Xilinx Media Accelerator (XMA)

Major XMA Changes in 2019.2 Release:

  1. YAML configuration file is not used by XMA
  2. Resource management is not handled by XMA
    1. So channel_id for multi-channel kernels must be handled in host video application (like ffmpeg)
    2. channel_id is input to XMA in session_create API as part of the properties argument
    3. See XRM for resource management details
  3. MPSoC PL & soft kernels are supported in XMA
  4. Direct register read & write is not available
  5. DataFlow kernels are supported (In-Progress)
  6. ZeroCopy support has changed. See below for details
  7. BufferObject added. See below for details
  8. XmaFrame & XmaDataBuffer can use device buffers instead of host only memory
  9. Support for device_only buffers
  10. Session creation & destroy APIs are thread safe now
  11. Multi-process support is from XRT
  12. schedule_work_item API changed to return CUCmdObj
  13. New API xma_plg_schedule_cu_cmd & xma_plg_cu_cmd_status can be used instead of schedule_work_item
  14. In a session if using xma_plg_cu_cmd_status then do NOT use xma_plg_is_work_item_done in same session
  15. Supports up to 128 CUs per device
  16. CU register map size < 4KB
  17. By default XMA will automatically select default ddr bank for new device buffers (as per selected CU). Session_create may provide user selected default ddr bank input when XMA will use user select default ddr bank for plugin with that session
  18. For using ddr bank other than default session ddr_bank use APIs xma_plg_buffer_alloc_arg_num(). See below for info
  19. XMA now support multiple ddr bank per plugin. See below for info on xma_plg_buffer_alloc_arg_num()
  20. XMA version check API added to plugin struct. See below for details
  21. New session type XMA_ADMIN for non-video applications to control multiple CUs in single session. See below for details
  22. get_session_cmd_load(): Get CU command load of various sessions relative to each other. Printed to log file
  23. CU command load of all session is automatically sent to log file at end of the application
  24. This gives info on which sessions (or CUs) are more busy compared to other sessions (or CUs)


The Xilinx Media Accelerator (XMA) library (libxmaapi) is a host interface meant to simplify the development of applications managing and controlling video accelerators such as decoders, scalers, filters, and encoders. The libxmaapi is comprised of two API interfaces: an application interface and a plugin interface. The application API is a higher-level, generalized interface intended for application developers responsible for integrating control of Xilinx accelerators into software frameworks such as FFmpeg, GStreamer, or proprietary frameworks. The plugin API is a lower level interface intended for developers responsible for implementing hardware control of specific Xilinx acceleration kernels. In general, plugins are developed by kernel providers as these plugins are specialized user space drivers that are aware of the low-level hardware interface.

From a high-level perspective, the XMA sits between a media framework (i.e. FFmpeg) and the Xilinx runtime (XRT). In addition, the XMA acts as a peer to the host side implementation of OpenCL. The diagram below illustrates the entire stack including an example of common accelerator kernels that are possible in a specific design:


The remaining sections will describe the key architectural aspects of the libxmaapi and describe the high-level API along with the low-level plugin API.

XMA Application Interface Overview

The API for the libxmaapi can be categorized into three areas:

  1. Initialization
  2. Video frame processing
  3. Termination

From an interface perspective, the high-level or upper edge interface and the low-level or plugin interface are organized as follows:


The diagram above illustrates a number of distinct API layers. The XMA upper edge initialization API provides two types of initialization: global and session level initialization. The XMA upper edge API also provides functions for sending and receiving frames as well as a method for gracefully terminating a video stream when the end of the stream is found. Also depicted in the diagram is the XMA Framework. The XMA Framework is responsible for delegating requests to the appropriate plugin, and selecting user requested resources based on session creation requests.

See the Application Development Guide for more information about utilizing the XMA application interface to development your own stand alone or integrated applications.

XMA Plugin Interface Overview

The XMA lower edge API parallels the upper edge API; however, the lower edge API is comprised of function callbacks similar to those used in a driver or as defined in the FFmpeg plugin interface.

There are five classes of XMA plugin interfaces: decoders, encoders, filters, scalers, and a generic ‘kernel’ class. Since each of these classes are unique in terms of the processing performed, the APIs are slightly different, however, there is a common pattern associated with these classes. Specifically, a plugin must provide registration information and must implement all required callback functions. In general, an XMA plugin implements at least five required callback functions: initialize, send frame or send data, receive frame or receive data, close and xma_version.


