Eric Anholt (anholt) wrote,
Eric Anholt

video hackfest

I got back from the video hackfest a day ago. It was a very productive meeting, even if most of it was getting across the features and requirements of our various projects to the other projects involved. I finally understood why using GL in gstreamer is hard, why gstreamer wants to be that way, why we're changing the locking model in cairo, and other details of projects I'm interested but not actively involved in. And I got a few chances to go over how GL works with threading and the ridiculous context model that it has.

Out of that, I ended up with the project of making GLX allow binding a single GL context into multiple threads. This should largely fix the disaster that is GL multithreading. The basic idea is: I have a collection of threads that want to work on a single context because they're sharing all the same objects and want to have some sort of serialization into a GL command stream. If we pass the context around between the threads, unbinding and rebinding, you get this forced command stream flushing that will kill performance. If we make multiple contexts, then at the transition of changed objects between one thread and another you have to flush in the producer and re-bind the object in the consumer. Whether or not that could perform well, we determined that in the gstreamer model we couldn't know in time whether the producer is going to be in a different thread than the consumer: you'd have to flush every time just like passing a single context around.

So here comes a simple hack: Just rip out the piece of the spec that says you can't bind one context into multiple threads. Tell the user that if they do this, locking is up to them. It's not an uncommon position for projects to take, and it will let us do exactly what we want in gstreamer: everyone works in the same context[1], and when you want access to the GL context, just grab the lock for the context and go.

Development trees are at:

The testcase gets bad rendering at the moment. So I made the testcase for the non-extended version, and it still didn't render, with either i965 or swrast. Next step is to test my testcase against someone else's GL.

Incidentally, Apple's GL spec allows binding a single context to multiple threads like this. Windows GL doesn't.

[1] OK, so that's not exactly true. I'm assuming that elements negotiate a single context through some handwavy caps magic -- people have said that this is possible. You can still end up with two contexts, though, like with the following pipeline: videotestsrc ! glupload ! glfilterblur ! gldownload ! gamma ! glupload ! glimagesink. The second group of gl elements doesn't know about the first, or have any way to communicate with them. But if each element calls glXMakeCurrent at the start, it'll be approximately free for the one-context case, and just work for the multiple-contexts case.
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