Bluish Coder

Programming Languages, Martials Arts and Computers. The Weblog of Chris Double.


Reading Ogg files using libogg

Reading data from an Ogg file is relatively simple. The file format is well documented in RFC 3533. I showed how to read the format using JavaScript in a previous post.

For C and C++ programs it's easier to use the libraries. There are libraries for decoding specific formats (libvorbis, libtheora) and there is a library for reading data from Ogg files (libogg).

I'm prototyping some approaches to improve the performance of the Firefox Ogg video playback and while I'm at it I'll write some posts on using these libraries to decode/play Ogg files. Hopefully it'll prove useful to others using them and I can get some feedback on usage.

All the code for this is in the plogg git repository on github. The 'master' branch contains the work in progress player that I'll describe in a series of posts, and there are branches specific to the examples in each post.

The libogg documentation describes the API that I'll be using in this post. All that this example will do is read an Ogg file, read each stream in the file and count the number of packets for that stream. It prints the number of packets. It doesn't decode the data or do anything really useful. That'll come later.

You can think of an Ogg file as containing logical streams of data. Each stream has a serial number that is unique within the file to identify it. A file containing Vorbis and Theora data will have two streams. A Vorbis stream and a Theora stream.

Each stream is split up into packets. The packets contain the raw data for the stream. The process of decoding a stream involves getting a packet from it, decoding that data, doing something with it, and repeating.

That describes the logical format. The physical format of the Ogg file is split into pages of data. Each physical page contains some part of the data for one stream.

The process of reading and decoding an Ogg file is to read pages from the file, associating them with the streams they belong to. At some point we then go through the pages held in the stream and obtain the packets from it. This is the process the code in this example follows.

The first thing we need to do when reading an Ogg file is find the first page of data. We use a ogg_sync_state structure to keep track of search for the page data. This needs to be initialized with ogg_sync_init and later cleaned up with ogg_sync_clear:

ifstream file("foo.ogg", ios::in | ios::binary);
ogg_sync_state state;
int ret = ogg_sync_init(&state);
...look for page...

Note that the libogg functions return an error code which should be checked, A result of '0' generally indicates success. We want to obtain a complete page of Ogg data. This is held in an ogg_page structure. The process of obtaining this structure is to do the following steps:

  1. Call ogg_sync_pageout. This will take any data current stored in the ogg_sync_state object and store it in the ogg_page. It will return a result indicating when the entire pages data has been read and the ogg_page can be used. It needs to be called first to initialize buffers. It gets called repeatedly as we read data from the file.
  2. Call ogg_sync_buffer to obtain an area of memory we can reading data from the file into. We pass the size of the buffer. This buffer is reused on each call and will be resized if needed if a larger buffer size is asked for later.
  3. Read data from the file into the buffer obtained above.
  4. Call ogg_sync_wrote to tell libogg how much data we copied into the buffer.
  5. Resume from the first step, calling ogg_sync_buffer. This will copy the data from the buffer into the page, and return '1' if a full page of data is available.

Here's the code to do this:

ogg_page page;
while(ogg_sync_pageout(&state, &page) != 1) {
  char* buffer = ogg_sync_buffer(oy, 4096);
  assert(buffer);, 4096);
  int bytes = stream.gcount();
  if (bytes == 0) {
    // End of file

  int ret = ogg_sync_wrote(&state, bytes);
  assert(ret == 0);

We need to keep track of the logical streams within the file. These are identified by serial number and this number is obtained from the page. I create a C++ map to associate the serial number with an OggStream object which holds information I want associated with the stream. In later examples this will hold data needed for the Theora and Vorbis decoding process.

class OggStream
  int mSerial;
  ogg_stream_state mState;
  int mPacketCount;

typedef map<int, OggStream*> StreamMap; 

Each stream has an ogg_stream_state object that is used to keep track of the data read that belongs to the stream. We're storing this in the OggStream object that we associated with the stream serial number. Once we've read a page as described above we need to tell libogg to add this page of data to the stream.

StreamMap streams;
ogg_page page = ...obtained previously...;
int serial = ogg_page_serialno(&page);
OggStream* stream = 0;
if (ogg_page_bos(&page) {
  stream = new OggStream(serial);
  int ret = ogg_stream_init(&stream->mState, serial);
  assert(ret == 0);
  streams[serial] = stream;
  stream = streams[serial];

int ret = ogg_stream_pagein(&stream->mState, &page);
assert(ret == 0);

This code uses ogg_page_serialno to get the serial number of the page we just read. If it is the beginning of the stream(ogg_page_bos) then we create a new OggStream object, initialize the stream's state with ogg_stream_init, and store it in out streams map. If it's not the beginning of the stream we just get our existing entry in the map. The final call to ogg_stream_pagein inserts the page of data into the streams state object. Once this is done we can start looking for completed packets of data and decode them.

To decode the data from a stream we need to retrieve a packet from it. The steps for doing this are:

  1. Call ogg_stream_packetout. This will return a value indicating if a packet of data is available in the stream. If it is not then we need to read another page (following the same steps previously) and add it to the stream, calling ogg_stream_packetout again until it tells us a packet is available. The packet's data is stored in an ogg_packet object.
  2. Do something with the packet data. This usually involves calling libvorbis or libtheora routines to decode the data. In this example we're just counting the packets.
  3. Repeat until all packets in all streams are consumed.

The code for this is:

while ( a page...) {
  ...put page in stream...  
  ogg_packet packet;
  int ret = ogg_stream_packetout(&stream->mState, &packet);    
  if (ret == 0) {
    // Need more data to be able to complete the packet
  else if (ret == -1) {
    // We are out of sync and there is a gap in the data.
    // We lost a page somewhere.

  // A packet is available, this is what we pass to the vorbis or
  // theora libraries to decode.

That's all there is to reading an Ogg file. There are more libogg functions to get data out of the stream, identify end of stream, and various other useful functions but this covers the basics. Try out the example program in the github repository for more information.

Note that the libogg functions don't require reading from a file. You can use these routines with any data you've obtained. From a socket, from memory, etc.

In the next post about reading Ogg files I'll go through using libtheora to decode the video data and display it.


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