Hardware video acceleration

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Hardware video acceleration makes it possible for the video card to decode/encode video, thus offloading the CPU and saving power.

There are several ways to achieve this on Linux:

  • Video Acceleration API (VA-API) is a specification and open source library to provide both hardware accelerated video encoding and decoding, developed by Intel.
  • Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix (VDPAU) is an open source library and API to offload portions of the video decoding process and video post-processing to the GPU video-hardware, developed by NVIDIA.
  • NVDECODE/NVENCODE - NVIDIA's proprietary APIs for hardware video acceleration, used by NVIDIA GPUs from Fermi onwards.

For pre-2007 video cards see XvMC. For comprehensive overview of driver and application support see #Comparison tables.



Intel graphics open-source drivers support VA-API:

Also see VAAPI supported hardware and features.


Nouveau open-source driver supports both VA-API and VDPAU:

NVIDIA proprietary driver supports via nvidia-utils:


ATI and AMDGPU open-source drivers support both VA-API and VDPAU:

  • VA-API on Radeon HD 2000 and newer GPUs is supported by libva-mesa-driver.
  • VDPAU on Radeon R300 and newer GPUs is supported by mesa-vdpau.

AMDGPU PRO proprietary driver is built on top of AMDGPU driver and supports both VA-API and VDPAU.

Translation layers

  • libva-vdpau-driver — A VDPAU-based backend for VA-API.
https://cgit.freedesktop.org/vaapi/vdpau-driver || libva-vdpau-driver, libva-vdpau-driver-chromiumAUR, libva-vdpau-driver-vp9-gitAUR
  • libvdpau-va-gl — VDPAU driver with OpenGL/VAAPI backend. H.264 only.
https://github.com/i-rinat/libvdpau-va-gl || libvdpau-va-gl


Your system may work perfectly out-of-the-box without needing any configuration. Therefore it is a good idea to start with this section to see that it is the case.

  • mpv with its command-line support is great for testing hardware acceleration. Look at the log of mpv --hwdec=auto video_filename and see hwdec for more details.
  • For Intel GPU, use intel-gpu-tools and run intel_gpu_top as root to monitor the GPU activity during video playback for example. The video bar being above 0% indicates GPU video decoder/encoder usage.
  • For AMD GPU, use radeontop to monitor GPU activity. Unlike intel-gpu-tools, there is currently no way to see decode/encode usage on radeontop [2].
  • For any GPU, you can compare CPU usage with a tool like htop. Especially for higher resolution videos (4k+), CPU usage when VA-API is enabled and working should be dramatically lower on laptops and other relatively low-power devices.

Verifying VA-API

Verify the settings for VA-API by running vainfo, which is provided by libva-utils:

$ vainfo
libva info: VA-API version 0.39.4
libva info: va_getDriverName() returns 0
libva info: Trying to open /usr/lib/dri/i965_drv_video.so
libva info: Found init function __vaDriverInit_0_39
libva info: va_openDriver() returns 0
vainfo: VA-API version: 0.39 (libva 1.7.3)
vainfo: Driver version: Intel i965 driver for Intel(R) Skylake - 1.7.3
vainfo: Supported profile and entrypoints
      VAProfileMPEG2Simple            :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileMPEG2Simple            :	VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileMPEG2Main              :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileMPEG2Main              :	VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264ConstrainedBaseline:	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264ConstrainedBaseline:	VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264ConstrainedBaseline:	VAEntrypointEncSliceLP
      VAProfileH264Main               :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264Main               :	VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264Main               :	VAEntrypointEncSliceLP
      VAProfileH264High               :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264High               :	VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264High               :	VAEntrypointEncSliceLP
      VAProfileH264MultiviewHigh      :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264MultiviewHigh      :	VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264StereoHigh         :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264StereoHigh         :	VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileVC1Simple              :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileVC1Main                :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileVC1Advanced            :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileNone                   :	VAEntrypointVideoProc
      VAProfileJPEGBaseline           :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileJPEGBaseline           :	VAEntrypointEncPicture
      VAProfileVP8Version0_3          :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileVP8Version0_3          :	VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileHEVCMain               :	VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileHEVCMain               :	VAEntrypointEncSlice

VAEntrypointVLD means that your card is capable to decode this format, VAEntrypointEncSlice means that you can encode to this format.

