Plug-in Distributors

Plug-in distributors (PIDs) are a way to extend the functionality of the filter graph manager. A plug-in distributor is a COM object that the filter graph manager aggregates at run time. Applications obtain access to the PID through the filter graph manager.

When the filter graph manager is queried for an interface that it does not support, it searches the registry for a key with the following form:


IID is a string containing the interface identifier. If the registry entry exists, the value of the entry defines the class identifier (CLSID) of a PID that supports the interface. The filter graph manager aggregates the PID and returns an interface pointer, thereby acting as the outer IUnknown for the PID. When the application calls methods on the interface, it is actually calling them on the PID. However, the existence of the PID is transparent to the application.

The term distributor stems from the fact that a PID can query its outer IUnknown pointer for interfaces on the filter graph manager. By calling the IFilterGraph::EnumFilters method, the PID can enumerate the filters in the graph and distribute method calls to those filters. In this way, a PID can serve as a single control point for the application to call methods on filters.

When the filter graph manager aggregates a PID, it queries the PID for the IDistributorNotify interface. If the PID supports this interface, the filter graph manager uses it to notify the PID about changes in the graph:

To implement a custom PID, create a COM object that supports aggregation. It must support an interface that the filter graph manager does not already support. Optionally, it can support the IDistributorNotify interface.

If the PID obtains any interface pointers from the filter graph manager, it should release them immediately. Otherwise, it might create a circular reference count, which could prevent the filter graph manager from being destroyed. Holding a reference count on the filter graph manager is unnecessary in any case, because the filter graph manager controls the PID's lifetime.

Because a PID is designed specifically for aggregation by the filter graph manager, you might want to enforce this in the PID's constructor method. Check whether the outer IUnknown pointer is NULL, and if so, return the error code VFW_E_NEED_OWNER. (See Error and Success Codes.) Also, to prevent other objects from aggregating the PID, you can query the outer IUnknown pointer for the IGraphBuilder interface. Return an error code if the object does not expose IGraphBuilder.