[Libav-user] Would anyone find an OS X / Cocoa / Swift wrapper for Libav useful?

wm4 nfxjfg at googlemail.com
Mon Jan 26 12:58:08 CET 2015

On Mon, 26 Jan 2015 10:42:27 +0000
Robin Stevens <rdstevens at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 11:14 PM, wm4 <nfxjfg at googlemail.com> wrote:
> > On Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:26:35 +0000
> > Robin Stevens <rdstevens at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> >> I don't think that level of discoverability is true of the C
> >> structs-and-functions API that the ffmpeg libraries currently use.
> >
> > Idiotic prejudices against C APIs are not helpful here. FFmpeg is
> > mostly not a good C API and could be better, simple as that.
> >
> I have no such prejudice. The level of discoverability of the C
> structs-and-functions API that the *ffmpeg* libraries currently use is
> not great.
> It's entirely possible to make discoverable APIs in C; just that I
> don't think ffmpeg has one.

OK, it's just a bit hard to make APIs in C without structs and

> >
> > So I wonder what your .net wrapper is supposed to help here. It
> > basically turns all public fields into trivial properties that get or
> > set the field. What's the use?
> >
> That's a fair criticism of much of the wrapper. The use is to expose
> the FFmpeg api to C#, the getters and setters help with that. (The
> wrapper is in managed C++/CLI, so the interop is taken care of for
> me.)
> There is some value in the methods (instance or static) on the types,
> which makes for greater discoverability, but doesn't really help you
> understand when and where a particular type is meant to be used.

Somewhat true, there are way too many API things without context.
Reading the headers is not fun at all.

> > Anyway, yes, that's one of the problem with this "let's dump everything
> > into a big struct" API. A big class with hundreds of getters and
> > setters is better?
> >
> It can be, yes. Take the AVFrame struct, and look at the sample_rate
> member. Is this a read-only property? Can it be written to? Does that
> operation make even make sense?
> Perhaps I want to change the sample rate of a frame. From this API I
> might think I just need to set a value on that variable and the
> library will magically change the sample rate for me.
> The ffmpeg API does NOT tell me. The only way to find out is to dive
> in to the code. That is a deficiency of the interface which should
> specify such things. (And my preference is for language support so
> that the specification is enforceable by the compiler, but that's just
> my preference.)

Well, it's kind of obvious (or is it?) that the AVFrame members
describe the format of the data it carries. Just setting the
sample_rate field can logically not make FFmpeg convert the format. In
a way, a setter would make things worse.

(But I acknowledge your points.)

> My wrapper only has a getter for that property, so it's a syntax error
> to attempt to set it. It's clear to the user that they cannot change
> the sample rate by setting that property, and need to go and look
> elsewhere.

You can change it, for example when you initialize the AVFrame and fill
it with your own data.

Ideally I would say AVFrame should be opaque. There should be a
separate struct that describes formats. You could freely modify the
format struct, and pass it to a function that creates an AVFrame. This
way AVFrame could be fully immutable once created. Trying to push such
an API change would probably fail, though.

> C cannot (AFAIK) specify in the language whether a variable is
> publicly read-only or writeable, so static checking is not available.
> The solution to this, as far as the FFmpeg API is concerned, appears
> to be to document in the comment whether the field is writeable.

That is not really the problem. The problem is that many fields in
FFmpeg structs are read-only, write-only, or both depending on context.
Sometimes fields are declared off-limits, but can be legally accessed
by AVOption. This is quite hysteric. I also despise structs like
AVCodecContext, which have literally dozens of fields, most with
questionable value.

> That's perfectly reasonable, although not consistently done. Easy to
> fix though, if you have the knowledge.
> Another small win: basic class hierarchy.
> The AVFrame structure encapsulates two very different types of frames:
> audio and video; and has a bunch of variables that apply to one or the
> other, but not both (and some variables that *do* apply to both). My
> wrapper splits AVFrame into a base class, an AVVideoFrame and an
> AVAudioFrame.

You can achieve the same thing with aggregation.

> This could presumably be done in the FFmpeg API but the devs have
> chosen to spend their time elsewhere.
> I'll admit that this is a a tiny, marginal win (at best) over ffmpeg,
> given the comment SAYS audio sample rate. Though it *is* a small win,
> and lots of those add up.

Except, in case of the sample_rate field, you can't make full use of
the API anymore.

And that's just my point: a wrapper which tries to paint over the
issues in the "original" will just suffer from the API mismatches.

> None of the points I'm making amount to much on their own, but they
> are I think useful illustrations of some of the problems I've had with
> the FFmpeg API.
> Improving and documenting the real API is the best option, but has no
> realisitic prospect of success. I someone like me came along and
> started suggesting (breaking) changes to the existing API (like
> AVFrame, AVAudioFrame, AVVideoFrame), I would (rightly) be shot down
> in flames.

Yes, making such radical API changes is hard and will take a long time.
Maybe it would have a chance of success if it's well planned and agreed
upon in advance. FFmpeg had other semi-radical API changes in the past.

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