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Using WebAssembly for Multimedia Processing

By David Li on 2023-09-23T11:33:12.000Z

Using WebAssembly for Multimedia Processing


WebAssembly (often abbreviated as wasm) is a binary instruction format designed as a portable target for the compilation of high-level languages like C, C++, and Rust. It enables the deployment of code on the web with performance close to native code. One of the key strengths of WebAssembly is its ability to run code at near-native speed by taking advantage of common hardware capabilities available on various platforms.

In this article, we will explore how WebAssembly can be used for multimedia processing tasks, such as audio and video manipulation, image processing, and more. We’ll discuss the advantages of using WebAssembly for these tasks, demonstrate some examples, and provide resources for further learning.

Advantages of Using WebAssembly for Multimedia Processing

There are several reasons why WebAssembly is well-suited for multimedia processing tasks:

  1. Performance: WebAssembly provides near-native performance, which is crucial for real-time multimedia processing applications. This is especially important for tasks that require a lot of computational power, such as video encoding or image manipulation.

  2. Portability: WebAssembly code can run on any modern web browser, regardless of the underlying platform. This means that multimedia processing applications written in WebAssembly can be easily deployed across different devices and operating systems without modification.

  3. Language Support: WebAssembly supports a range of high-level languages, allowing developers to use familiar programming languages and libraries for multimedia processing tasks.

  4. Security: WebAssembly applications run in a secure sandboxed execution environment, which isolates them from the surrounding system. This ensures that multimedia processing tasks are performed securely, without exposing sensitive data or system resources.

Example: Image Processing with WebAssembly

To demonstrate the use of WebAssembly for multimedia processing, let’s consider a simple example of image processing using the popular library OpenCV. We will create a WebAssembly module that applies a Gaussian blur filter to an input image.


Before we begin, make sure you have the following tools installed:

  • Emscripten SDK: This is a toolchain for compiling C/C++ code to WebAssembly. You can download it from the Emscripten website.
  • OpenCV: We will use the C++ version of OpenCV for our example. You can download it from the OpenCV website.

Creating the WebAssembly Module

First, let’s create a simple C++ file called `gaussian_blur.:

#include <opencv2/opencv.hpp>
#include <opencv2/core/core.hpp>
#include <opencv2/imgproc/imgproc.hpp>
#include <emscripten/bind.h>

using namespace cv;
using namespace emscripten;

Mat gaussianBlur(const Mat& input, int ksize, double sigma) {
    Mat output;
    GaussianBlur(input, output, Size(ksize, ksize), sigma);
    return output;

EMSCRIPTEN_BINDINGS(gaussian_blur) {
    function("gaussianBlur", &gaussianBlur, allow_raw_pointers());

In this code snippet, we define a function gaussianBlur that takes an input image (in OpenCV’s Mat format), a kernel size, and a sigma value for the Gaussian blur filter. The function applies the filter using OpenCV’s GaussianBlur function and returns the result.

We then use Emscripten’s EMSCRIPTEN_BINDINGS macro to expose the gaussianBlur function to JavaScript.

Compiling the WebAssembly Module

Next, we’ll compile the C++ file to WebAssembly using the Emscripten compiler:

emcc gaussian_blur.cpp -O3 -s WASM=1 -s ALLOW_MEMORY_GROWTH=1 -s MODULARIZE=1 -s EXPORT_NAME="'GaussianBlurModule'" -o gaussian_blur.js -I/path/to/opencv/include -L/path/to/opencv/lib -lopencv_core -lopencv_imgproc

This will generate two files: gaussian_blur.js and gaussian_blur.wasm. The former is a JavaScript glue code that loads and initializes the WebAssembly module, while the latter contains the compiled WebAssembly binary.

Using the WebAssembly Module

Finally, let’s create an HTML file that loads the WebAssembly module and applies the Gaussian blur filter to an input image:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <title>Image Processing with WebAssembly</title>
    <input type="file" id="inputImage" accept="image/*">
    <canvas id="resultCanvas"></canvas>
    <script src="gaussian_blur.js"></script>
        const inputImage = document.getElementById('inputImage');
        const resultCanvas = document.getElementById('resultCanvas');
        inputImage.addEventListener('change', async (event) =>            {
                const file = event.target.files[0];
                const image = new Image();
                image.src = URL.createObjectURL(file);

                image.onload = async () => {
                    const { gaussianBlur } = await GaussianBlurModule();

                    const inputMat = cv.imread(image);
                    const outputMat = gaussianBlur(inputMat, 5, 0);
                    cv.imshow(resultCanvas, outputMat);


In this HTML file, we have an input element for selecting an image file and a canvas element for displaying the result. We also load the gaussian_blur.js script, which initializes the WebAssembly module.

When the user selects an image file, we create an Image object and set its src attribute to a URL representing the file. Once the image has loaded, we call the gaussianBlur function, passing the input image, kernel size, and sigma value. We then display the result on the canvas element.


In this article, we have explored the use of WebAssembly for multimedia processing tasks, focusing on a simple example of image processing using the OpenCV library. We demonstrated the advantages of using WebAssembly for these tasks, such as near-native performance, portability, and language support.

There are many other multimedia processing tasks that can benefit from WebAssembly, such as audio processing, video encoding and decoding, and more. We encourage you to explore further and leverage the power of WebAssembly for your multimedia processing needs.

Further Resources

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