Video Editing Magic with ffmpeg


Non-linear video editing tools are great, but they're not always the best tool for the job. This is where a powerful tool like ffmpeg becomes useful. This tutorial by Elliot Isaacson covers the basics of transcoding video, as well as more advanced tricks like creating animations, screen captures, and slow motion effects.


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thank you so much! you just

Anonymous's picture

thank you so much! you just made my day. i've fiddled on and off with linux video tools for several years now and only tonight after watching this video did i get them to do the few simple tasks i needed them to do.

alternatively, i could have spent several years reading the manuals, because that's how long it would have taken to slog through all those barely-useful, arcane options.

Nice nice nice

Mimeini's picture

After working very slow foreword with ffmpeg for 2 years this 10 minutes ware pretty mind blowing :-)

ffmpeg split screen

JC's picture

hi -- thanks for the great tutorial! Can you think of any way to take two video files and create a split screen single video file?

you mean join 2 clips into 1

Minh's picture

you mean join 2 clips into 1 or display 2 video clips on the screen at the same time?

i used avisynth to display 2 clips on the screen at the same time, but you need to resize both clips smaller to fit into the screen.

if you want to join clips together, i think you got the "cat" command. then re-encode the file again.

i am playing with ffmpeg for a while, if you need help, i'm pleased to help.

This is completely insane ....

Robert Barta's picture

.... creating a video about UNIX commands.

You cannot copy&paste them.
The room is far too small for longer commands.
You cannot associate the explanations to them.
There cannot be links to the reference manual.
The video is zig times larger than an HTML tutorial.

Yeah, and Google will not be able to find the keywords.


i can help with some of

Minh's picture

i can help with some of ffmpeg options if you need.

This is completely insane...

Cephi's picture

... complaining about someone making a vid tutorial.

Many people including myself have clearly found it helpful.
Videos are more fun to watch than text tutorials are to read.
Seeing instant examples of the use of the commands is helpful.
No one forces you to watch the vid if you don't like it.
Different people like different media for learning things and it's sad that you can't handle this fact.

Yeah, and Google does find the keywords.



Patrick Elliott-Brennan's picture

Hi there Elliot,

Excellent video and 'how to'.

I'm created a link from my (slightly better than 'under construction') site and am about to enter a comment on my blog, which is hosted by your Linux Journal colleague, Marcel Gagné, at his site.

Again, thanks for the great 'how to'.



great demo

Anonymous's picture

Just wanted to say thanks for doing this -- it was great !!!

Operating system ?

Dhaval's picture

Hello !

After watching this great video , I want to ask one question :

Which is the best operating system for FFMPEG and all the libraries to get best performence ?
I have just tried Fedora core 6 !
can u please suggest me which os you are using ?


maybe the ffmpeg creators got

Minh's picture

maybe the ffmpeg creators got the answer :D

ffmpeg performance

Elliot Isaacson's picture

Of all the things that could impact the performance of a tool like ffmpeg, the operating system probably matters the least. Much more important is just the hardware you are using: the processor(s), the hard disk and the RAM. I use Vector Linux, but any distribution will work fine. You can even use windows if you really want to.

script for auto fade transition

Anonymous's picture

This video is great, and it make me think that it is possible to do something I've tried in the past with no success. I would like to create a script that will take all the video clips in a fold and put them together with a one second cross-fade transition between each.

Does anyone know how to do this?

i used Avisynth to do that.

Minh's picture

i used Avisynth to do that.


