ffmpeg Command: Tutorial & Examples

Manipulate multimedia files

ffmpeg is a powerful command-line tool used for decoding, encoding, and manipulating multimedia files. It supports a wide range of audio and video formats, making it an essential tool for working with media files on Linux servers and virtual machines (VMs). Whether you need to convert file formats, extract audio from a video, or apply various effects to your multimedia content, ffmpeg has got you covered. In this guide, we'll explore the functionalities of ffmpeg and provide you with practical examples to get you started.


Before we dive into using ffmpeg, let's make sure it's installed on your Linux server or VM. Open a terminal and run the following command:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ffmpeg

These commands will update your package lists and install ffmpeg from the official repositories. If you're using a different Linux distribution, refer to its package manager to install ffmpeg.

Basic Usage

Decoding and Encoding

One of the primary uses of ffmpeg is decoding and encoding multimedia files. You can convert audio or video files from one format to another using the ffmpeg command followed by the input file and output file. For example, to convert a video file from MP4 to AVI format, use the following command:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 output.avi

Similarly, you can convert audio files using the same syntax. Just replace the file extensions accordingly.

Extracting Audio from Video

Need to extract audio from a video file? ffmpeg makes it a breeze. Simply specify the input video file and the output audio file as shown below:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -vn output.mp3

The -vn option tells ffmpeg not to include any video streams in the output, resulting in an audio-only file.

Applying Effects and Filters

ffmpeg allows you to apply various effects and filters to your multimedia files. For example, you can resize a video, add watermarks, or adjust the volume. Let's look at a few examples:

To resize a video to a specific width and height:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -vf "scale=640:480" output.mp4

To add a watermark image to a video:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -i watermark.png -filter_complex "overlay=10:10" output.mp4

To increase the volume of an audio file:

ffmpeg -i input.mp3 -af "volume=2.0" output.mp3

These are just a few examples of what ffmpeg can do. Its capabilities are extensive, and you can find a wide range of effects and filters to suit your needs.

Advanced Usage

Concatenating Files

Sometimes you may need to combine multiple multimedia files into a single file. ffmpeg enables you to concatenate video or audio files effortlessly. Create a text file, let's say list.txt, and add the paths of the files you want to concatenate. Then use the following command:

ffmpeg -f concat -i list.txt -c copy output.mp4

The -c copy option tells ffmpeg to copy the streams without re-encoding, ensuring fast and lossless concatenation.

Capturing Screenshots

If you want to capture a screenshot from a specific point in a video, ffmpeg can do that too. Specify the time offset using the -ss option and the output file name:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -ss 00:01:30 -vframes 1 screenshot.jpg

This command captures a screenshot from the 1 minute and 30 seconds mark of the video.

Transcoding and Encoding

Transcoding refers to converting multimedia files from one codec to another. ffmpeg excels in this area, allowing you to transcode files with ease. Specify the input file, the desired output codec, and any additional options as required. Here's an example:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -c:v libx264 -c:a aac output.mp4

In this command, we're transcoding an MP4 file using the H.264 video codec and AAC audio codec.

Joining Multiple Files

Here's an example how to join multiple files:

ffmpeg -i "concat:VTS_01_1.VOB|VTS_01_2.VOB|VTS_01_3.VOB|VTS_01_4.VOB|VTS_01_5.VOB" -map 0:a -map 0:v -c copy VIDEO.VOB

The parameters -map 0:a and -map 0:v make sure, that all audio tracks are copied.


While using ffmpeg, you may encounter some common issues. Here are a couple of problems you might face and their solutions:

Unsupported Formats

If you receive an error stating that the format is not supported, ensure that you have the necessary codecs and libraries installed on your system. You can install additional codecs or compile ffmpeg with support for specific formats.

Audio/Video Sync Issues

Occasionally, you may experience synchronization problems between the audio and video streams after encoding or transcoding. To address this, you can use the -async option to adjust the audio synchronization:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -async 1 output.mp4

The value 1 in the -async option indicates that ffmpeg will correct any timing discrepancies between the audio and video streams.


ffmpeg is an incredibly versatile and powerful tool for working with multimedia files on Linux servers and VMs. From basic conversions to advanced effects and transcoding, ffmpeg provides a comprehensive solution. In this guide, we've explored some of the fundamental commands and concepts to get you started. Remember, ffmpeg offers a wide range of functionalities, so don't hesitate to consult its documentation or community resources for more in-depth usage.

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