Pull to refresh

Electron + web camera (cpp-ffmpeg)

C++ *Development for MacOS *ReactJS *
Recovery mode

An example of using Electron + React JS and a native ffmpeg addon to access a webcamera

This guide may be helpful to someone who is trying to find a way
to work with Electron if they need to use a c++ library or code

I was looking for a more realistic example than a simple 'hello world' and i didn't succeed

Here are the links in advance:

So let me share my experience

We have three layers:

  • main (launches BrowserWindow, listens for signals and is considered a backend)

  • rendering (runs React JS, handles UI events, shows video frame and info)

  • native (responsible for ffmpeg, starts/stops the video, sends a callback to the main layer)

Render thread cannot directly access the main thread and vice versa

All communications must be done through the ipcMain/ipcRenderer modules

(it provides methods to allow synchronous and asynchronous messages to be sent from these layers).

Set the listener in main.ts

It will receive events from Render thread and pass them to native layer

ipcMain.on('ipc-example', async (event, arg) => {
  if(arg.type == 'startCamera') {
  } else if(arg.type == 'stopCamera') {
  } else if(arg.type == 'setDimention') {
      addon.setDimention(arg.width, arg.height)

Listen to responses from Native and translate them to Render thread

We set the listener callback just a couple of lines below

So we have a completed chain:
Render -> Main -> Native
Native -> Main -> Render

  addon.setCb(function(data) {
    if(data.type == 'stats') {
      mainWindow.webContents.send('ipc-example_stats', data)
    } else if(data.type == 'frame') {
      mainWindow.webContents.send('ipc-example_frame', data)

Now it's time to see what's on the render thread

We will send events 'startCamera', 'stopCamera' and 'setDimention

It's a simple React.Component class and props for handling UI logic

I hope everything is clear from the names:

export default class Root extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
      this.state = { 
        videoActive: false,
        buttonText: 'Start video',
        packets: 0,
        errors: 0,
        resolution: 0,
        frame: null,
        frameBytes: 0,
        frameWidth: 1000,
        frameHeight: 1000

To send messages from Render to Main use this construct

ipcRenderer.<method name>()

And to set a listener on certain channel

ipcRenderer.on('ipc-name', (cb) => {}

So, the full code is:

  componentDidMount() {
      window.electron.ipcRenderer.on('ipc-example_stats', (data) => {
        this.setState({ videoActive: data.is_active == true } )
        this.setState({ buttonText: data.is_active == true ? 'stop video' : 'start video'} )
        this.setState({ packets: data.packet_cnt } )
        this.setState({ errors: data.err_cnt } )
      window.electron.ipcRenderer.on('ipc-example_frame', (data) => {
        this.setState({ resolution: data.width + 'x' + data.height} )
        this.setState({ frame: data.data} )
        this.setState({ frameBytes: data.data.byteLength } )
        this.setState({ frameWidth: data.width } )
        this.setState({ frameHeight: data.height } )

And when the class is no longer needed, we have to remove these listeners:

  componentWillUnmount() {

We may have noticed the this.updateFrame() method

This is where the canvas is loaded with a video frame:

  updateFrame() {
    var canvas = document.getElementById("frameCanvas");
    var ctx = canvas.getContext("2d");
    var data = this.state.frame
    var len = this.state.frameBytes
    var frameHeight = this.state.frameHeight
    var frameWidth = this.state.frameWidth
    if(data == null || len == 0 || frameHeight == 0 || frameWidth == 0) return

    var imageData = ctx.createImageData(frameWidth, frameHeight);
    const data_img = imageData.data;
    var pixels = new Uint8Array(data)
    var i = 0; // cursor for RGBA buffer
    var t = 0; // cursor for RGB buffer
    var _len = data_img.length
    for(; i < _len; i += 4) {
      data_img[i]   = pixels[t+2]
      data_img[i+1] = pixels[t+1]
      data_img[i+2] = pixels[t]
      data_img[i+3] = 255
      t += 4;
    ctx.putImageData(imageData, 0, 0);

