If, however, you do not derive from a ready-made base class, but from GstElement or some other class not built on top of a base class, you will most likely have to implement your own state change function to be notified of state changes. This is definitively necessary if your plugin is a demuxer or a muxer, as there are no base classes for muxers or demuxers yet.

An element can be notified of state changes through a virtual function pointer. Inside this function, the element can initialize any sort of specific data needed by the element, and it can optionally fail to go from one state to another.

Do not g_assert for unhandled state changes; this is taken care of by the GstElement base class.

static GstStateChangeReturn
gst_my_filter_change_state (GstElement *element, GstStateChange transition);

static void
gst_my_filter_class_init (GstMyFilterClass *klass)
{
  GstElementClass *element_class = GST_ELEMENT_CLASS (klass);

  element_class->change_state = gst_my_filter_change_state;
}



static GstStateChangeReturn
gst_my_filter_change_state (GstElement *element, GstStateChange transition)
{
  GstStateChangeReturn ret = GST_STATE_CHANGE_SUCCESS;
  GstMyFilter *filter = GST_MY_FILTER (element);

  switch (transition) {
    case GST_STATE_CHANGE_NULL_TO_READY:
      if (!gst_my_filter_allocate_memory (filter))
        return GST_STATE_CHANGE_FAILURE;
      break;
    default:
      break;
  }

  ret = GST_ELEMENT_CLASS (parent_class)->change_state (element, transition);
  if (ret == GST_STATE_CHANGE_FAILURE)
    return ret;

  switch (transition) {
    case GST_STATE_CHANGE_READY_TO_NULL:
      gst_my_filter_free_memory (filter);
      break;
    default:
      break;
  }

  return ret;
}

Note that upwards (NULL=>READY, READY=>PAUSED, PAUSED=>PLAYING) and downwards (PLAYING=>PAUSED, PAUSED=>READY, READY=>NULL) state changes are handled in two separate blocks with the downwards state change handled only after we have chained up to the parent class's state change function. This is necessary in order to safely handle concurrent access by multiple threads.

The reason for this is that in the case of downwards state changes you don't want to destroy allocated resources while your plugin's chain function (for example) is still accessing those resources in another thread. Whether your chain function might be running or not depends on the state of your plugin's pads, and the state of those pads is closely linked to the state of the element. Pad states are handled in the GstElement class's state change function, including proper locking, that's why it is essential to chain up before destroying allocated resources.