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Using rav1e - from your own code

luzero profile image Luca Barbato ・7 min read

AV1, Rav1e, Crav1e, an intro

AV1 is a modern video codec brought to you by an alliance of many different bigger and smaller players in the multimedia field.
I'm part of the VideoLan organization and I spent quite a bit of time on this codec lately.

rav1e: The safest and fastest AV1 encoder, built by many volunteers and Mozilla/Xiph developers.
It is written in rust and strives to provide good speed, quality and stay maintainable.

crav1e: A companion crate, written by yours truly, that provides a C-API, so the encoder can be used by C libraries and programs.

This article will just give a quick overview of the API available right now and it is mainly to help people start using it and hopefully report issues and problem.

Rav1e API

The current API is built around the following 4 structs and 1 enum:

  • struct Frame: The raw pixel data
  • struct Packet: The encoded bitstream
  • struct Config: The encoder configuration
  • struct Context: The encoder state

  • enum EncoderStatus: Fatal and non-fatal condition returned by the Contextmethods.


The Config struct currently is simply constructed.

    struct Config {
        enc: EncoderConfig,
        threads: usize,

The EncoderConfig stores all the settings that have an impact to the actual bitstream while settings such as threads are kept outside.

    let mut enc = EncoderConfig::with_speed_preset(speed);
    enc.width = w;
    enc.height = h;
    enc.bit_depth = 8;
    let cfg = Config { enc, threads: 0 };

NOTE: Some of the fields above may be shuffled around until the API is marked as stable.


    let cfg = Config { enc, threads: 0 };
    let ctx: Context<u8> = cfg.new_context();

It produces a new encoding context. Where bit_depth is 8, it is possible to use an optimized u8 codepath, otherwise u16 must be used.


It is produced by Config::new_context, its implementation details are hidden.


The Context can be grouped into essential, optional and convenience.

    // Essential API
    pub fn send_frame<F>(&mut self, frame: F) -> Result<(), EncoderStatus>
      where F: Into<Option<Arc<Frame<T>>>>, T: Pixel;
    pub fn receive_packet(&mut self) -> Result<Packet<T>, EncoderStatus>;

The encoder works by processing each Frame fed through send_frame and producing each Packet that can be retrieved by receive_packet.

    // Optional API
    pub fn container_sequence_header(&mut self) -> Vec<u8>;
    pub fn get_first_pass_data(&self) -> &FirstPassData;

Depending on the container format, the AV1 Sequence Header could be stored in the extradata. container_sequence_header produces the data pre-formatted to be simply stored in mkv or mp4.

rav1e supports multi-pass encoding and the encoding data from the first pass can be retrieved by calling get_first_pass_data.

    // Convenience shortcuts
    pub fn new_frame(&self) -> Arc<Frame<T>>;
    pub fn set_limit(&mut self, limit: u64);
    pub fn flush(&mut self) {
  • new_frame() produces a frame according to the dimension and pixel format information in the Context.
  • flush() is functionally equivalent to call send_frame(None).
  • set_limit()is functionally equivalent to call flush()once limit frames are sent to the encoder.


The workflow is the following:

  1. Setup:

    • Prepare a Config
    • Call new_context from the Config to produce a Context
  2. Encode loop:

    • Pull each Packet using receive_packet.
    • If receive_packet returns EncoderStatus::NeedMoreData
      • Feed each Frame to the Context using send_frame
  3. Complete the encoding

    • Issue a flush() to encode each pending Frame in a final Packet.
    • Call receive_packet until EncoderStatus::LimitReached is returned.

Crav1e API

The crav1e API provides the same structures and features beside few key differences:

  • The Frame, Config, and Context structs are opaque.
typedef struct RaConfig RaConfig;
typedef struct RaContext RaContext;
typedef struct RaFrame RaFrame;
  • The Packet struct exposed is much simpler than the rav1e original.
typedef struct {
    const uint8_t *data;
    size_t len;
    uint64_t number;
    RaFrameType frame_type;
} RaPacket;
  • The EncoderStatus includes a Success condition.
typedef enum {
} RaEncoderStatus;


Since the configuration is opaque there are a number of functions to assemble it:

  • rav1e_config_default allocates a default configuration.
  • rav1e_config_parse and rav1e_config_parse_int set a specific value for a specific field selected by a key string.
  • rav1e_config_set_${field} are specialized setters for complex information such as the color description.
RaConfig *rav1e_config_default(void);

 * Set a configuration parameter using its key and value as string.
 * Available keys and values
 * - "quantizer": 0-255, default 100
 * - "speed": 0-10, default 3
 * - "tune": "psnr"-"psychovisual", default "psnr"
 * Return a negative value on error or 0.
int rav1e_config_parse(RaConfig *cfg, const char *key, const char *value);

 * Set a configuration parameter using its key and value as integer.
 * Available keys and values are the same as rav1e_config_parse()
 * Return a negative value on error or 0.
int rav1e_config_parse_int(RaConfig *cfg, const char *key, int value);

 * Set color properties of the stream.
 * Supported values are defined by the enum types
 * RaMatrixCoefficients, RaColorPrimaries, and RaTransferCharacteristics
 * respectively.
 * Return a negative value on error or 0.
int rav1e_config_set_color_description(RaConfig *cfg,
                                       RaMatrixCoefficients matrix,
                                       RaColorPrimaries primaries,
                                       RaTransferCharacteristics transfer);

