A bin is a container element. You can add elements to a bin. Since a bin is an element itself, a bin can be handled in the same way as any other element. Therefore, the whole previous chapter (Elements) applies to bins as well.

What are bins

Bins allow you to combine a group of linked elements into one logical element. You do not deal with the individual elements anymore but with just one element, the bin. We will see that this is extremely powerful when you are going to construct complex pipelines since it allows you to break up the pipeline in smaller chunks.

The bin will also manage the elements contained in it. It will perform state changes on the elements as well as collect and forward bus messages.

Visualisation of a bin with some elements in it

There is one specialized type of bin available to the GStreamer programmer:

  • A pipeline: a generic container that manages the synchronization and bus messages of the contained elements. The toplevel bin has to be a pipeline, every application thus needs at least one of these.

Creating a bin

Bins are created in the same way that other elements are created, i.e. using an element factory. There are also convenience functions available (gst_bin_new () and gst_pipeline_new ()). To add elements to a bin or remove elements from a bin, you can use gst_bin_add () and gst_bin_remove (). Note that the bin that you add an element to will take ownership of that element. If you destroy the bin, the element will be dereferenced with it. If you remove an element from a bin, it will be dereferenced automatically.

#include <gst/gst.h>

main (int   argc,
      char *argv[])
  GstElement *bin, *pipeline, *source, *sink;

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

  /* create */
  pipeline = gst_pipeline_new ("my_pipeline");
  bin = gst_bin_new ("my_bin");
  source = gst_element_factory_make ("fakesrc", "source");
  sink = gst_element_factory_make ("fakesink", "sink");

  /* First add the elements to the bin */
  gst_bin_add_many (GST_BIN (bin), source, sink, NULL);
  /* add the bin to the pipeline */
  gst_bin_add (GST_BIN (pipeline), bin);

  /* link the elements */
  gst_element_link (source, sink);



There are various functions to lookup elements in a bin. The most commonly used are gst_bin_get_by_name () and gst_bin_get_by_interface (). You can also iterate over all elements that a bin contains using the function gst_bin_iterate_elements (). See the API references of GstBin for details.

Custom bins

The application programmer can create custom bins packed with elements to perform a specific task. This allows you, for example, to write an Ogg/Vorbis decoder with just the following lines of code:

main (int   argc,
      char *argv[])
  GstElement *player;

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

  /* create player */
  player = gst_element_factory_make ("oggvorbisplayer", "player");

  /* set the source audio file */
  g_object_set (player, "location", "helloworld.ogg", NULL);

  /* start playback */
  gst_element_set_state (GST_ELEMENT (player), GST_STATE_PLAYING);

(This is a silly example of course, there already exists a much more powerful and versatile custom bin like this: the playbin element.)

Custom bins can be created with a plugin or from the application. You will find more information about creating custom bin in the Plugin Writer's Guide

Examples of such custom bins are the playbin and uridecodebin elements from gst-plugins-base.

Bins manage states of their children

Bins manage the state of all elements contained in them. If you set a bin (or a pipeline, which is a special top-level type of bin) to a certain target state using gst_element_set_state (), it will make sure all elements contained within it will also be set to this state. This means it's usually only necessary to set the state of the top-level pipeline to start up the pipeline or shut it down.

The bin will perform the state changes on all its children from the sink element to the source element. This ensures that the downstream element is ready to receive data when the upstream element is brought to PAUSED or PLAYING. Similarly when shutting down, the sink elements will be set to READY or NULL first, which will cause the upstream elements to receive a FLUSHING error and stop the streaming threads before the elements are set to the READY or NULL state.

Note, however, that if elements are added to a bin or pipeline that's already running, e.g. from within a "pad-added" signal callback, its state will not automatically be brought in line with the current state or target state of the bin or pipeline it was added to. Instead, you need to set it to the desired target state yourself using gst_element_set_state () or gst_element_sync_state_with_parent () when adding elements to an already-running pipeline.

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