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Revision as of 15:32, 27 November 2013 by F-putter (talk | contribs) (Screen cast to .webm: change template to inline Wikipedia link, as intended)
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From the project home page:

FFmpeg is a complete, cross-platform solution to record, convert and stream audio and video. It includes libavcodec - the leading audio/video codec library.

Package installation

Various flavors and related projects can be installed from the official repositories and the AUR:

Notable variants:

  • ffmpeg-gitAUR – development version
  • ffmpeg-fullAUR – built with as much optional features enabled as possible


  • ffmbcAUR – targeted for broadcasting usage
  • libav-gitAUR – the binary it provides is called avconv instead of ffmpeg

Encoding examples

Screen cast to .webm

Using x11grab to grab your display and using ALSA for sound.

First we create lossless raw file test.mkv:

$ ffmpeg -f x11grab -r 30 -i :0.0 -f alsa -i hw:0,0 -acodec flac -vcodec ffvhuff test.mkv

Then we process this test.mkv file into a smaller test.webm end product. Complex switches like c:a and c:v convert the stream into what's needed for Wikipedia:WebM.

$ ffmpeg -y -i test.mkv -c:a libvorbis -q:a 3 -c:v libvpx -b:v 2000k test.webm

See https://github.com/kaihendry/recordmydesktop2.0/ for a more fleshed out example.

Recording webcam

FFmpeg supports grabbing input from Video4Linux2 devices. The following command will record a video from the webcam, assuming that the webcam is correctly recognized under /dev/video0:

$ ffmpeg -f v4l2 -s 640x480 -i /dev/video0 output.mpg

The above produces a silent video. It is also possible to include audio sources from a microphone. The following command will include a stream from the default ALSA recording device into the video:

$ ffmpeg -f alsa -i default -f v4l2 -s 640x480 -i /dev/video0 output.mpg

To use PulseAudio with an ALSA backend:

$ ffmpeg -f alsa -i pulse -f v4l2 -s 640x480 -i /dev/video0 output.mpg

For a higher quality capture, try encoding the output using higher quality codecs:

$ ffmpeg -f alsa -i default -f v4l2 -s 640x480 -i /dev/video0 -acodec flac \
-vcodec libx264 output.mkv

VOB to any container

Concatenate the desired VOB files into a single VOB file:

$ cat video-1.VOB video-2.VOB video-3.VOB > output.VOB

Concatenate and then pipe the output VOB to FFmpeg to use a different format:

$ cat video-1.VOB video-2.VOB video-3.VOB > output.VOB | ffmpeg -i ...

x264 lossless

The ultrafast preset will provide the fastest encoding and is useful for quick capturing (such as screencasting):

$ ffmpeg -i input -vcodec libx264 -preset ultrafast -qp 0 -acodec copy output.mkv

On the opposite end of the preset spectrum is veryslow and will encode slower than ultrafast but provide a smaller output file size:

$ ffmpeg -i input -vcodec libx264 -preset veryslow -qp 0 -acodec copy output.mkv

Both examples will provide the same quality output.

Single-pass MPEG-2 (near lossless)

Allow FFmpeg to automatically set DVD standardized parameters. Encode to DVD MPEG-2 at a frame rate of 30 frames/second:

$ ffmpeg -i video.VOB -target ntsc-dvd -q:a 0 -q:v 0 output.mpg

Encode to DVD MPEG-2 at a frame rate of 24 frames/second:

$ ffmpeg -i video.VOB -target film-dvd -q:a 0 -q:v 0 output.mpg

x264: constant rate factor

Used when you want a specific quality output. General usage is to use the highest -crf value that still provides an acceptable quality. Lower values are higher quality; 0 is lossless, 18 is visually lossless, and 23 is the default value. A sane range is between 18 and 28. Use the slowest -preset you have patience for. See the x264 Encoding Guide for more information.

$ ffmpeg -i video -vcodec libx264 -preset slow -crf 22 -acodec libmp3lame -aq 4 output.mkv

-tune option can be used to match the type and content of the of media being encoded.


FFmpeg is very useful to encode videos and strip their size before you upload them on YouTube. The following single line of code takes an input file and outputs a mkv container.