  1. uint8_t* data : Pointer to host buffer space of allocated buffer
  2. uint64_t size: Size of allocated buffer
  3. uint64_t paddr: a. FPGA DDR Addr of allocated buffer. b. Use it to pass DDR addr to CUs as part of regmap with xma_plg_schedule_cu_cmd or xma_plg_schedule_work_item API
  4. int32_t bank_index: DDR bank index
  5. int32_t dev_index: FPGA device index on which the buffer is allocated
  6. bool device_only_buffer: If it is device only buffer.
  7. For device only buffers, BufferObject → data == NULL as no host buffer space is allocated
  8. ref_cnt & user_ptr: For plugin/user to use

XmaFrame & XmaDataBuffer with device buffers:

  1. xma_frame_from_device_buffers()
  2. xma_data_from_device_buffer()

ZeroCopy use cases:

  1. Use XRM for system resource reservation such that zero-copy is possible
  2. XmaFrame with device only buffer can be output of plugins supporting zero-copy and feeding zero-copy enabled plugin/s
  3. Plugins may use dev_index, bank_index & device_only info from BufferObject to enable or disable zero-copy

ZeroCopy trancode pipeline:

  1. Decoder->Scaler->Encoder
  2. FFMPEG completes xma_init & create session for all plugins
  3. Pass zerocopy settings for plugins to use
  4. FFMPEG –> send_data with host buffer –> decoder plugin
  5. Decoder plugin uses device buffers for input & output of kernel. Decoder has pool of device buffers to use. Decoder plugin does buffer write to DMA data to FPGA
  6. FFMPEG –> receive frame with DUMMY frame –> decoder plugin
  7. Decoder plugin adds output device buffer to the frame: xma_plg_add_buffer_to_frame()
  8. FFMPEG –> send frame to scaler - same as received from decoder with device buffer
  9. Scaler plugin uses device buffer from input frame as it’s input & uses an output buffer from it’s pool of buffers
  10. FFMPEG –> receive frame with DUMMY frame –> scaler plugin
  11. Scaler plugin adds output device buffer to the frame: xma_plg_add_buffer_to_frame()
  12. FFMPEG –> send frame to encoder - same as received from scaler with device buffer
  13. Encoder plugin uses device buffer from input frame as it’s input & uses an output buffer from it’s pool of buffers
  14. FFMPEG –> receive frame with DUMMY DataBuffer –> encoder plugin
  15. Encoder plugin adds output device buffer to the DataBuffer: xma_plg_add_buffer_to_data_buffer(). Encoder plugin does buffer read to DMA output data from FPGA to host
  16. Thus DMA to/from host is only at start and end of pipline. At other times data remain on device only and no DMA is required

By way of example, the following represents the interface of the XMA Encoder class:

typedef struct XmaEncoderPlugin
    /** specific encoder type */
    XmaEncoderType  hwencoder_type;
    /** Specific encoder vendor */
    const char     *hwvendor_string;
    /** input video format fourcc index */
    XmaFormatType   format;
    /** bits per pixel for primary plane of input format */
    int32_t         bits_per_pixel;
    /** size of allocated kernel-wide private data */
    //size_t          kernel_data_size;This is removed;
    /** size of allocated private plugin data.*/
    size_t          plugin_data_size;
    /** Initalization callback.  Called during session_create() */
    int32_t         (*init)(XmaEncoderSession *enc_session);
    /** Callback called when application calls xma_enc_send_frame() */
    int32_t         (*send_frame)(XmaEncoderSession *enc_session,
                                XmaFrame          *frame);
    /** Callback called when application calls xma_enc_recv_data() */
    int32_t         (*recv_data)(XmaEncoderSession  *enc_session,
                                XmaDataBuffer      *data,
                                int32_t            *data_size);
    /** Callback called when application calls xma_enc_session_destroy() */
    int32_t         (*close)(XmaEncoderSession *session);

    /** Callback invoked at start to check compatibility with XMA version */
    int32_t         (*xma_version)(int32_t *main_version, int32_t *sub_version);

    /** Reserved */
    uint32_t        reserved[4];

} XmaEncoderPlugin;

Finally, the XMA offers a set of buffer management utilities that includes the creation of frame buffers and encoded data buffers along with a set of miscellaneous utility functions. By providing XMA buffer management functions, it is possible for an XMA plugin to easily integrate with virtually any higher-level media framework without requiring any changes. Instead, it is up to the upper level media framework functions to convert buffers into the appropriate XMA buffer. The sections that follow will describe the layers of the API in more detail and provide examples of how these functions are called from both the perspective of an application and from the perspective of an XMA plugin. For the low-level details of the APIs, please consult the doxygen documentation.

