More about element factories

In the previous section, we briefly introduced the GstElementFactory object already as a way to create instances of an element. Element factories, however, are much more than just that. Element factories are the basic types retrieved from the GStreamer registry, they describe all plugins and elements that GStreamer can create. This means that element factories are useful for automated element instancing, such as what autopluggers do, and for creating lists of available elements.

Getting information about an element using a factory

Tools like gst-inspect will provide some generic information about an element, such as the person that wrote the plugin, a descriptive name (and a shortname), a rank and a category. The category can be used to get the type of the element that can be created using this element factory. Examples of categories include Codec/Decoder/Video (video decoder), Codec/Encoder/Video (video encoder), Source/Video (a video generator), Sink/Video (a video output), and all these exist for audio as well, of course. Then, there's also Codec/Demuxer and Codec/Muxer and a whole lot more. gst-inspect will give a list of all factories, and gst-inspect <factory-name> will list all of the above information, and a lot more.

#include <gst/gst.h>

main (int   argc,
      char *argv[])
  GstElementFactory *factory;

  /* init GStreamer */
  gst_init (&argc, &argv);

  /* get factory */
  factory = gst_element_factory_find ("fakesrc");
  if (!factory) {
    g_print ("You don't have the 'fakesrc' element installed!\n");
    return -1;

  /* display information */
  g_print ("The '%s' element is a member of the category %s.\n"
           "Description: %s\n",
           gst_plugin_feature_get_name (GST_PLUGIN_FEATURE (factory)),
           gst_element_factory_get_metadata (factory, GST_ELEMENT_METADATA_KLASS),
           gst_element_factory_get_metadata (factory, GST_ELEMENT_METADATA_DESCRIPTION));

  return 0;

You can use gst_registry_pool_feature_list (GST_TYPE_ELEMENT_FACTORY) to get a list of all the element factories that GStreamer knows about.

Finding out what pads an element can contain

Perhaps the most powerful feature of element factories is that they contain a full description of the pads that the element can generate, and the capabilities of those pads (in layman words: what types of media can stream over those pads), without actually having to load those plugins into memory. This can be used to provide a codec selection list for encoders, or it can be used for autoplugging purposes for media players. All current GStreamer-based media players and autopluggers work this way. We'll look closer at these features as we learn about GstPad and GstCaps in the next chapter: Pads and capabilities