Implementing GstToc support in GStreamer elements

General info about GstToc structure

GstToc introduces a general way to handle chapters within multimedia formats. GstToc can be represented as tree structure with arbitrary hierarchy. Tree item can be either of two types: sequence or alternative. Sequence types acts like a part of the media data, for example audio track in CUE sheet, or part of the movie. Alternative types acts like some kind of selection to process a different version of the media content, for example DVD angles. GstToc has one constraint on the tree structure: it does not allow different entry types on the same level of the hierarchy, i.e. you shouldn’t have editions and chapters mixed together. Here is an example of right TOC:

-------  TOC  -------
         /  \
 edition1    edition2
 |           |
 -chapter1   -chapter3

Here are two editions (alternatives), the first contains two chapters (sequence type), and the second has only one chapter. And here is an example of invalid TOC:

-------  TOC  -------
         /  \
 edition1    chapter1

Here you have edition1 and chapter1 mixed on the same level of hierarchy, and such TOC will be considered broken.

GstToc has entries field of GList type which consists of children items. Each item is of type GstTocEntry. Also GstToc has list of tags and GstStructure called info. Please, use and fields this way: create a GstStructure, put all info related to your element there and put this structure into the info field under the name of your element. Some fields in the info structure can be used for internal purposes, so you should use it in the way described above to not to overwrite already existent fields.

Let’s look at GstTocEntry a bit closer. One of the most important fields is uid, which must be unique for each item within the TOC. This is used to identify each item inside TOC, especially when element receives TOC select event with UID to seek on. Field subentries of type GList contains children items of type GstTocEntry. Thus you can achieve arbitrary hierarchy level. Field type can be either GST_TOC_ENTRY_TYPE_CHAPTER or GST_TOC_ENTRY_TYPE_EDITION which corresponds to chapter or edition type of item respectively. Field tags is a list of tags related to the item. And field info is similar to described above.

So, a little more about managing GstToc. Use gst_toc_new() and gst_toc_unref() to create/free it. GstTocEntry can be created using gst_toc_entry_new(). While building GstToc you can set start and stop timestamps for each item using gst_toc_entry_set_start_stop() and loop_type and repeat_count using gst_toc_entry_set_loop(). The best way to process already created GstToc is to recursively go through the entries and subentries fields.

Applications and plugins should not rely on TOCs having a certain kind of structure, but should allow for different alternatives. For example, a simple CUE sheet embedded in a file may be presented as a flat list of track entries, or could have a top-level edition node (or some other alternative type entry) with track entries underneath that node; or even multiple top-level edition nodes (or some other alternative type entries) each with track entries underneath, in case the source file has extracted a track listing from different sources).

TOC scope: global and current

There are two main consumers for TOC information: applications and elements in the pipeline that are TOC writers (such as e.g. matroskamux).

Applications typically want to know the entire table of contents (TOC) with all entries that can possibly be selected.

TOC writers in the pipeline, however, would not want to write a TOC for all possible/available streams, but only for the current stream.

When transcoding a title from a DVD, for example, the application would still want to know the entire TOC, with all titles, the chapters for each title, and the available angles. When transcoding to a file, we only want the TOC information that is relevant to the transcoded stream to be written into the file structure, e.g. the chapters of the title being transcoded (or possibly only chapters 5-7 if only those have been selected for playback/ transcoding).

This is why we may need to create two different TOCs for those two types of consumers.

Elements that extract TOC information should send TOC events downstream.

Like with tags, sinks will post a TOC message on the bus for the application with the global TOC, once a global TOC event reaches the sink.

Working with GstMessage

If a table of contents is available, applications will receive a TOC message on the pipeline’s GstBus.

A TOC message will be posted on the bus by sinks when the receive a TOC event containing a TOC with global scope. Elements extracting TOCs should not post a TOC message themselves, but send a TOC event downstream.

The reason for this is that there may be cascades of TOCs (e.g. a zip archive containing multiple matroska files, each with a TOC).

GstMessage with GstToc can be created using gst_message_new_toc() and parsed with gst_message_parse_toc(). The updated parameter in these methods indicates whether the TOC was just discovered (set to false) or TOC was already found and have been updated (set to true). This message will typically be posted by sinks to pipeline in case you have discovered TOC data within your element.

Working with GstEvent

There are two types of TOC-related events:

  • downstream TOC events that contain TOC information and travel downstream

  • toc-select events that travel upstream and can be used to select a certain TOC entry for playback (similar to seek events)

GstToc supports select event through GstEvent infrastructure. The idea is the following: when you receive TOC select event, parse it with gst_event_parse_toc_select() and seek stream (if it is not streamable) for specified TOC UID (you can use gst_toc_find_entry() to find entry in TOC by UID). To create TOC select event use gst_event_new_toc_select(). The common action on such event is to seek to specified UID within your element.

Implementation coverage, Specifications, …

Below is a list of container formats, links to documentation and a summary of toc related features. Each section title also indicates whether reading/writing a toc is implemented. Below hollow bullet point o indicate no support and filled bullets *** indicate that this feature is handled.


The MARK chunk defines a list of (cue-id, position_in_samples, label).

The INST chunk contains a sustainLoop and releaseLoop, each consisting of (loop-type, cue-begin, cue-end)


Both CUESHEET_TRACK and CUESHEET_TRACK_INDEX have a (relative) offset in samples. CUESHEET_TRACK has ISRC metadata.

MKV: read/write * Chapters and Editions each having a uid * Chapter have start/end time and metadata: ChapString, ChapLanguage, ChapCountry

MP4: * elst

The elst atom contains a list of edits. Each edit consists of (length, start, play-back speed).

OGG: -/- o VorbisComment

fields called CHAPTERxxx and CHAPTERxxxNAME with xxx being a number between 000 and 999.

WAV: read/write * *cue

' o 'plst* * adtl * labl * note o ltxt o smpl

The *cue chunk defines a list of markers in the stream with cue-ids. The smpl* chunk defines a list of regions in the stream with cue-ids in the same namespace (?).

The various adtl chunks: labl, note and ltxt refer to the 'cue-id’s.

A plst chunk defines a sequence of segments (cue-id, length_samples, repeats). The smpl chunk defines a list of loops (cue-id, beg, end, loop-type, repeats).

Conclusion/Ideas/Future work

Based on the data of chapter 5, a few thoughts and observations that can be used to extend and refine our API. These things below are not reflecting the current implementation.

All formats have table of [cue-id, cue-start, (cue-end), (extra tags)]

  • cue-id is commonly represented as and unsigned int 32bit - cue-end is optional. Extra tags could be represented as a structure/taglist

Many formats have metadata that references the cue-table. - loops in instruments in wav, aifc - edit lists in wav, mp4

For mp4.edtl, wav.plst we could expose two editions. 1) the edit list is flattened: default, for playback 2) the stream has the raw data and the edit list is there as chapter markers: useful for editing software

We might want to introduce a new GST_TOC_ENTRY_TYPE_MARKER or _CUE. This would be a sequence entry-type and it would not be used for navigational purposes, but to attach data to a point in time (envelopes, loops, …).

API wise there is some overlap between: - exposing multiple audio/video tracks as pads or as ToC editions. For ToC editions, we have the TocSelect event. - exposing subtitles as a sparse stream or as ToC sequence of markers with labels

The results of the search are