Sequence of Operations

In order to better understand how XMA integrates with a standard multi-media framework such as FFmpeg, the sequence diagram that follows identifies the critical operations and functions called as part of a hypothetical encoder. The diagram only calls out the initialization and processing stages:


As shown in the diagram above, the system is comprised of five blocks:

  • The FFmpeg Command Line application that is used to create a processing graph
  • The FFmpeg encoder plugin that interfaces with the XMA Upper Edge Interface to manage a video session
  • The XMA Upper Edge library interface responsible for initialization, resource allocation, and dispatching of the XMA plugin
  • The XMA Lower Edge plugin responsible for interfacing with the SDAccel Video Kernel
  • The XMA Video Kernel responsible for accelerating the encoding function

While this sequence diagram only shows five components, more complex systems can be developed that include multiple accelerators with the associated XMA plugin and FFmpeg plugin. In fact, adding new processing blocks is controlled entirely by the FFmpeg command line and the presence of the requested accelerator kernels. No additional development is required if all of the SDAccel kernels are available along with the associated plugins. In this example, an FFmpeg command is invoked that ingests an MP4 file encoded as H.264 and re-encodes the file as H.264 at a lower bit rate. As a result, the main() function of the FFmpeg command is invoked and this calls the xma_initialize() function. The xma_initialize() function is called prior to executing any other XMA functions and performs a number of initialization steps that are detailed in a subsequent section.

Once the xma_initialize() successfully completes, the FFmpeg main() function performs initialization of all requested processing plugins. In this case, the hypothetical encoder plugin has been registered with FFmpeg and the initialization callback of the plugin is invoked. The FFmpeg encoder plugin begins by creating an XMA session using the xma_enc_session_create() function. The xma_enc_session_create() function uses available resource based on the properties supplied and, invokes the XMA plugin initialization function. The XMA plugin initialization function allocates any required input and output buffers on the device and performs initialization of the SDAccel kernel if needed. Default session ddr_bank can be provided in properties supplied to xma_enc_session_create() function. If this ddr_bank_index is -1 then XMA will automatically select default sesion ddr_bank to be used else user provided dr_bank is selected as default session ddr_bank. Plugins may use ddr_bank other than default session ddr_bank. For using ddr bank other than default session ddr_bank use APIs xma_plg_buffer_alloc_arg_num(). Also cu_name or cu_index can be provided in properties supplied to xma_enc_session_create() function. If cu_index is -1 then cu_name is used to use CU for the session.

After initialization has completed, the FFmpeg main() function reads encoded data from the specified file, decodes the data in software, and sends the raw video frame to the FFmpeg plugin for encoding by calling the encode2() plugin callback. The encode2() callback function converts the AVFrame into an XmaFrame and forwards the request to the XMA Upper Edge interface via the xma_enc_session_send_frame() function. The xma_enc_session_send_frame() function locates the corresponding XMA plugin and invokes the send frame callback function of the plugin. The XMA send frame callback function writes the frame buffer data to a pre-allocated DDR buffer on the device and launches the kernel. After the FFmpeg plugin encode2() function has sent the frame for encoding, the next step is to determine if encoded data can be received or if another raw frame should be sent. In most cases, an encoder will want several raw frames before providing encoded data. Supplying multiple frames before generated encoded data improves video quality through a look ahead and improves performance by allowing new frame data to be written to the device DDR in parallel with processing previously supplied frames. Assuming a frame is ready to be received, the xma_enc_session_recv_data() function is called by the FFmpeg plugin and in turn results in the receive data function of the XMA plugin being invoked. The XMA plugin communicates with the kernel to ensure that data is ready to be received, determines the length of the encoded data, and reads the encoded data from DDR device memory to host memory. The description above is meant as a high-level introduction to FFmpeg and XMA. The remainder of this document covers these topics in more depth and provides code examples to help illustrate usage of the XMA.

Execution model

The APIs are:

  1. xma_plg_schedule_cu_cmd
  2. xma_plg_schedule_work_item
  3. xma_plg_is_work_item_done
  4. xma_plg_cu_cmd_status

Lets consider the various purposes where the above APIs would be useful.

xma_plg_schedule_cu_cmd / xma_plg_schedule_work_item should be used to start the kernel with supplied kernel arguments

xma_plg_is_work_item_done should be used to check if kernel has completed atleast one work item (previously submitted by xma_plg_schedule_cu_cmd / xma_plg_schedule_work_item).

xma_plg_cu_cmd_status should be used to check status of kernel commands supplied as list of commands in argument (previously submitted by xma_plg_schedule_cu_cmd / xma_plg_schedule_work_item).

