Feb 082014

Last month we posted a gstreamer pipeline for avi playback and simply presumed a working gstreamer installation. Now we have added a couple of packages to our growing repository, that make it very easy to install.

The packages include the gst-omx module, which allows h264 de- and encoding with full use of the Raspberry Pi’s graphics hardware. But even with hardware support, the current stable series (1.2) doesn’t perform very well, because it does unnecessary copying of the video data. This is why these packages are based on the current development series (1.3), which means that they are not as mature and well tested as the slightly older 1.2 versions. But so far we haven’t run into any problems of that nature.

As a side note: The gstreamer versioning can be a little confusing. The packages you can find in software repositories are usually marked with “-0.10” or “-1.0”. The 1.x series is API and ABI stable and supersedes the previous stable 0.10 series and packages marked 1.0 can contain any version from the 1.x series.

The rest of the article will be about installing the packages, how to see if they work and a couple of things you can try if they don’t.


Add our repository and install gst-omx-1.0.

The omx plugins need GST_OMX_CONFIG_DIR to be set. You can do that temporarily like this:

export GST_OMX_CONFIG_DIR=/usr/etc/xdg/

or add the same line to your .profile as a permanent solution.


You can use gst-inspect-1.0 to list all installed gstreamer plugins. Combine with grep and it’s easy to find out if gstreamer knows about the omx plugins:

gst-inspect-1.0 | grep omx

should give you something like this:

omx:  omxmpeg2videodec: OpenMAX MPEG2 Video Decoder
omx:  omxmpeg4videodec: OpenMAX MPEG4 Video Decoder
omx:  omxh263dec: OpenMAX H.263 Video Decoder
omx:  omxh264dec: OpenMAX H.264 Video Decoder
omx:  omxmjpegdec: OpenMAX MJPEG Video Decoder
omx:  omxvc1dec: OpenMAX WMV Video Decoder
omx:  omxh264enc: OpenMAX H.264 Video Encoder

To play a file you can use the previously mentioned pipeline:

gst-launch-1.0 filesrc location=test.avi ! avidemux ! h264parse ! omxh264dec ! autovideoconvert ! eglglessink

(Note that gstreamer is not a media player, but a framework that can be used by one. These commands are meant to support developers.)


Errors during playback

Make sure the memory split is generous with the video hardware, otherwise you may get seemingly random and unrelated errors during playback.

The omx plugins don’t show up

If gst-inspect-1.0 doesn’t show the plugins, try deleting gstreamers registry:

rm .cache/gstreamer-1.0/registry.armv6l.bin

Pipeline debugging

A very useful feature for debugging pipelines is the possibility to create a visual graph of the pipeline. Set GST_DEBUG_DUMP_DOT_DIR to a temporary directory before running the pipeline:

mkdir tmp

Gstreamer will dump a lot of debugging information in *.dot files in that directory. You can use dot from the graphviz package to create image files from those:

dot -Tpng x.xx.xx.xxxxxxxxx-gst-launch.FOO.dot > graph.png


  1. gstreamer pipeline for avi playback
  2. list of packages in our repository
  3. gstreamer project website
  4. streaming H.264 via RTP
  5. slightly outdated but useful StackExchange
  6. Raspberry Pi forums
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