switchbin is a helper element that chooses between a set of processing chains (called "paths") based on incoming caps, the caps of the paths, and the result of caps queries issued to the elements within the paths. It switches between these paths based on thes caps. Paths are child objects, which are accessed by the GstChildProxy interface.

The intent is to allow for easy construction of dynamic pipelines that automatically switches between paths based on the caps, which is useful for cases when certain elements are only to be used for certain types of dataflow. One common example is a switchbin that inserts postprocessing elements only if the incoming caps are of a type that allows for such postprocessing, like when a video dataflow could be raw frames in some cases and encoded MPEG video in others - postprocessing plugins for color space conversion, scaling and such then should only be inserted if the data consists of raw frames, while encoded video is passed through unchanged.

Each path has an "element" property. If a GstElement is passed to this, switchbin takes ownership over that element. (Any previously set element is removed and unref'd before the new one is set.) The element property can also be NULL for a special passthrough mode (see below). In addition, each path has a "caps" property, which is used for finding matching paths. These caps are referred to as the "path caps".

NOTE: Currently, switchbin has a limitation that path elements must have exactly one "sink" and one "src" pad, both of which need to be always available, so no request and no sometimes pads.

Whenever new input caps are encountered at the switchbin's sinkpad, the first path with matching caps is picked. A "match" means that the result of gst_caps_can_intersect is TRUE. The paths are looked at in order: path #0's caps are looked at first, checked against the new input caps with gst_caps_can_intersect, and if the return value is TRUE, path #0 is picked. Otherwise, path #1's caps are looked at etc. If no path matches, a GST_STREAM_ERROR_WRONG_TYPE error is reported.

For queries, the concept of "allowed caps" is important. These are the caps that are possible to use with this switchbin. They are computed differently for sink- and for srcpads.

Allowed sinkpad caps are computed by visiting each path, issuing an internal caps query to the path element's sink pad, intersecting the result from that query with the path caps, and appending that intersection to the overall allowed sinkpad caps. Allowed srcpad caps are similar, except that the result of the internal query is directly attached to the overall allowed srcpad caps (no intersection with path caps takes place): The intuition behind this is that in sinkpad direction, only caps that are compatible with both the path caps and whatever the internal element can handle are really usable - other caps will be rejected. In srcpad direction, path caps do not exert an influence.

The switchbin responds to caps and accept-caps queries in a particular way. They involve the aforementioned "allowed caps".

Caps queries are responded to by first checking if there are any paths. If num-paths is 0, the query always fails. If there is no current path selected, or if the path has no element, the allowed sink/srcpad caps (depending on whether the query comes from the sink- or srcpad direction) is directly used as the response. If a current path is selected, and it has an element, the query is forwarded to that element instead.

Accept-caps queries are handled by checking if the switchbin can find a path whose caps match the caps from that query. If there is one, the response to that query is TRUE, otherwise FALSE.

As mentioned before, path caps can in theory be any kind of caps. However, they always only affect the input side (= the sink pad side of the switchbin). Path elements can produce output of any type, so their srcpad caps can be anything, even caps that are entirely different. For example, it is perfectly valid if the path caps are "video/x-raw", the path element sink pad template caps also are "video/x-raw", and the src pad caps of the elements are "application/x-rtp".

Path elements can be set to NULL. Such paths perform dataflow passthrough. The path then just forwards data. This includes caps and accept-caps queries. Since there is no element, the internal caps queries go to the switchbin peers instead (to the upstream peer when the query is at the switchbin's srcpad, and to the downstream peer if the query is at the sinkpad).

Example launch line

In this example, if the data is raw PCM audio with 44.1 kHz, a volume element is used for reducing the audio volume to 10%. Otherwise, it is just passed through. So, 44.1 kHz PCM audio will sound quiet, while 48 kHz PCM and any non-PCM data will be passed through unmodified.

   gst-launch-1.0 uridecodebin uri=<URI> ! switchbin num-paths=2 \
     path0::element="audioconvert ! volume volume=0.1" path0::caps="audio/x-raw, rate=44100" \
     path1::caps="ANY" ! \

This example's path #1 is a passthrough path. Its caps are "ANY" caps, and its element is NULL (the default value). Dataflow is passed through, and caps and accept-caps queries are forwarded to the switchbin peers.

NOTE: Setting the caps to NULL instead of ANY would have accomplíshed the same in this example, since NULL path caps are internally interpreted as ANY caps.



Implemented interfaces

Factory details

Authors: – Carlos Rafael Giani


Rank – none

Plugin – switchbin

Package – GStreamer Bad Plug-ins

Pad Templates





Object typeGstPad





Object typeGstPad



“current-path” guint

Returns the currently selected path number. If there is no current path (due to no caps, or unsupported caps), the value is G_MAXUINT. Read-only.

Flags : Read

Default value : -1


“num-paths” guint

Configure how many paths the switchbin will be choosing between. Attempting to configure a path outside the range 0..(n-1) will fail. Reducing the number of paths will release any paths outside the new range, which might trigger activation of a new path by re-assessing the current caps.

Flags : Read / Write

Default value : 0

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