$ ffmpeg -i video -c:v libx264 -crf 18 -preset slow -pix_fmt yuv420p -c:a copy output.mkv

For more information see the forums. You can also create a custom alias ytconvert which takes the name of the input file as first argument and the name of the .mkv container as second argument. To do so add the following to your ~/.bashrc:

        ffmpeg -i $1 -c:v libx264 -crf 18 -preset slow -pix_fmt yuv420p -c:a copy $2.mkv
alias ytconvert=youtubeConvert

See also Arch Linux forum thread.

Two-pass x264 (very high-quality)

Audio deactivated as only video statistics are recorded during the first of multiple pass runs:

$ ffmpeg -i video.VOB -an -vcodec libx264 -pass 1  -preset veryslow \
-threads 0 -b 3000k -x264opts frameref=15:fast_pskip=0 -f rawvideo -y /dev/null

Container format is automatically detected and muxed into from the output file extenstion (.mkv):

$ ffmpeg -i video.VOB -acodec libvo-aacenc -ab 256k -ar 96000 -vcodec libx264 \
-pass 2 -preset veryslow -threads 0 -b 3000k -x264opts frameref=15:fast_pskip=0 video.mkv
Tip: If you receive Unknown encoder 'libvo-aacenc' error (given the fact that your ffmpeg is compiled with libvo-aacenc enabled), you may want to try -acodec libvo_aacenc, an underscore instead of hyphen.

Two-pass MPEG-4 (very high-quality)

Audio deactivated as only video statistics are logged during the first of multiple pass runs:

$ ffmpeg -i video.VOB -an -vcodec mpeg4 -pass 1 -mbd 2 -trellis 2 -flags +cbp+mv0 \
-pre_dia_size 4 -dia_size 4 -precmp 4 -cmp 4 -subcmp 4 -preme 2 -qns 2 -b 3000k \
-f rawvideo -y /dev/null

Container format is automatically detected and muxed into from the output file extenstion (.avi):

$ ffmpeg -i video.VOB -acodec copy -vcodec mpeg4 -vtag DX50 -pass 2 -mbd 2 -trellis 2 \
-flags +cbp+mv0 -pre_dia_size 4 -dia_size 4 -precmp 4 -cmp 4 -subcmp 4 -preme 2 -qns 2 \
-b 3000k video.avi
  • Introducing threads=n>1 for -vcodec mpeg4 may skew the effects of motion estimation and lead to reduced video quality and compression efficiency.
  • The two-pass MPEG-4 example above also supports output to the MP4 container (replace .avi with .mp4).

Determining bitrates with fixed output file sizes

  • (Desired File Size in MB - Audio File Size in MB) x 8192 kb/MB / Length of Media in Seconds (s) = Bitrate in kb/s
  • (3900 MB - 275 MB) = 3625 MB x 8192 kb/MB / 8830 s = 3363 kb/s required to achieve an approximate total output file size of 3900 MB



Subtitles embedded in container files, such as MPEG-2 and Matroska, can be extracted and converted into SRT, SSA, among other subtitle formats.

  • Inspect a file to determine if it contains a subtitle stream:
$ ffprobe foo.mkv
Stream #0:0(und): Video: h264 (High), yuv420p, 1920x800 [SAR 1:1 DAR 12:5], 23.98 fps, 23.98 tbr, 1k tbn, 47.95 tbc (default)
  CREATION_TIME   : 2012-06-05 05:04:15
  LANGUAGE        : und
Stream #0:1(und): Audio: aac, 44100 Hz, stereo, fltp (default)
 CREATION_TIME   : 2012-06-05 05:10:34
 LANGUAGE        : und
 HANDLER_NAME    : GPAC ISO Audio Handler
Stream #0:2: Subtitle: ssa (default)
  • foo.mkv has an embedded SSA subtitle which can be extracted into an independent file:
$ ffmpeg -i foo.mkv foo.ssa


(instructions based on an FFmpeg wiki article)

Hardsubbing entails merging subtitles with the video. Hardsubs can't be disabled, nor language switched.

