Building from source using meson

This is the recommended setup for developers who want to work on the GStreamer code itself and/or modify it, or application developers who wish to try a feature which isn't yet in a released version of GStreamer.

Note: This only applies to linux, Windows and MacOS development. For Android and iOS development, please refer to Building using Cerbero.

What are meson and gst-build ?

The Meson build system is a portable build system which is fast and meant to be more user friendly than alternatives. It generates build instructions which can then be executed by ninja. The GStreamer project uses it for all subprojects.

Since GStreamer has many components and has many dependencies, the gst-build module contains multiple python3 scripts to simplify downloading and configuring everything using Meson. It uses a feature from meson which allows defining subprojects and you can therefore configure and build the GStreamer modules and certain dependencies in one go.

Setting up gst-build

First clone gst-build:

git clone
cd gst-build

Or if you have developer access to the repositories:

git clone
cd gst-build

Layout of gst-build

gst-build contains a few notable scripts and directories:

  1. is the top-level build definition which will recursively configure all dependencies. It also defines some helper commands allowing you to have an uninstalled development environment or easily update git repositories for the GStreamer modules.
  2. subprojects/ is the directory containing GStreamer modules and a selection of dependencies.

Basic meson and ninja usage

Configuring a module (or several in one go when in gst-build) is done by executing:

meson <build_directory>

The build_directory is where all the build instructions and output will be located (This is also called "out of directory" building). If the directory is not created it will be done so at this point. Note that calling meson without any command argument is implicitely calling the meson setup command (i.e. to do the initial configuration of a project).

There is only one restriction regarding the location of the build_directory: it can't be the same as the source directory (i.e. where you cloned your module or gst-build). It can be outside of that directory or below/within that directory though.

Once meson is done configuring, you can either:

  1. enter the specified build directory and run ninja.

    cd <build_directory>
  2. or instead of switching to the build directory every time you wish to execute ninja commands, you can just specify the build directory as an argument. The advantage of this option is that you can run it from anywhere (instead of changing to the ninja directory)

    ninja -C </path/to/build_directory>

This will build everything from that module (and subprojects if within gst-build).

Note: You do not need to re-run meson when you modify source files, you just need to re-run ninja. If you build/configuration files changed, ninja will figure out on its own that meson needs to be re-run and will do that automatically.

Entering the "uninstalled" environment

GStreamer is made of several tools, plugins and components. In order to make it easier for development and testing, there is a target (provided by gst-build) which will setup environment variables accordingly so that you can use all the build results directly.

ninja -C <path/to/build_directory> devenv

You will notice the prompt changed accordingly. You can then run any GStreamer tool you just built directly (like gst-inspect-1.0, gst-launch-1.0, ...).

Working with multiple branches or remotes

It is not uncommon to track multiple git remote repositories (such as the official upstream repositories and your personal clone on gitlab).

You can do so by adding your personal git remotes in the subproject directory:

cd subprojects/gstreamer/
git remote add personal
git fetch

Configuration of gst-build

You can list all the available options of a meson project by using the configure command:

meson configure

If you have an already configured build directory, you can provide that and you will additionally get the configured values for that build:

meson configure <build-directory>

That command will list for each option:

  • The name of the option
  • The default (or configured) value of the option
  • The possible values
  • The description of that option

The values with auto mean that meson will figure out at configuration time the proper value (for example, if you have the available development packages to build a certain plugin).

You will also see values with <inherited from main project>. This is mostly used for options which are generic options. For example the doc option is present at the top-level, and also on every submodules (ex: gstreamer:doc). Generally you only want to set the value of that option once, and all submodules will inherit from that.

You can then provide those options to meson when configuring the build with -D<option_name>=<option_value>. For example, if one does not want to build the rust plugins in gst-build (rs option), you would do:

meson -Drs=disabled <build-directory>

Running tests

Running the unit tests is done by calling meson test from the build directory, or meson test -C <path/to/build_directory>. If there are any failures you can have a look at the file specified at the end or you can run meson test --print-errorlogs which will show you the logs of the failing test after execution.

You can also execute just a subset of tests by specifying the name name. For example meson test gst_gstpad. The complete list of tests is available with meson test --list.

If the gst-devtools submodule is built, you can also use gst-validate-launchergst-validate for running tests.

gst-validate-launcher check.gst*

Going further

More details are available in the gst-build documentation.

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