Application Development Guide

The XMA application interface is used to provide an API that can be used to control video accelerators. The XMA API operations fall into four categories:

  1. Initialization
  2. Create session
  3. Runtime frame/data processing
  4. Cleanup


The first act an application must perform is that of initialization of the system environment. This is accomplished by calling xma_initialize() and passing in device and xclbin info.

Create Session

Each kernel class (i.e. encoder, filter, decoder, scaler, filter, kernel) requires different properties to be specified before a session can be created.

See the document for the corresponding module for more details for a given kernel type:

  1. xmadec
  2. xmaenc
  3. xmafilter
  4. xmascaler
  5. xmakernel

The general initialization sequence that is common to all kernel classes is as follows:

  1. define key type-specific properties of the kernel to be initialized
  2. call the_session_create() routine corresponding to the kernel (e.g. xma_enc_session_create())

Runtime Frame and Data Processing

Most kernel types include routines to consume data and then produce data from host memory buffers. Depending on the nature of the kernel, you may be required to send a frame and then receive data or vice versa. XMA defines buffer data structures that correspond to frames (XmaFrame) or data (XmaFrameData). These buffer structures are used to communicate with the kernel application APIs and include addresses to host memory. The XMA Application Interface includes functions to allocate data from host or device memory and create these containers for you. See xmabuffers.h for additional information.

Some routines, such as that of the encoder, may require multiple frames of data before recv_data() can be called. You must consult the API to ensure you check for the correct return code to know how to proceed. In the case of the encoder, calling xma_enc_session_send_frame() may return XMA_SEND_MORE_DATA which is an indication that calling recv_data() will not yield any data as more frames must be sent before any output data can be received.

Of special note is the XmaKernel plugin type. This kernel type is a generic type and not necessarily video-specific. It is used to represent kernels that perform control functions and/or other functions not easily represented by any of the other kernel classes.


When runtime video processing has concluded, the application should destroy each session. Doing so will free the session to be used by another thread or process and ensure that the kernel plugin has the opportunity to perform proper cleanup/closing procedures.

  1. xma_enc_session_destroy()
  2. xma_dec_session_destroy()
  3. xma_scaler_session_destroy()
  4. xma_filter_session_destroy()
  5. xma_kernel_session_destroy()

See XMA copy_encoder & copy_filter examples for more info.

Plugin Development Guide

The XMA Plugin Interface is used to write software capable of managing a specific video kernel hardware resource. The plugin interface consists of a library for moving data between device memory and host memory and accessing hardware registers. Additionally, standard interfaces are defined to represent various video kernel archtypes such as encoders, decoders, and filters.

The plugin developer, by implementing a given plugin interface, permits XMA to translate requests from XMA applications into hardware-specific actions (i.e. register programming, buffer processing). The XMA plugin is akin to a software ‘driver’ in this regard.

The first step in developing an XMA plugin requires you to decide which XMA kernel interface accurately represents the type of hardware kernel for which you seek to provide support:

Kernel Type XMA Plugin Interface
Encoders (VP9, H.264, H.265) xmaplgenc
Decoders (VP9, H.264, H.265) xmaplgdec
Filters (colorspace converter, scalers) xmaplgfilter or xmaplgscaler
Scalers xmaplgscaler
Other (embedded cpu) xmaplgkernel

Once selected, the job of the plugin author is to implement the interface for the given kernel thus providing a mapping between the xma_app_intf and the kernel. Most callbacks specified are implicitly mandatory with some exceptions which will be noted below.

Your plugin will be compiled into a shared object library and linked to the kernel via create_session properties:

All plugin code must include xmaplugin.h

#include <xmaplugin.h>

This will provide the plugin code access to all data structures necessary to author XMA plugin code. This includes access to the structures used by the xma_app_intf as xmaplugin.h includes xma.h.

What follows is a general description of what is expected of a plugin in response to the xma_app_intf.

From the application perspective, the following operations will be peformed:

  1. Create session
  2. Send data/frame or write**
  3. Receive data/frame or read**
  4. Destroy

** in the case of a non-video kernel

Steps 2 and 3 will form the runtime processing of frames/data and likely repeated for as long as there is data to be processed.

A general mapping between the application interface and plugin interface:

Application Call Plugin Callbacks Invoked
session_create() init()
send_(data|frame)() send_(data|frame)()
recv_(data|frame)() recv_(data|frame)()
destroy() close()


Initialization is the time for a plugin to perform one or more of the following:

  1. allocate device buffers to handle input data as well as output data
  2. initalize the state of the kernel

When a session has been created in response to an application request, XMA will allocate plugin data that is session-specific.