The UI will look like this:

  render() {
      return (
        <Row className="topPanel">
          <div className="status"/>
             button enable/disable video 
          <Button className="button"
            onClick={()=> {
              if(this.state.videoActive) {
              } else {

        <Col className="stats">
            <label className="text_caption">Packets: {this.state.packets},</label>
            <label className="text_caption">Errors: {this.state.errors},</label>
            <label className="text_caption">Resolution: {this.state.resolution}</label>

Now let's look at the native layer
Most of the work is in it
First time I thought it would be really hard
Especially concerning linking and compiling libraries

But it turned out to be quite simple, since the 'node-gyb build'
does its job perfectly and there is not much difference compared to the bare cmake

The entry point is "Init"
In this place we create m_video and set the listeners

We cannot send data to JS right away
V8 imposes restrictions on access to threads
Thus it is impossible to pass data from other thread to main without synchronization
Thread-safe methods called Napi::ThreadSafeFunction are used for this task

The strategy is to store the data from the callback into a queue
And process this queue from Napi::ThreadSafeFunction:

Napi::Object Init(Napi::Env env, Napi::Object exports) {
    m_video = new Video();
    m_video->setStatusCallBack(([&](VideStats stats) {
        if(threadCtx == NULL) return;
        auto data = new DataItemStats();
        data->type = DataItemType::DataStats;
        data->stats = new VideStats();
        data->stats->is_active = stats.is_active;
        data->stats->packet_cnt = stats.packet_cnt;
        data->stats->err_cnt = stats.err_cnt;
    m_video->setFrameCallBack(([&](AVFrame* frame, uint32_t bufSize) {
        if(frame != NULL) {
            auto data = new DataItemFrame();
            data->type = DataItemType::DataFrame;
            data->frame = new uint8_t[bufSize];
            data->frame_buf_size = bufSize;
            data->width = frame->width;
            data->height = frame->height;
            memcpy(data->frame, (uint8_t*)frame->data[0], bufSize);
        } else {
            std::cout << "frameCallback: frame == null" << std::endl;
    exports["setCb"] = Napi::Function::New(env, setCallback, std::string("setCallback"));
    exports.Set(Napi::String::New(env, "setCameraEnabled"), Napi::Function::New(env, StartVideo));
    exports.Set(Napi::String::New(env, "setCameraDisable"), Napi::Function::New(env, StopVideo));
    exports.Set(Napi::String::New(env, "setDimention"), Napi::Function::New(env, SetDimention));

Inside the queue, use these classes:

class DataItem {
    DataItemType type;

And since we have different data types (frames, info)

The best way is to extend derived classes

class DataItemStats : public DataItem {
    VideStats* stats;
class DataItemFrame : public DataItem {
    uint8_t* frame;
    uint32_t frame_buf_size;
    int width;
    int height;

All data is collected inside one class for convenience:

struct ThreadCtx {
    ThreadCtx(Napi::Env env) {};
    std::thread nativeThread;
    Napi::ThreadSafeFunction tsfn;
    bool toCancel = false;
    std::queue<DataItem*> m_data_queue;
    std::mutex m_data_lock;
    std::condition_variable m_data_cv;

And the methods that were described above in - exports["setCb"]

Must have an implementation:

Napi::Value setCallback(const Napi::CallbackInfo& info) {
    auto env = info.Env();
    threadCtx = new ThreadCtx(env);
    // a safe function
    threadCtx->tsfn = Napi::ThreadSafeFunction::New(
                            0, 1 , 
        [&]( Napi::Env, void *finalizeData, ThreadCtx *context ) {

    // a thread for the queue
    // it calls threadCtx->tsfn.BlockingCall
    // and sends a json to js layer
    threadCtx->nativeThread = std::thread([&]{
        auto callbackStats = [](Napi::Env env, Napi::Function cb, char* buffer) {
            auto data = (DataItemStats*)buffer;
            if(data == NULL) return;

