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Qt on Android: How to create a zero-copy Android SurfaceTexture QML item


Android SurfaceTexture is used by all Android classes that need to display (a lot of) frames, it can be used to display media player, camera, etc. You can also use it in combination with other players: OpenMAX, VLC, etc. (well, VLC and other C++ player are using MediaCodec) to decode the images directly to our SurfaceTexture. As you can see it’s pretty useful.

In this tutorial we’re going to see how easy it is to create a media player using this QML item and the Android’s Media player. We’re going to use Android’s MediaPlayer, to exercise our JNI skills ;-).

Please create a simple Quick(Controls) Applications.

Step I

Add QtAndroidExtras module to your .pro file . We’re going to use QtAndroidExtras a lot.

QT += androidextras

Step II

First let’s create a new class QAndroidMediaPlayer, which inherits QObject. Then, let’s create our MediaPlayer, in QAndroidMediaPlayer constructor


QAndroidMediaPlayer::QAndroidMediaPlayer(QObject *parent)
    : QObject(parent)
    , m_mediaPlayer("android/media/MediaPlayer")

m_mediaPlayer is declared as: QAndroidJniObject m_mediaPlayer

In QAndroidMediaPlayer’s destructor we must call release method. Because we don’t know what state the m_mediaPlayer is in, before reset, we’re going to call stop and reset methods.

    QAndroidJniEnvironment env;

Next task is to implement a playFile Q_INVOKABLE method.

void QAndroidMediaPlayer::playFile(const QString &file)
    QAndroidJniEnvironment env;
    // m_mediaPlayer must be in idle state when calling
    // setDataSource, so we call stop and reset before.

    // try to stop the media player.

    // try to reset the media player.

    // set the path of the file
    m_mediaPlayer.callMethod<void>("setDataSource", "(Ljava/lang/String;)V",

    // prepare media player

    // start playing

At this moment we have a workable media player that can play any media files (supported by Android codecs). The only problem we have is that we don’t see any images when playing video files 🙂 . Let’s fix that problem!

First and foremost, let’s add a new property to QAndroidMediaPlayer to set a new Surface to Android’s MediaPlayer object.

void QAndroidMediaPlayer::setVideoOut(QSurfaceTexture *videoOut)
    if (m_videoOut == videoOut)
    m_videoOut = videoOut;

    // Create a new Surface object from our SurfaceTexture
    QAndroidJniObject surface("android/view/Surface",

    // Set the new surface to m_mediaPlayer object
    m_mediaPlayer.callMethod<void>("setSurface", "(Landroid/view/Surface;)V",

    emit videoOutChanged();

Step III

Implement a QQuickItem which wraps a SurfaceTexture Android object. This item will be used to display the frames that are pushed into SurfaceTexture. Basically we rewrite Google’s in Qt.

We start by creating a new class QSurfaceTexture which inherits QQuickItem and overwrites updatePaintNode method.

Let’s see the header file:

class QSurfaceTexture : public QQuickItem
    QSurfaceTexture(QQuickItem *parent = nullptr);

    // returns surfaceTexture Java object.
    const QAndroidJniObject &surfaceTexture() const { return m_surfaceTexture; }

    // QQuickItem interface
    QSGNode *updatePaintNode(QSGNode *n, UpdatePaintNodeData *) override;

    // our texture
    uint32_t m_textureId = 0;

    // Java SurfaceTexture object
    QAndroidJniObject m_surfaceTexture;

There’s no magic here, we need surfaceTexture member to access m_surfaceTexture (used by QAndroidMediaPlayer::setVideoOut), we also declare our m_textureId.

Now, let’s see the implementation file:

QSurfaceTexture::QSurfaceTexture(QQuickItem *parent)
    : QQuickItem(parent)

    // Delete our texture
    if (m_textureId) {
        glBindTexture(GL_TEXTURE_EXTERNAL_OES, 0);
        glDeleteTextures(1, &m_textureId);

We need to set ItemHasContents flag in constructor, and, in destructor, to delete the texture (if it was created).

Now, let’s focus on updatePaintNode method.