XmaSession->plugin_data member is available to plugin to store the necessary session-specific state as necessary. There is no need to free these data structures during termination; XMA frees this data for you.

To allocate buffers necessary to handle both incoming and outgoing data, please see

  1. xma_plg_buffer_alloc(): Allocate device buffer on default session ddr_bank
  2. xma_plg_buffer_alloc_arg_num(): Allocate device buffer on ddr_bank connected to a kernel argument

Handling Incoming Application Data

For each kernel type, there is an application interface to send data to be proceessed (i.e. encoded, decoded, or otherwised transformed). Data being sent by an application to the kernel will result in the invocation of your send()/write() callback.

The most common operation within the plugin is to copy data from host memory to device memory so that it may be operated on by the kernel. Subsequently, the kernel must be programmed to know which device buffer contains the data to be processed and programmed appropriately.

The XMA Plugin library call xma_plg_buffer_write() can be used to copy host data to device data.

xma_plg_schedule_cu_cmd() or xma_plg_schedule_work_item() can be used to program the kernel registers and start kernel processing.

Sending Output to the Application

For each kernel type, there is an application interface to request processed data (i.e. encoded, decoded, otherwise transformed) by the kernel. Data being requested by an application from the kernel will invoke your recv()/read() callback implementation.

The most common operation within the plugin is to copy data from device memory back to host memory so that it may be processed by the application. Subsequently, the kernel may be prepared for new data to arrive for processing.

The XMA Plugin library call xma_plg_buffer_read() can be used to copy host data to device data.


When an XMA application has concluded data processing, it will destroy its kernel session. Your close() callback will be invoked to perform the necessary cleanup. Your close() implementation should free any buffers that were allocated in device memory during your init() via xma_plg_buffer_free(). Freeing XmaSession->plugin_data is not necessary as this will be done by the XMA library.

Zerocopy Special Case

Encoders are capable of receiving data directly from upstream video processing kernels such as filters or scalers. In such a case, it may improve the the performance of a video processing pipeline that includes both a filter and an encoder to exchange data directly within device memory rather than have the filter copy data back to a host buffer only to be re-copied from the host to the device buffer of the downstream encoder. This double-copy can be avoided if the two kernels can share a buffer within the device memory; a buffer that serves as an ‘output’ buffer for the filter but an ‘input’ buffer for the encoder. This optimization is known as ‘zerocopy’.

Use XRM for system resource reservation such that zero-copy is possible XmaFrame with device only buffer can be output of plugins supporting zero-copy and feeding zero-copy enabled plugin/s Plugins may use dev_index, bank_index & device_only info from BufferObject to enable or disable zero-copy

See XMA copy_encoder & copy_filter examples for more info.

For stateful/multi-channel kernels (eg decodre, encoder):

  1. Use dataflow kernels with context/channels for best performance. Use HLS/RTL Wizard with appropriate settings to generate these kernels in 2019.2 release toolset.
  2. All work items within a channel are treated as FIFO. Kernel must maintain this order for a channel.
  3. See spec for kernels with dataflow with channels. Kernel regamp registers at offset 0x10 (channel_id input to kernel) and 0x14 (channel_id output from kernel) must be supported by kernels.
  4. Use xrt_ini settings (dataflow; kernel_channels) to enable dataflow kernel with channels

Using DRM (Digital Right Management) IPs:

  1. For register read/write use XRT APIs from libxrt_core
  2. Use APIs xclRead & xclWrite. APIs are depricated and will be removed in 2020.2 release
  3. xclRegRead/Write APIs may NOT work for DRM IPs depending on application setup/use-case
  4. Register read/write is discouraged
  5. DRM solution/setup without register read/write is preferred
  6. DRM solution/setup using standard XMA APis is preferred

Compiling ffmpeg or host aplication with libxma2api:

  1. GCC link flag to use: -Wl,–unresolved-symbols=ignore-in-shared-libs
  2. Example ffmpeg configure cmd:

./configure –prefix=/root_path/ffmpeg/build –pkg-config-flags=”–static” –extra-cflags=’-I/opt/xilinx/xrt/include/xma2 -I/root_path/ffmpeg/build/include’ –extra-ldflags=’-L/opt/xilinx/xrt/lib -L/root_path/ffmpeg/build/lib’ –extra-libs=’-Wl,–unresolved-symbols=ignore-in-shared-libs -lxma2api -lpthread -ldl’ –bindir=/root_path/ffmpeg/bin –enable-pthreads –enable-shared –enable-libxma2api –enable-pic –enable-gpl –enable-nonfree