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Using Video Encoders

Encoding video stream

If you want the stream to perform some encoding on supplied frame data, you should use the AviWriter.AddEncodingVideoStream method to create the stream. It takes an encoder object as the first parameter, which is used to encode incoming frames. The return value is the same IAviVideoStream interface, so basic usage of the stream does not change.
var encoder = ...
var stream = writer.AddEncodingVideoStream(encoder, width: 640, height: 480);

How to get an encoder instance? More on this later... And now look how to use an encoding stream.

First, you do not need to directly set a codec and bits per pixel for an encoding stream, as these are determined by the encoder. Also, a value of the isKeyFrame parameter for the WriteFrame method is ignored, because the encoder itself defines which frames are keys.

Next, all encoders expect input image data in specific format. It's BGR32 top-down - 32 bits per pixel, blue byte first, alpha byte not used, top line goes first. This is the format you can often get from existing images. For example, when locking System.Drawing.Bitmap instances. Thus, the size of the data is fixed and is determined by the frame dimensions - Width * Height * 4 bytes. For this reason, encoding streams also ignore a value of length parameter for the WriteFrame method.

So, you simply pass an uncompressed top-down BGR32 frame to an encoding stream, and it cares about encoding:
// Say, you have a System.Drawing.Bitmap
System.Drawing.Bitmap bitmap;
// and buffer of appropriate size for storing its bits
var buffer = new byte[stream.Width * stream.Height * 4];

// Now copy bits from bitmap to buffer
var bits = bitmap.LockBits(new Rectangle(0, 0, stream.Width, stream.Height), ImageLockMode.ReadOnly, PixelFormat.Format32bppRgb);
Marshal.Copy(bits.Scan0, buffer, 0, buffer.Length);

// and flush buffer to encoding stream
encodingStream.WriteFrame(true, buffer, 0, buffer.Length);

Creating video encoder

Now about a video encoder. This is an object implementing the IVideoEncoder interface. This interface provides properties to determine the data format for the stream, and method for the encoding. SharpAvi includes several implementations which may be sufficient for many cases. If your case is not included, you are encouraged to write your own implementation of the interface for the preferred codec :)

The simplest is UncompressedVideoEncoder. It does no real encoding, just flips image vertically and converts BGR32 data to BGR24 data to reduce the size.
var encoder = new UncompressedVideoEncoder(stream.Width, stream.Height);

Next is MotionJpegVideoEncoderWpf which does Motion JPEG encoding. It uses System.Windows.Media.Imaging.JpegBitmapEncoder under the hood. Besides dimensions, you provide the desired quality level to its constructor, ranging from 1 (low quality, small size) to 100 (high quality, large size).
var encoder = new MotionJpegVideoEncoderWpf(stream.Width, stream.Height, 70);

Finally, Mpeg4VideoEncoderVcm does MPEG-4 encoding using Video for Windows (aka VfW) or Video Compression Manager (aka VCM) compatible codec installed on the system.

Currently tested codecs include Microsoft MPEG-4 V2 and V3, Xvid, DivX and x264vfw. Unfortunately, some of them have only 32-bit versions, others produce errors in 64 bits. The only codec which looks to work reliably in 64 bits is x264vfw64. For x264vfw (both 32- and 64-bit), it is recommended to check option Zero Latency in its settings to prevent picture freezes.

You can get the list of available codecs with the Mpeg4VideoEncoderVcm.GetAvailableCodecs method. When creating an instance of the encoder, you can specify a list of codecs that should be used in order of preference. Otherwise, the default preference list will be used.
var codecs = Mpeg4VideoEncoder.GetAvailableCodecs();
// Present available codecs to user or select programmatically
// ...
FourCC selectedCodec = KnownFourCCs.Codecs.Xvid;
var encoder = new Mpeg4VideoEncoder(stream.Width, stream.Height, 
                                    30, // frame rate
                                    0, // number of frames, if known beforehand, or zero
                                    70, // quality, though usually ignored :(
                                    selectedCodec // codecs preference

Note. Regardless of an encoder used, SharpAVI always produces an AVI file. Encoder is only used to compress the stream data, and does not change the format of a video file.

Threading issues

As you may notice in XML docs for MotionJpegVideoEncoderWpf and Mpeg4VideoEncoderVcm, there is a talk about calling on a single thread. That is, the instances of these classes should be used carefully in multi-threaded scenarios.
To help with this, the SingleThreadedVideoEncoderWrapper class is at your service. You can wrap an encoder instance, and this wrapper will guarantee that an underlying encoder is always accessed from the same thread, including its instantiation.
var threadSafeEncoder = new SingleThreadedVideoEncoderWrapper(() => new Mpeg4VideoEncoder(...));
This is particularly useful for asynchronous writing scenarios.

Even more

The EncodingStreamFactory class contains extension methods for AviWriter which make the creation of encoding streams even simpler:
// Stream with UncompressedVideoEncoder
var uncompressedStream = writer.AddUncompressedVideoStream(640, 480);

// Stream with MotionJpegVideoEncoderWpf
// Version for .NET 3.5 also includes forceSingleThreadedAccess parameter 
// as implementation of MotionJpegVideoEncoderWpf for that platform is not thread-safe
var mjpegStream = writer.AddMotionJpegVideoStream(640, 480, quality: 70);

// Stream with Mpeg4VideoEncoderVcm
// Parameter forceSingleThreadedAccess controls the creation of 
// SingleThreadedVideoEncoderWrapper
var mpeg4Stream = writer.AddMpeg4VideoStream(640, 480, 30, 
    quality: 70, codec: KnownFourCCs.Codecs.X264, forceSingleThreadedAccess: true);

Last edited May 17, 2016 at 8:27 AM by baSSiLL, version 24