 * Set the content light level information for HDR10 streams.
 * Return a negative value on error or 0.
int rav1e_config_set_content_light(RaConfig *cfg,
                                   uint16_t max_content_light_level,
                                   uint16_t max_frame_average_light_level);

 * Set the mastering display information for HDR10 streams.
 * primaries and white_point arguments are RaPoint, containing 0.16 fixed point values.
 * max_luminance is a 24.8 fixed point value.
 * min_luminance is a 18.14 fixed point value.
 * Returns a negative value on error or 0.
int rav1e_config_set_mastering_display(RaConfig *cfg,
                                       RaPoint primaries[3],
                                       RaPoint white_point,
                                       uint32_t max_luminance,
                                       uint32_t min_luminance);

void rav1e_config_unref(RaConfig *cfg);

The bare minimum setup code is the following:

    int ret = -1;
    RaConfig *rac = rav1e_config_default();
    if (!rac) {
        printf("Unable to initialize\n");
        goto clean;

    ret = rav1e_config_parse_int(rac, "width", 64);
    if (ret < 0) {
        printf("Unable to configure width\n");
        goto clean;

    ret = rav1e_config_parse_int(rac, "height", 96);
    if (ret < 0) {
        printf("Unable to configure height\n");
        goto clean;

    ret = rav1e_config_parse_int(rac, "speed", 9);
    if (ret < 0) {
        printf("Unable to configure speed\n");
        goto clean;


As per the rav1e API, the context structure is produced from a configuration and the same send-receive model is used.
The convenience methods aren't exposed and the frame allocation function is actually essential.

// Essential API
RaContext *rav1e_context_new(const RaConfig *cfg);
void rav1e_context_unref(RaContext *ctx);

RaEncoderStatus rav1e_send_frame(RaContext *ctx, const RaFrame *frame);
RaEncoderStatus rav1e_receive_packet(RaContext *ctx, RaPacket **pkt);
// Optional API
uint8_t *rav1e_container_sequence_header(RaContext *ctx, size_t *buf_size);
void rav1e_container_sequence_header_unref(uint8_t *sequence);


Since the frame structure is opaque in C, we have the following functions to create, fill and dispose of the frames.

RaFrame *rav1e_frame_new(const RaContext *ctx);
void rav1e_frame_unref(RaFrame *frame);

 * Fill a frame plane
 * Currently the frame contains 3 planes, the first is luminance followed by
 * chrominance.
 * The data is copied and this function has to be called for each plane.
 * frame: A frame provided by rav1e_frame_new()
 * plane: The index of the plane starting from 0
 * data: The data to be copied
 * data_len: Lenght of the buffer
 * stride: Plane line in bytes, including padding
 * bytewidth: Number of bytes per component, either 1 or 2
void rav1e_frame_fill_plane(RaFrame *frame,
                            int plane,
                            const uint8_t *data,
                            size_t data_len,
                            ptrdiff_t stride,
                            int bytewidth);


The encoder status enum is returned by the rav1e_send_frame and rav1e_receive_packet and it is possible already to arbitrarily query the context for its status.

RaEncoderStatus rav1e_last_status(const RaContext *ctx);

To simulate the rust Debug functionality a to_str function is provided.

char *rav1e_status_to_str(RaEncoderStatus status);


The C API workflow is similar to the Rust one, albeit a little more verbose due to the error checking.

    RaContext *rax = rav1e_context_new(rac);
    if (!rax) {
        printf("Unable to allocate a new context\n");
        goto clean;
    RaFrame *f = rav1e_frame_new(rax);
    if (!f) {
        printf("Unable to allocate a new frame\n");
        goto clean;
while (keep_going(i)){
     RaPacket *p;
     ret = rav1e_receive_packet(rax, &p);
     if (ret < 0) {
         printf("Unable to receive packet %d\n", i);
         goto clean;
     } else if (ret == RA_ENCODER_STATUS_SUCCESS) {
         printf("Packet %"PRIu64"\n", p->number);
     } else if (ret == RA_ENCODER_STATUS_NEED_MORE_DATA) {
         RaFrame *f = get_frame_by_some_mean(rax);
         ret = rav1e_send_frame(rax, f);
         if (ret < 0) {
            printf("Unable to send frame %d\n", i);
            goto clean;
        } else if (ret > 0) {
        // Cannot happen in normal conditions
            printf("Unable to append frame %d to the internal queue\n", i);
     } else if (ret == RA_ENCODER_STATUS_LIMIT_REACHED) {
         printf("Limit reached\n");

In closing

This article was mainly a good excuse to try and see write down some notes and clarify my ideas on what had been done API-wise so far and what I should change and improve.

If you managed to read till here, your feedback is really welcome, please feel free to comment, try the software and open issues for crav1e and rav1e.

Coming next

  • Working crav1e got me to see what's good and what is lacking in the c-interoperability story of rust, now that this landed I can start crafting and publishing better tools for it and maybe I'll talk more about it here.
  • Soon rav1e will get more threading-oriented features, some benchmarking experiments will happen soon.


  • Special thanks to Derek and Vittorio spent lots of time integrating crav1e in larger software and gave precious feedback in what was missing and broken in the initial iterations.
  • Thanks to David for the review and editorial work.
  • Also thanks to Matteo for introducing me to

Discussion (1)

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aliceferrazzi profile image

This looks interesting.
looking forward to see better c-interoperability tool for rust and benchmarks.