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This article describes how to setup the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix (VDPAU).

Hardware support

Driver Chipset
nvidia-drivers GeForce 8 (2. Generation) PureVideo HD and newer. See /usr/share/doc/nvidia-drivers-<version>/html/supportedchips.html for the full list of supported cards.
S3 Chrome 430 GT and newer
Radeon Support is available for r300 and newer



Portage knows the global USE flag vdpau for enabling support for VDPAU in other packages. Enabling this USE flag will pull in x11-libs/libvdpau automatically:

FILE /etc/portage/make.conf

After adding the above USE flag update the system so the changes take effect:

root #emerge --ask --changed-use --deep @world

USE flags

The USE flags of libvdpau are:

USE flags for x11-libs/libvdpau VDPAU wrapper and trace libraries

doc Add extra documentation (API, Javadoc, etc). It is recommended to enable per package instead of globally
dri Enable direct rendering: used for accelerated 3D and some 2D, like DMA
test Enable dependencies and/or preparations necessary to run tests (usually controlled by FEATURES=test but can be toggled independently)

AMD/Radeon specific steps

By default applications such as mplayer, vlc, vdpauinfo, make VDPAU specific calls via libvdpau library. This library then dynamically loads appropriate back-end driver.

At the time of writing the mechanism to automatically decide which back-end driver needs to be loaded was not established. Currently libvdpau is hardcoded[1] to load NVIDIA backend driver. It means that VDPAU will not work properly on Radeon cards. The only possible way to change that behavior is by specifying the correct back-end driver manually.

First you need to find the name of the driver related to your hardware (here we assume that the vdpau USE flag was enabled and the system was updated successfully). One way to find that name is by checking Xorg log file:

user $grep -i vdpau /var/log/Xorg.0.log
(II) RADEON(0): [DRI2]   VDPAU driver: r300

The output will show if VDPAU driver has been initialized properly (two leading (II) letters in the sample output above). It also should specify the name of back-end driver (r300 in the sample output).

Now you can manually setup the name of back-end driver with help of VDPAU_DRIVER environment variable. To do that you need to add the following line to ~/.bashrc file (provided that Bash is the default shell of a user who is going to run graphical environment). For the sample case described above the mentioned line would look like:

FILE ~/.bashrcLogged in as a user who run graphical interface
export VDPAU_DRIVER=r300

Now x11-misc/vdpauinfo should show you an information about your VDPAU configuration instead of an error message.

user $vdpauinfo
display: :0   screen: 0
API version: 1
Information string: G3DVL VDPAU Driver Shared Library version 1.0
Video surface:
name   width height types
420     2048  2048  NV12 YV12
422     2048  2048  NV12 YV12
444     2048  2048  NV12 YV12 Y8U8V8A8 V8U8Y8A8
Decoder capabilities:
name               level macbs width height
MPEG1                16 16384  2048  2048
MPEG2_SIMPLE         16 16384  2048  2048
MPEG2_MAIN           16 16384  2048  2048
If the AMD GPU is not the primary GPU the DRI_PRIME=1 variable should also be set for applications to be able to use VDPAU.

Additional software

NVIDIA specific steps

With the proprietary driver vdpau works out of the box, however nouveau driver requires firmware:

root #emerge nvidia-firmware


You may need to tweak the config files of the programs, you can make use of VDPAU.


Detect the available VDPAU video codecs:

user $mplayer -vc help | grep --color vdpau

Add them to the mplayer config file, e.g.:

FILE /etc/mplayer/mplayer.conf
The comma at the end of the vc line is important! This tells MPlayer to fall back to other video out methods if the VDPAU driver is unsuccessful

See also

  • AMDGPU — the open source graphics drivers for AMD Radeon and other GPUs.
  • AMDGPU-PRO — the next generation closed source graphics component that operates on top of the open source AMDGPU drivers for newer AMD/ATI Radeon graphics cards.
  • VAAPI — provides access to graphics hardware (GPU) acceleration for video processing.
  • Vulkan — a next-generation graphics API created by The Khronos Group.
  • Xorg/Hardware 3D acceleration guide — a guide to getting 3D acceleration working using the DRM with Xorg in Gentoo.