When the link between two Membrane elements works in :pull mode, data between them is sent only when requested by an element consuming buffers. That "request" in our framework is called "demand".

Demand unit

Demands might have one of the following units:

  • :bytes — self-explanatory, refers to the number of bytes as an actual amount of data
  • :buffers — when demanding n buffers, element expects to receive n Membrane.Buffer structs. Their size might be dependent on capabilities, the previous elements or their configuration. For example, element Membrane.Element.File.Source has an option named chunk_size that defines how big the buffers are.

Demand units handled by element should be specified as parameters of def_input_pads, i.e.:

def_input_pads input: [
  mode: :pull,
  demand_in: :bytes,

Handling incoming demand in a downstream element

When an element that produces buffers (Source or Filter) receives a demand, it is expected to produce data and send it through one of its output pads. Elements handle incoming demands via handle_demand/5 callback that is supplied with the following parameters:

  • pad - the name of the output pad on which the demand has been received
  • size - the amount of data that is expected to be sent on given pad. It is important to note that the entire demand is always passed to handle_demand and it overrides previous value.
  • unit - unit of the demand, self-explanatory
  • context - Membrane.Element.CallbackContext.Demand structure, contains useful information like actual playback state of the element or size of the last demand (in a case where this size is equal to 0 it means that handle_demand has been triggered by :redemand action, see below)
  • state - actual internal state of the element (like in every other callback)

Below, the very simple case of handling demand in Source element is presented. It just produces buffers on the spot in the handle_demand callback:

@impl true
def handle_demand(:output, size, :buffers, _ctx, state) do
  buffers =
    1..size |> num -> %Membrane.Buffer{payload: generate_payload(num)} end)

  {{:ok, buffer: {:output, buffers}}, state}

Demanding data from Sink or Filter

Demanding is done by returning {:demand, {pad_name, demand_size}} action from one of the callbacks. For Filters the most common case is to return :demand from handle_demand callback. It can be perceived as translating received demand from output pad to the other upstream element through the input pad:

@impl true
def handle_demand(:output, size, _unit, %Ctx.Demand{}, state) do
  {{:ok, demand: {:input, size}}, state}

Like when receiving demand, passed value is meant to override the previous one.

If there is a need to refer to the previous value, the anonymous function can be provided, i.e.:

@impl true
def handle_event(:output, %SomeEvent{}, _context, state) do
  {{:ok, demand: demand: {:input, & &1+1}}, state}

Above example just increments by one more buffer (or byte, depending on the demand_unit) the value that was demanded previously.

Action :redemand

Generally, :redemand action can be used in Sources or Filters. Its usage differs little in case of these two elements types, but the effect is the same: invoking handle_demand callback again. When returning :redemand action from the callback, it should be supplied with the name of the appropriate output pad, i.e.:

@impl true
def handle_other(%Membrane.Buffer{} = buffer, _ctx, state) do
  {{:ok, buffer: {:output, :buffer}, redemand: :output}, state}

:redemand in Sources

In case of Sources, :redemand is just a helper that simplifies element's code. The element doesn't need to generate the whole demand synchronously at handle_demand or store current demand size in its state, but it can just generate one buffer and return :redemand action. If there is still one or more buffers to produce, returning :redemand will trigger the next invocation of handle_demand Element will produce next buffer and call :redemand again. If there are no more buffers demanded, handle_demand won't be invoked and the loop will end. One more advantage of the approach with :redemand action is that produced buffers will be sent one after another in separate messages and this could possibly improve the latency.

:redemand in Filters

:redemand in Filters is useful in a situation where not the entire demand of output pad has been satisfied and there is a need to send a demand for additional buffers through the input pad. A typical example of this situation is a parser that has not demanded enough bytes to parse the whole frame.

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