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Posted 27 Oct 2015


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How to Record and Playback Streaming Sequences in Intel® RealSense™ SDK

27 Oct 2015CPOL4 min read
The Intel® RealSense™ SDK provides a new feature for developers to record camera streaming sequences to a file on disk for future playback. This feature is very helpful in debugging and troubleshooting camera issues in the apps.

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The Intel® RealSense™ SDK provides a new feature for developers to record camera streaming sequences to a file on disk for future playback. This feature is very helpful in debugging and troubleshooting camera issues in the apps.

Recording raw color and depth streams into disk files imposes a challenge for disk IO bandwidth on the host system. For example, with color configuration RGB32 1920x1080x30fps and depth configuration 640x480x30fps, the SDK needs about 272MB/s disk I/O bandwidth to write the samples to the disk. This makes most spinning disks and certain slow SSDs not capable for such file recording jobs.

To solve the issue, the SDK provides an experimental feature to compress the samples before writing to the disk. The feature is based on H.264 encoding (I-frame only, constant QP) on color samples and lossless Lempel–Ziv–Oberhumer (LZO) encoding on depth samples. The compression rate is roughly 10:1 for color samples and 2:1 for depth samples. The disk I/O bandwidth is now reduced to about 32MB/s for the previous example. To use this feature, you need use Intel® Iris™ Graphics with the latest Intel Iris Graphics Driver. You can control the recording features with the following registry settings:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

By default, the H.264 compression is enabled on the color stream, and the LZO compression is enabled on all other streams. The H.264 QPI (I-frame quantization parameter) value ranges from 0 (least compression) to 51 (most compression).

Important Note: A recorded file with the H.264 compression can only be played back on systems with Intel Iris Graphics.

In C++, C# or Java code, use SetFileName from the CaptureManager instance to set the filename and mode (recording or playback)

C++ pxcStatus SetFileName(pxcCHAR *file, pxcBool record);
C# pxcmStatus SetFileName(String file, Boolean record);
Java pxcmStatus SetFileName(string file, boolean record);

file The full path of the file to playback or to be recorded.
record If true, set the recording mode. Otherwise, set the playback mode.

Steps to record the streaming sequences to a file

  • Use the SetFileName function from the CaptureManager instance.
  • Provide a file name and set the recording mode to true. There is no restriction on what the file name can be, except that in the recording mode, the file must be writable.
  • Change registry settings if you want to record uncompressed stream

Here is the sample codes to record or playback streaming sequences:

   void RecordORPlayback(pxcCHAR *file, bool record) {
   // Create a SenseManager instance
   PXCSenseManager *sm=PXCSenseManager::CreateInstance();

   // Set file recording or playback

   // Select the color stream

   // Initialize and Record 300 frames
   for (int i=0;i<300;i++) {
       // This function blocks until a color sample is ready
       if (sm->AcquireFrame(true)<PXC_STATUS_NO_ERROR) break;

       // Retrieve the sample
       PXCCapture::Sample *sample=sm->QuerySample();

       // Work on the image sample->color

       // Go fetching the next sample

   // close down

During recording, samples are recorded as they are processed by the application to the disk. For example, if the application captures unaligned color and depth samples, the samples on the disk are unaligned. If the application aligns the samples, the samples on the disk are aligned.

The recorded file contains a fixed-size header and the structure is:

struct Header {  

   pxcI32    ID;                    // PXC_UID('R','S','C','F')  
   pxcI32    fileVersion;           // file version  
   pxcI32    firstFrameOffset;      // The byte offset to the meta data of the first frame.  
   pxcI32    nstreams;              // The number of streams.  
   pxcI64    frameIndexingOffset;   // Optional frame indexing offset, zero if not available.    	     
   PXCSession::CoordinateSystem coordinateSystem; // The coordinate system setting.  
   pxcI32    reserved[26];  

The image frames of any stream are recorded sequentially after the header. It starts from ChunkFrameMetaData and ends with ChunkFrameData. In between, there could be multiple configuration frames that describe the metadata of the image frame. The metadata should be interpreted as delta or changes against what are defined in the file header section. This reduces the size if certain metadata are common for all frames. The frame structure is:

struct StreamFrame {
   ChunkFrameMetaData frame_header;

   // in no defined order
   ChunkImageMetaData image_meta_data;      // if any.