QSGNode *QSurfaceTexture::updatePaintNode(QSGNode *n, QQuickItem::UpdatePaintNodeData *)
    SurfaceTextureNode *node = static_cast<SurfaceTextureNode *>(n);
    if (!node) {
        // Create texture
        glGenTextures(1, &m_textureId);
        glBindTexture(GL_TEXTURE_EXTERNAL_OES, m_textureId);

        // Can't do mipmapping with camera source

        // Clamp to edge is the only option

        // Create a SurfaceTexture Java object
        m_surfaceTexture = QAndroidJniObject("android/graphics/SurfaceTexture", "(I)V", m_textureId);

        // We need to setOnFrameAvailableListener, to be notify when a new frame was decoded
        // and is ready to be displayed. Check android/src/com/kdab/android/
        // file for implementation details.
                                                            "(J)V", jlong(this)).object());
        // Create our SurfaceTextureNode
        node = new SurfaceTextureNode(m_surfaceTexture, m_textureId);

    // flip vertical
    QRectF rect(boundingRect());
    float tmp =;

    QSGGeometry::updateTexturedRectGeometry(node->geometry(), rect, QRectF(0, 0, 1, 1));
    node->markDirty(QSGNode::DirtyGeometry | QSGNode::DirtyMaterial);
    return node;

We’ll check immediately. SurfaceTextureNode is a custom QSGGeometryNode, we’ll see its implementation after we’ll check SurfaceTextureListener.
The rest of the comments should be enough to understand the code.

Now let’s check

public class SurfaceTextureListener implements SurfaceTexture.OnFrameAvailableListener
    private long m_callback = 0;

    public SurfaceTextureListener(long callback)
        m_callback = callback;

    public void onFrameAvailable (SurfaceTexture surfaceTexture)
        // call the native method
        frameAvailable(m_callback, surfaceTexture);

    public native void frameAvailable(long nativeHandle, SurfaceTexture surfaceTexture);

You’ll need to add this file to your project in android/src/com/kdab/android folder. Also, make sure ANDROID_PACKAGE_SOURCE_DIR qmake variable is set to android sources folder.


This class is needed to call a native function to signal when a new frame was decoded. Let’s check the C/C++ function implementation.

extern "C" void Java_com_kdab_android_SurfaceTextureListener_frameAvailable(JNIEnv */*env*/, jobject /*thiz*/, jlong ptr, jobject /*surfaceTexture*/)
    // a new frame was decoded, let's update our item
    QMetaObject::invokeMethod(reinterpret_cast<QSurfaceTexture*>(ptr), "update", Qt::QueuedConnection);

This function is called from decoder thread, therefore we’re using QMetaObject::invokeMethod to post a method call to update method on QSurfaceTexture’s thread.

Next, let’s take a look to SurfaceTextureNode implementation. SurfaceTextureNode inherits QSGGeometryNode which is needed to render the texture content using the geometry and material. As you can see, the texture is not bound as a GL_TEXTURE_2D, but as GL_TEXTURE_EXTERNAL_OES (needed by Android MediaCodec/Player/Camera/etc.), so, we’ll need to use a shader to draw it (otherwise QSGSimpleTextureNode is more suitable to display textures).

class SurfaceTextureNode : public QSGGeometryNode
    SurfaceTextureNode(const QAndroidJniObject &surfaceTexture, GLuint textureId)
        : QSGGeometryNode()
        , m_surfaceTexture(surfaceTexture)
        , m_geometry(QSGGeometry::defaultAttributes_TexturedPoint2D(), 4)
        , m_textureId(textureId)
        // we're going to use "preprocess" method to update the texture image
        // and to get the new matrix.


        // Create and set our SurfaceTextureShader
        QSGSimpleMaterial<State> *material = SurfaceTextureShader::createMaterial();
        material->setFlag(QSGMaterial::Blending, false);

        // We're going to get the transform matrix for every frame
        // so, let's create the array once
        QAndroidJniEnvironment env;
        jfloatArray array = env->NewFloatArray(16);
        m_uSTMatrixArray = jfloatArray(env->NewGlobalRef(array));

        // delete the global reference, now the gc is free to free it

    // QSGNode interface
    void preprocess() override;

    QAndroidJniObject m_surfaceTexture;
    QSGGeometry m_geometry;
    jfloatArray m_uSTMatrixArray = nullptr;
    GLuint m_textureId;

void SurfaceTextureNode::preprocess()
    QSGSimpleMaterial<State> *mat = static_cast<QSGSimpleMaterial<State> *>(material());
    if (!mat)

    // update the texture content

    // get the new texture transform matrix
    m_surfaceTexture.callMethod<void>("getTransformMatrix", "([F)V", m_uSTMatrixArray);
    QAndroidJniEnvironment env;
    env->GetFloatArrayRegion(m_uSTMatrixArray, 0, 16, mat->state()->;

    // Activate and bind our texture
    glBindTexture(GL_TEXTURE_EXTERNAL_OES, m_textureId);

This class creates and sets our SurfaceTextureShader (the material), then on every frame it updates the texture image and gets its transform matrix.