In this example the i965 driver is used, as you can see in this line:

vainfo: Driver version: Intel i965 driver for Intel(R) Skylake - 1.7.3

If the following error is displayed when running vainfo:

libva info: va_openDriver() returns -1
vaInitialize failed with error code -1 (unknown libva error),exit

You need to configure the correct driver, see #Configuring VA-API.

Verifying VDPAU

Install vdpauinfo to verify if the VDPAU driver is loaded correctly and retrieve a full report of the configuration:

$ 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    16384 16384  NV12 YV12 
422    16384 16384  UYVY YUYV 
444    16384 16384  Y8U8V8A8 V8U8Y8A8 

Decoder capabilities:

name                        level macbs width height
MPEG1                          --- not supported ---
MPEG2_SIMPLE                    3  9216  2048  1152
MPEG2_MAIN                      3  9216  2048  1152
H264_BASELINE                  41  9216  2048  1152
H264_MAIN                      41  9216  2048  1152
H264_HIGH                      41  9216  2048  1152
VC1_SIMPLE                      1  9216  2048  1152
VC1_MAIN                        2  9216  2048  1152
VC1_ADVANCED                    4  9216  2048  1152


Although the video driver should automatically enable hardware video acceleration support for both VA-API and VDPAU, it may be needed to configure VA-API/VDPAU manually. Only continue to this section if you went through #Verification.

The default driver names, used if there is no other configuration present, are guess by the system. However, they are often hacked together and may not work. You can see the guessed values by running:

$ grep -iE 'vdpau | dri driver' /var/log/Xorg.0.log
(II) RADEON(0): [DRI2] DRI driver: radeonsi
(II) RADEON(0): [DRI2] VDPAU driver: radeonsi

In this case radeonsi is the default for both VA-API and VDPAU.

Note: If you use GDM, run journalctl -b --grep='vdpau | dri driver' as root instead.

This does not represent the configuration however. The values above will not change even if you override them.

Configuring VA-API

You can override the driver for VA-API by using the LIBVA_DRIVER_NAME environment variable:

  • You can find the installed drivers in /usr/lib/dri/. They are used as /usr/lib/dri/${LIBVA_DRIVER_NAME}_drv_video.so.
  • Some drivers are installed several times under different names for compatibility reasons. You can see which by running sha1sum /usr/lib/dri/* | sort.
  • LIBVA_DRIVERS_PATH can be used to overrule the VA-API drivers location.
  • Since version 12.0.1 libva-mesa-driver provides radeonsi instead of gallium.

Configuring VDPAU

You can override the driver for VDPAU by using the VDPAU_DRIVER environment variable.

The correct driver name depends on your setup:

  • For Intel graphics you need to set it to va_gl.
  • For the open source AMD driver set it to the proper driver version depending on your GPU, see #Verification.
  • For the open source Nouveau driver set it to nouveau.
  • For NVIDIA's proprietary version set it to nvidia.
  • You can find the installed drivers in /usr/lib/vdpau/. They are used as /usr/lib/vdpau/libvdpau_${VDPAU_DRIVER}.so.
  • Some drivers are installed several times under different names for compatibility reasons. You can see which by running sha1sum /usr/lib/vdpau/*.
  • For hybrid setups (both NVIDIA and AMD), it may be necessary to set the DRI_PRIME environment variable. For more information see PRIME.

Configuring applications

Multimedia frameworks:

Video players:

Web browsers:


Failed to open VDPAU backend

You need to set VDPAU_DRIVER variable to point to correct driver. See #Configuring VDPAU.

VAAPI init failed

An error along the lines of libva: /usr/lib/dri/i965_drv_video.so init failed is encountered. This can happen because of improper detection of Wayland. One solution is to unset $DISPLAY so that mpv, MPlayer, VLC, etc. do not assume it is X11. Another mpv-specific solution is to add the parameter --gpu-context=wayland.

Video decoding corruption or distortion with AMDGPU driver

When experiencing video decoding corruption or distortion with AMDGPU driver, set allow_rgb10_configs=false as environment variable or driconf. [3]

