The DECODE class of functions takes a compressed bitstream as input and converts it to raw frames as output.

DECODE processes only pure or elementary video streams. The library cannot process bitstreams that reside in a container format, such as MP4 or MPEG. The application must first de-multiplex the bitstreams. De-multiplexing extracts pure video streams out of the container format. The application can provide the input bitstream as one complete frame of data, less than one frame (a partial frame), or multiple frames. If only a partial frame is provided, DECODE internally constructs one frame of data before decoding it.

The time stamp of a bitstream buffer must be accurate to the first byte of the frame data. That is, the first byte of a video coding layer NAL unit for H.264, or picture header for MPEG-2 and VC-1. DECODE passes the time stamp to the output surface for audio and video multiplexing or synchronization.

Decoding the first frame is a special case, since DECODE does not provide enough configuration parameters to correctly process the bitstream. DECODE searches for the sequence header (a sequence parameter set in H.264, or a sequence header in MPEG-2 and VC-1) that contains the video configuration parameters used to encode subsequent video frames. The decoder skips any bitstream prior to that sequence header. In the case of multiple sequence headers in the bitstream, DECODE adopts the new configuration parameters, ensuring proper decoding of subsequent frames.

DECODE supports repositioning of the bitstream at any time during decoding. Because there is no way to obtain the correct sequence header associated with the specified bitstream position after a position change, the application must supply DECODE with a sequence header before the decoder can process the next frame at the new position. If the sequence header required to correctly decode the bitstream at the new position is not provided by the application, DECODE treats the new location as a new “first frame” and follows the procedure for decoding first frames.

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