  // there could be more chunks here.
  ChunkFrameData     frame_data;
} frames[]

The ChunkFrameMetaData structure is:

struct ChunkFrameMetaData {
   ChunkId   chunkId=CHUNK_FRAME_META_DATA;
   pxcI32    chunkSize=sizeof(metaData);
   struct {
       pxcI32    frameNumber;  // frame number in the current stream
       PXCCapture::StreamType streamType;
       pxcI64    timeStamp;
       PXCImage::Option options;
   } metaData;

You can put ChunkImageMetaData in the frame, and its structure is:

struct ChunkImageMetaData {
   ChunkId   chunkId=CHUNK_IMAGE_META_DATA;
   pxcI32    chunkSize=sizeof(buffer)+sizeof(id);
   pxcUID    id;  // meta data identifier
   pxcBYTE   buffer[chunkSize-sizeof(id)];

The structure for uncompressed stream is:

struct ChunkFrameDataUncompressed {
   ChunkId   chunkId=CHUNK_FRAME_DATA;
   pxcI32    chunkSize=sizeof(imageData);
   struct {
       pxcI32  pitches[PXCImage::NUM_OF_PLANES];
       pxcBYTE plane0[pitches[0]*height];
       pxcBYTE planeN[pitches[PXCImage::NUM_OF_PLANES-1]*height];
   } imageData

And the structure for compressing stream is:

struct ChunkFrameDataCompressed {
   ChunkId   chunkId=CHUNK_FRAME_DATA;
   pxcI32    chunkSize=sizeof(imageData);
   struct {
       pxcI32  pitches[PXCImage::NUM_OF_PLANES]; // pitches of uncompressed image planes.
       enum {
       } CompressionIdentifier;
       pxcBYTE compressed_data[];
   } imageData

The RealSense™ SDK capture module will add the configuration frame in the file. The configuration frame can contain any arbitrary data identified by the chunk identifier and the chunk size. The order that the chunk data is presented in the file is not important with the general rule that if there are dependencies between two chunks, the dependent chunk should be placed later in the file. The ChunkData Structure is:

struct ChunkData {
   enum ChunkId {
       CHUNK_DEVICEINFO       =   1,
       CHUNK_STREAMINFO       =   2,
       CHUNK_PROPERTIES       =   3,
       CHUNK_PROFILES         =   4,
       CHUNK_SERIALIZEABLE    =   5,
       CHUNK_FRAME_META_DATA  =   6,
       CHUNK_FRAME_DATA       =   7,
       CHUNK_IMAGE_META_DATA  =   8,
       CHUNK_FRAME_INDEXING   =   9,
   }chunkId;               // The chunk identifier
   pxcI32    chunkSize;             // The chunk size in bytes-8.
   pxcBYTE   chunkData[chunkSize];  // The chunk data buffer
} chunks[];

There are some configuration frames that need to be in the files:

  • CHUNK_DEVICEINFO is for device info
  • CHUNK_STREAMINFO is for stream info
  • CHUNK_PROPERTIES for device properties
  • CHUNK_PROFILES for stream Profiles
  • CHUNK_SERIALIZEABLE for device calibration
  • CHUNK_FRAME_INDEXING for frame indexing

Steps to play the streaming sequences file

  • Use the SetFileName function from the CaptureManager instance.
  • Provide the rssdk format file name and set the recording mode to false.

For file playback, the SDK immediately creates the Capture instance (using the QueryCapture function), so that the application can query the capabilities of the recorded content. You can configure the SDK file playback behaviors as follows:

Function Default Description



If true, the file playback returns the same sample of the current frame repeatedly.



If true, the file playback returns the current frame sample at its presentation time (according to the sample time stamp.) If false, the file playback returns the sample immediately.

Choose pause=true and realtime=false if you want to accurately locate any frame data during playback. Here is the sample codes to show how to use SetRealtime and SetPause:

// Create a SenseManager instance 
PXCSenseManager* sm = PXCSenseManager::CreateInstance();

// Set file playback name
sm->QueryCaptureManager()->SetFileName(filename, false);

// Enable stream and Initialize
sm->EnableStream(PXCCapture::STREAM_TYPE_COLOR, 0, 0);

// Set realtime=false and pause=true

// Streaming loop
for (int i = 0; i < nframes; i+=3) {

   // Set to work on every 3rd frame of data

   // Ready for the frame to be ready
   pxcStatus sts = sm->AcquireFrame(true);
   if (sts < PXC_STATUS_NO_ERROR) break;

   // Retrieve the sample and work on it. The image is in sample->color.
   PXCCapture::Sample* sample = sm->QuerySample();

   // Resume processing the next frame

// Clean up

In the above discussion, we can see with this new Intel® RealSense™ SDK feature, developers can embed code to record camera streaming sequences into compressed files on disk, and playback later. This feature is very helpful in debugging and troubleshooting issues in the apps.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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