  • Overlay foo.mpg with the subtitles in foo.ssa:
$ ffmpeg -i foo.mpg -c copy -vf subtitles=foo.ssa out.mpg

Volume gain

Change the audio volume in multiples of 256 where 256 = 100% (normal) volume. Additional values such as 400 are also valid options.

-vol 256  = 100%
-vol 512  = 200%
-vol 768  = 300%
-vol 1024 = 400%
-vol 2048 = 800%

To double the volume (512 = 200%) of an MP3 file:

$ ffmpeg -i file.mp3 -vol 512 louder file.mp3

To quadruple the volume (1024 = 400%) of an Ogg file:

$ ffmpeg -i file.ogg -vol 1024 louder file.ogg

Note that gain metadata is only written to the output file. Unlike mp3gain or ogggain, the source sound file is untouched.

Extracting audio

$ ffmpeg -i video.mpg
Input #0, avi, from 'video.mpg':
  Duration: 01:58:28.96, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 3000 kb/s
    Stream #0.0: Video: mpeg4, yuv420p, 720x480 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 29.97 tbr, 29.97 tbn, 29.97 tbc
    Stream #0.1: Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, stereo, s16, 384 kb/s
    Stream #0.2: Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, 5.1, s16, 448 kb/s
    Stream #0.3: Audio: dts, 48000 Hz, 5.1 768 kb/s

Extract the first (-map 0:1) AC-3 encoded audio stream exactly as it was multiplexed into the file:

$ ffmpeg -i video.mpg -map 0:1 -acodec copy -vn video.ac3

Convert the third (-map 0:3) DTS audio stream to an AAC file with a bitrate of 192 kb/s and a sampling rate of 96000 Hz:

$ ffmpeg -i video.mpg -map 0:3 -acodec libvo-aacenc -ab 192k -ar 96000 -vn output.aac

-vn disables the processing of the video stream.

Extract audio stream with certain time interval:

$ ffmpeg -ss 00:01:25 -t 00:00:05 -i video.mpg -map 0:1 -acodec copy -vn output.ac3

-ss specifies the start point, and -t specifies the duration.

Stripping audio

  1. Copy the first video stream (-map 0:0) along with the second AC-3 audio stream (-map 0:2).
  2. Convert the AC-3 audio stream to two-channel MP3 with a bitrate of 128 kb/s and a sampling rate of 48000 Hz.
$ ffmpeg -i video.mpg -map 0:0 -map 0:2 -vcodec copy -acodec libmp3lame \
-ab 128k -ar 48000 -ac 2 video.mkv
$ ffmpeg -i video.mkv
Input #0, avi, from 'video.mpg':
  Duration: 01:58:28.96, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 3000 kb/s
    Stream #0.0: Video: mpeg4, yuv420p, 720x480 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 29.97 tbr, 29.97 tbn, 29.97 tbc
    Stream #0.1: Audio: mp3, 48000 Hz, stereo, s16, 128 kb/s
Note: Removing undesired audio streams allows for additional bits to be allocated towards improving video quality.

Preset files

Populate ~/.ffmpeg with the default preset files:

$ cp -iR /usr/share/ffmpeg ~/.ffmpeg

Create new and/or modify the default preset files:


Using preset files

Enable the -vpre option after declaring the desired -vcodec


  • libavcodec = Name of the vcodec/acodec
  • vhq = Name of specific preset to be called out
  • ffpreset = FFmpeg preset filetype suffix
Two-pass MPEG-4 (very high quality)

First pass of a multipass (bitrate) ratecontrol transcode:

$ ffmpeg -i video.mpg -an -vcodec mpeg4 -pass 1 -vpre vhq -f rawvideo -y /dev/null

Ratecontrol based on the video statistics logged from the first pass:

$ ffmpeg -i video.mpg -acodec libvorbis -aq 8 -ar 48000 -vcodec mpeg4 \
-pass 2 -vpre vhq -b 3000k output.mp4
  • libvorbis quality settings (VBR)
  • -aq 4 = 128 kb/s
  • -aq 5 = 160 kb/s
  • -aq 6 = 192 kb/s
  • -aq 7 = 224 kb/s
  • -aq 8 = 256 kb/s

Package removal

pacman will not remove configuration files outside of the defaults that were created during package installation. This includes user-created preset files.

See also