Comparison tables

VA-API drivers

Codec libva-intel-driver [4] intel-media-driver [5] libva-mesa-driver [6] [7] libva-vdpau-driver
(VDPAU adapter)
MPEG-2 GMA 4500 and newer Broadwell and newer Radeon HD 6000 and newer
GeForce 8 and newer1
See #VDPAU drivers
MPEG-44 No No Radeon HD 6000 and newer
VC-1 Sandy Bridge and newer Broadwell and newer Radeon HD 2000 and newer
GeForce 9300 and newer1
H.264/MPEG-4 AVC GMA 45002, Ironlake and newer Radeon HD 2000 and newer
GeForce 8 and newer1
H.265/HEVC 8bit Cherryview/Braswell and newer Skylake and newer Radeon R9 Fury and newer
H.265/HEVC 10bit Broxton and newer Broxton/Apollo Lake and newer Radeon 400 and newer
VP8 Broadwell and newer Broadwell and newer No No
VP9 8bit Broxton and newer
Hybrid: Haswell refresh to Skylake3
Broxton/Apollo Lake and newer Raven Ridge and newer See #VDPAU drivers5
VP9 10bit Kaby Lake and newer Kaby Lake and newer No
AV1 8-bit & 10-bit No Tiger Lake and newer Radeon RX 6000 and newer6
MPEG-2 Ivy Bridge and newer Broadwell and newer
except Broxton/Apollo Lake
H.264/MPEG-4 AVC Sandy Bridge and newer Broadwell and newer Radeon HD 7000 and newer
H.265/HEVC 8bit Skylake and newer Skylake and newer Radeon 400 and newer
H.265/HEVC 10bit Kaby Lake and newer Kaby Lake and newer Raven Ridge and newer
VP8 Cherryview/Braswell and newer
Hybrid: Haswell to Skylake3
VP9 8bit Kaby Lake and newer Icelake and newer
VP9 10bit No

VDPAU drivers

Codec mesa-vdpau [8] [9] nvidia-utils libvdpau-va-gl
(VA-API adapter)
MPEG-2 Radeon R300 and newer
GeForce 8 and newer1
GeForce 8 and newer No
MPEG-4 Radeon HD 6000 and newer
GeForce 200 and newer1
GeForce 200 and newer
VC-1 Radeon HD 2000 and newer
GeForce 9300 and newer1
GeForce 8 and newer2
H.264/MPEG-4 AVC Radeon HD 2000 and newer
GeForce 8 and newer1
GeForce 8 and newer See #VA-API drivers
H.265/HEVC 8bit Radeon R9 Fury and newer GeForce 900 and newer3 No
H.265/HEVC 10bit Radeon 400 and newer No4
VP9 8bit No GeForce 900 and newer3
VP9 10bit No No4
AV1 8bit & 10bit No No
  • 1 Up until GeForce GTX 750.
  • 2 Except GeForce 8800 Ultra, 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS (320/640 MB).
  • 3 Except GeForce GTX 970 and GTX 980.
  • 4 NVIDIA implementation is limited to 8-bit streams [10] [11].

NVIDIA driver only

Codec nvidia-utils [12]
MPEG-2 Fermi and newer1 No
H.264/MPEG-4 AVC Kepler and newer2
H.265/HEVC 8bit Maxwell (GM206) and newer Maxwell (2nd Gen) and newer
H.265/HEVC 10bit Pascal and newer
VP8 Maxwell (2nd Gen) and newer No
VP9 8bit Maxwell (GM206) and newer
VP9 10bit Pascal and newer
AV1 8bit & 10bit Ampere and newer3
  • 1 Except GM108 (not supported)
  • 2 Except GM108 and GP108 (not supported)
  • 3 Except A100 (not supported)

Application support

Application Decoding Encoding Documentation
FFmpeg Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes FFmpeg#Hardware video acceleration
GStreamer Yes1 No Yes Yes1 Yes GStreamer#Hardware video acceleration
Kodi Yes Yes No Kodi#Hardware video acceleration
mpv Yes Yes Yes mpv#Hardware video acceleration
VLC media player Yes Yes No VLC media player#Hardware video acceleration
MPlayer Yes2 Yes No MPlayer#Hardware video acceleration
Flash No3 Yes3 No Browser plugins#Adobe Flash Player
Chromium Yes4 No No Yes4 No Chromium#Hardware video acceleration
Firefox Yes No No No No Firefox#Hardware video acceleration
GNOME/Web GStreamer ? ? GNOME/Web#Video
  • 1 GStreamer uses a whitelist of VA-API drivers. To ignore the whitelist, see GStreamer#Ignore driver whitelist.
  • 2 VA-API support provided by mplayer-vaapiAUR instead.
  • 3 VDPAU is supported only by NPAPI plugin. PPAPI plugin to NPAPI browser experimental adapter is available that provides partial VA-API and VDPAU acceleration.
  • 4 Xorg only. Wayland is not supported. XWayland exhibits choppiness FS#67035.