Next let’s check SurfaceTextureShader class and State structure. SurfaceTextureShader is based on QSGSimpleMaterialShader

struct State {
    // the texture transform matrix
    QMatrix4x4 uSTMatrix;

    int compare(const State *other) const
        return uSTMatrix == other->uSTMatrix ? 0 : -1;

In this structure, we only need the texture transform matrix. This matrix is updated by SurfaceTextureNode::preprocess method and used, below, by SurfaceTextureShader::updateState method.

class SurfaceTextureShader : QSGSimpleMaterialShader<State>

    // vertex & fragment shaders are shamelessly "stolen" from 🙂
    const char *vertexShader() const {
                "uniform mat4 qt_Matrix;                            n"
                "uniform mat4 uSTMatrix;                            n"
                "attribute vec4 aPosition;                          n"
                "attribute vec4 aTextureCoord;                      n"
                "varying vec2 vTextureCoord;                        n"
                "void main() {                                      n"
                "  gl_Position = qt_Matrix * aPosition;             n"
                "  vTextureCoord = (uSTMatrix * aTextureCoord).xy;  n"

    const char *fragmentShader() const {
                "#extension GL_OES_EGL_image_external : require                     n"
                "precision mediump float;                                           n"
                "varying vec2 vTextureCoord;                                        n"
                "uniform lowp float qt_Opacity;                                     n"
                "uniform samplerExternalOES sTexture;                               n"
                "void main() {                                                      n"
                "  gl_FragColor = texture2D(sTexture, vTextureCoord) * qt_Opacity;  n"

    QList<QByteArray> attributes() const
        return QList<QByteArray>() << "aPosition" << "aTextureCoord";

    void updateState(const State *state, const State *)
        program()->setUniformValue(m_uSTMatrixLoc, state->uSTMatrix);

    void resolveUniforms()
        m_uSTMatrixLoc = program()->uniformLocation("uSTMatrix");
        program()->setUniformValue("sTexture", 0); // we need to set the texture once

    int m_uSTMatrixLoc;

In SurfaceTextureShader we have (almost) the same vertex & fragment shaders as in, the only difference is the qt shader vars (qt_Matrix and qt_Opacity).

Step IV

Put everything together and enjoy our MediaPlayer!

The main.cpp changes

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
    QGuiApplication app(argc, argv);

    // Register our QML type
    qmlRegisterType<QSurfaceTexture>("", 1, 0, "SurfaceTexture");

    // Create a player
    QAndroidMediaPlayer player;

    QQmlApplicationEngine engine;

    // Set the player
    engine.rootContext()->setContextProperty("_mediaPlayer", &player);

    return app.exec();

The QML code

import QtQuick 2.5
import QtQuick.Controls 1.4
import 1.0

ApplicationWindow {
    visible: true
    width: 640
    height: 480
    title: qsTr("SurfaceTexture example")

    SurfaceTexture {
        id: videoItem
        anchors.fill: parent

        // Set media player's video out
        Component.onCompleted: _mediaPlayer.videoOut = videoItem;

        MouseArea {
            anchors.fill: parent
            onClicked: _mediaPlayer.playFile("/sdcard/testfile.mp4");

As you can see, the path to file is hard-coded, so make sure you push a video file to /sdcard/testfile.mp4, or change that value.

Last thing we need to do is to set min API version on your AndroidManifest.xml file to 14, because the needed Surface constructor was added in API 14.

Now, the only thing we need to do, is to tap on the screen to play that video file!

You can find the full source code of this article here:

6 thoughts on “Qt on Android: How to create a zero-copy Android SurfaceTexture QML item”

    1. BogDan Vatra

      Not very easy.
      You can put a SurfaceView on top of the other Qt controls and pass it to a media player, but you’ll not be able to draw anything on top.

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