ffmpeg 📞

FFmpeg is a cross-platform tool to record, convert and stream audio and video. It's the de-facto standard for everything related to video processing, etc. - and I use it to perform basic video editing from the command line (yep, it's kind of using a bazooka to kill a single cockroach - but it's practical and easy to use).


To convert video formats, run:

ffmpeg -i movie.mp4 movie.avi

To cut a movie from the moment 1min 23s up to the moment 23min 45s, run:

ffmpeg -ss 01:23 -to 23:45 -i ./movie.mp4 -c copy out.mp4


The ffmpeg command, at its most basic format, accepts an input file (with the parameter -i) and an output file (given as the last argument):

ffmpeg -i movie.mp4 movie.avi

That's all it needs to convert a MP4 movie to the AVI format. See the file extensions? ffmpeg understands that it's a convertion operation by relying on the file extensions you're providing. Pretty clever, huh?!

Well, the things I do the most is: cutting a video from moment X to moment Y. I do it mostly to edit the recordings of the meetups I ran on Elug CE. With ffmpeg you can do it by using the parameters -ss <position>. It must be used before the parameter -i, so it affects the decoding of the input file. So, when using ffmpeg to cut videos, the order of these parameters does affect how ffmpeg works.

The value <position> must be a time duration specification

Here's an example of how

ffmpeg -ss 01:23 -t 23:45 -i ./movie.mp4 -c copy out.mp4

Time duration specification

There are two syntaxes for expression time durations:


HH expresses the number of hours, MM the number of minutes for a maximum of 2 digits, and SS the number of seconds for a maximum of 2 digits. The m at the end expresses decimal value for SS.

So, if you got two numbers of two digits separated by a collon


S expresses the number of seconds, with the optional decimal part m.

In both expressions, the optional - indicates negative duration.


  • 55: 55 seconds
  • 0.2: 0.2 seconds
  • 200ms: 200 milliseconds (or 0.2s)
  • 200000us: 200000 microseconds, (or 0.2s)
  • 12:03:45: 12 hours, 03 minutes and 45 seconds
  • 23.189: 23.189 seconds

So, for a quick reference:

  • 12:34: 12 minutes and 34 seconds
  • 01:23.567: 1 minute, 23 seconds, and 567 milliseconds
  • 12:34:56: 12 hours, 34 minutes, and 56 seconds
  • 12:34:56.789: 12 hours, 34 minutes, 56 seconds, and 789 milliseconds

-ss position (input/output) When used as an input option (before "-i"), seeks in this input file to position. Note that in most formats it is not possible to seek exactly, so ffmpeg will seek to the closest seek point before position. When transcoding and -accurate_seek is enabled (the default), this extra segment between the seek point and position will be decoded and discarded. When doing stream copy or when -noaccurate_seek is used, it will be preserved.

When used as an output option (before an output url), decodes but discards input until the timestamps reach position.

position must be a time duration specification, see the Time duration section in the ffmpeg-utils(1) manual.

ffmpeg -ss 11:58 -t 12:30 -i ./elug-ce-meetup-5-eceba7abc25e241c41f43a898ea32dd49a9bf71b\ on\ 2020-11-04\ 23-20.mp4 -c copy out.mp4

position must be a time duration specification, see the Time duration section in the ffmpeg-utils(1) manual.

ffmpeg buddy: https://evanhahn.github.io/ffmpeg-buddy/

Video estabilization with FFmpeg and VidStab