In the last weeks I started to work on improving the GStreamer support for the Blackmagic Decklink cards. Decklink is Blackmagic’s product line for HDMI, SDI, etc. capture and playback cards, with drivers being available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. And on all platforms the same API is provided to access the devices.
GStreamer already had support for Decklink since some time in 2011, the initial plugin was written by David Schleef and seemed to work well enough for quite some time. But over the years people used GStreamer in more dynamic and complex pipelines, and we got a lot of reports recently about the plugin not working properly in such situations. Mostly there were problems with time and synchronization handling, but also other minor issues caused by the elements not using the source / sink base classes (GstBaseSrc and GstBaseSink). The latter was not easily possible because of one device providing audio and video input/output at the same time, so the elements would intuitively need two source or sink pads. And as a side effect this also made it very difficult to use the decklink elements in a standard playback pipeline with playbin.
The rewritten plugin now has separate elements for the audio and video parts of a device, giving 4 different elements in the end (decklinkaudiosrc, decklinkvideosrc, decklinkaudiosink and decklinkvideosink). These are now based on the corresponding base classes, work inside playbin (including pausing and seeking) and also handle synchronization properly. The clock of the hardware is now exposed to the pipeline as a GstClock and even if the pipeline chooses a different clock, the elements will slave their internal clock to the master clock of the pipeline and make sure that synchronization is even kept if the pipeline clock and the Decklink hardware clock are drifting apart. Thanks to GStreamer’s extensive synchronization model and all the functionality that already exists in the GstClock class, this was much easier than it sounds.
The only downside of this approach is, that it is now necessary to always have the video and audio element of one device inside the same pipeline, and also keep their states managed by the pipeline or at least make sure that they both go to PLAYING state together. Also the audio elements won’t work without a corresponding video element, which is a limitation of the hardware. Video only works without problems though.
All the code is available from gst-plugins-bad GIT master.
So what’s next? Testing, a lot of testing! Especially with different hardware, on different platforms and in all kinds of situations. If you have one of these cards, please test the latest code that is available in gst-plugins-bad GIT master. Please report any bugs you notice in Bugzilla, ideally with information about your hardware and platform and including a GStreamer debug log with GST_DEBUG=decklink*:6.
Apart from that many features are still missing, for example all the different configurations that are available via an API should be exposed on the elements, or support for more audio channels and more video modes. If you need any of these features and want to help, feel free to write patches and provide them in Bugzilla.
Any help would be highly appreciated!