            Napi::Object obj = Napi::Object::New(env);
            obj.Set("type", std::string("stats"));
            obj.Set("is_active", std::to_string(data->stats->is_active));
            obj.Set("packet_cnt", std::to_string(data->stats->packet_cnt));
            obj.Set("err_cnt", std::to_string(data->stats->err_cnt));
            delete data->stats;
            delete data;
        auto callbackFrame = [](Napi::Env env, Napi::Function cb, char* buffer) {
            auto data = (DataItemFrame*)buffer;
            if(data == NULL) return;

            napi_value arrayBuffer;
            void* yourPointer = malloc(data->frame_buf_size);
            napi_create_arraybuffer(env, data->frame_buf_size, &yourPointer, &arrayBuffer);
            memcpy((uint8_t*)yourPointer, data->frame, data->frame_buf_size);

            Napi::Object obj = Napi::Object::New(env);
            obj.Set("type", std::string("frame"));
            obj.Set("data", arrayBuffer);
            obj.Set("width", data->width);
            obj.Set("height", data->height);
            delete data->frame;
            delete data;
        while(!threadCtx->toCancel) {
            DataItem* data_item = NULL;
            std::unique_lock<std::mutex> lk(threadCtx->m_data_lock);
            threadCtx->m_data_cv.wait(lk, [&] {
                return !threadCtx->m_data_queue.empty();

            while(!threadCtx->m_data_queue.empty()) {
                data_item = threadCtx->m_data_queue.front();
                if(data_item == NULL) continue;

                if(data_item->type == DataItemType::DataStats) {
                    napi_status status = threadCtx->tsfn.BlockingCall((char*)data_item, callbackStats);
                    if (status != napi_ok) {
                        // Handle error
                } else if(data_item->type == DataItemType::DataFrame) {
                    napi_status status = threadCtx->tsfn.BlockingCall((char*)data_item, callbackFrame);
                    if (status != napi_ok) {
                        // Handle error
    return Napi::String::New(info.Env(), std::string("SimpleAsyncWorker for seconds queued.").c_str());

And a couple of methods that don't need a queue:

Napi::Boolean StartVideo(const Napi::CallbackInfo& info) {
    std::cout << "Command: startCamera\n";
    if(!m_video->isStarted()) {
    Napi::Env env = info.Env();
    return Napi::Boolean::New(env, true);
Napi::Boolean StopVideo(const Napi::CallbackInfo& info) {
    std::cout << "Command: stopCamera\n";
    if(m_video->isStarted()) {
    Napi::Env env = info.Env();
    return Napi::Boolean::New(env, true);
Napi::Value SetDimention(const Napi::CallbackInfo& info) {
    if(m_video == NULL || !m_video->isStarted()) {
        std::cout << "Command: setDimention -camera is not started!\n";
    } else if(info.Length() == 2) {
        int width = info[0].As<Napi::Value>().ToNumber();
        int height = info[1].As<Napi::Value>().ToNumber();;
        std::cout << "Command: setDimention: " << ",width=" << width << ",height=" << height << std::endl;
        m_video->setResolution(width, height);
    } else {
        std::cout << "Command: setDimention missed arguments\n";
    return Napi::Number::New(info.Env(), true);

At the end should be this define:

NODE_API_MODULE(addon, Init)

The c++ addon itself is included as a submodule and will be cloned automatically

But it has to be built independently

Keep in mind
The build ffmpeg is not in the repository (because of its relatively large size)
You must build ffmpeg as a shared library
And then edit the path in binding.gyp (src/native/binding.gyp)

'libraries': [

The project is written on macos

If you need Windows/Linux support, you must specify the appropriate methods for avformat_open_input

You can see the exact location by this code

const char* VideoSource::getDeviceFamily() {
#ifdef _WIN32
  const char *device_family = "dshow";
#elif __APPLE__
  const char *device_family = "avfoundation";
#elif __linux__
  const char *device_family = "v4l2";
  return device_family;

If you have any question you can contact me.

Total votes 3: ↑3 and ↓0 +3
Views 893
Comments Leave a comment