Elliot Isaacson's picture

OK, I think I found something that sort of works. The code for the script is here: (with syntax highlighting and line numbers) (without syntax highlighting and line numbers)

Before you can run the script you need to patch your ffmpeg with the following:

which is an ever so slightly modified version of the patch on this page:

After patching the ffmpeg source tree (make sure the resulting pip.c file ends up in the vhook directory), you will need to find the line in your Makefile that looks something like this:

BASEHOOKS = fish null watermark

and change it to:

BASEHOOKS = pip fish null watermark

Then, before the script will run, you need to take all the videos you want to concatenate together and turn them into .mpg files with the same dimensions and frame rate. Then, you need to open up any image editor and create an all black image with the same dimensions as your videos. The script will print out usage information if you execute it with no arguments. Here is an example of how to run the script:

$ ls
$ OUTPUT_FILE="final_video.mpg" BLACK_PICTURE_FILE="all_black_320x240.png" FADE_FRAMES="25" ./ video1.mpg video2.mpg video3.mpg

And that's it. Please note that this script doesn't exactly "cross-fade" the videos... the transition is "fade to black," but it might work for some things. As far as I can tell a true cross fade is not possible. I know this is not pretty, please someone improve it :-)


daBee's picture

Hi there. Would you know how to watermark videos using a current version of ffmpeg? I'm finding that -vhook isn't working for me.


daBee, Toronto


Elliot Isaacson's picture

I had thought that this was not possible (imlib2 only allows changing the opacity of text), although I think I might have found a solution for you. I'll try it out later today and let you know if it actually works :)


Anonymous's picture

This was really useful, thanks for putting it together!


Black Wolfette's picture

Your tutorial is clear, bright and very useful. I expected to see more thankyou comments in this place, but I'm surprised. I say "THANK YOU." This is something I've been searching for since I discovered ffmpeg as a great program. You explain things ans stuff perfectly. Keep on with your excellent work!

Re: Gracias

Elliot_Isaacson's picture

You're welcome, I'm glad you found it useful.

hyphen target

rotten777's picture

That's a great find. I never knew about the -target parameter.


Anonymous's picture

Wow - +5 geek points for algorithmic spotlight animation from the command line.


Elliot Isaacson's picture

How many geek points do I need before I can trade them in for some new hardware?

Speaking of Video Editing...

AJ ONeal's picture

What software do you use for video editing, screencasts, and showing the highlights on the video you created today?

From your tutorial I can see that it's totally possible to place fading highlights on a still image and cat a bunch of mpgs together... but I'd prefer not to do that to create my own.


The non-linear editor I use

Elliot_Isaacson's picture

The non-linear editor I use is cinelerra-cv. It works great. Although if you are going to be expanding still frames into movies (like I had to do with the "highlighting") I would do the expanding in ffmpeg. Otherwise you'll spend unnecessarily large amounts of time zooming in and dragging then zooming out and dragging some more etc. etc. to get the still frame expanded to the right length. The highlighting is just making two still frame movies (one highlighted and one not) and ramping the opacity between them.

For screen captures I usually use pyvnc2swf and then jump through some hoops to get it formated in a way that can be combined with other video clips. If you don't want to deal with that you can use recordmydesktop, which is also very good and much easier to use. Some people like xvidcap but it is not functional at all on my box (1.46Ghz Celeron Laptop.), it needs much more juice than my machine can pump out.


salsaman's picture

Great movie !

Just so you know, LiVES has a tool for generating clips from still images (Tools/Generate/Generate clip from image). You might find it easier to use than cinelerra.

And btw, LiVES also uses ffmpeg for decoding/encoding videos.

ffmpeg document can show you

Minh's picture

ffmpeg document can show you how to convert images into a clip

Still images to video

Patrick Elliott-Brennan's picture

You can also create raw DV footage from still images using image2raw.

Here's an example from the page:


To encode a sequence of jpegs as PAL Raw DV while maintaining the
aspect ratio of the images, use:

image2raw -a *.jpeg > file.dv

To do the same thing with NTSC, use:

image2raw -n -a *.jpeg > file.dv


I'm not associated with the application but have found it very useful.

BTW, I'm currently developing a site ( to present useful video editing information, hints and tips and provide links to sites, like this, which contain great information about video editing on the Linux desktop.

Like many others, I've spent long hours on the 'net looking for help, hints and 'how tos' to improve the videos I make.

I'd appreciate any information or links to sites people have found useful to help make my site more productive and helpful to others.