wiki:Using libav*

First some disambiguiation: there is a fork of FFmpeg called Libav. There is also a library system that underlies FFmpeg itself, called libav. This page is about the library libav, which is a part of FFmpeg.

FFmpeg itself is composed of several libraries that can be used individually, and outside of FFmpeg, for instance in integrating parts of FFmpeg into your own program. These are:

  • libavutil contains various routines used to simplify programming, including random number generators, data structures, mathematics routines, core multimedia utilities, and much more.
  • libavcodec provides a decoding and encoding API, and all the supported codecs.
  • libavformat provides a demuxing and muxing API, and all the supported muxers and de-muxers.
  • libavdevice provides an interface for grabbing from input devices (e.g. webcames or line-in audio) and rendering to output devices, and all the supported input and output devices
  • libswscale provides a scaling and (raw pixel) format conversions API, with high speed/assembly optimized versions of several scaling routines.
  • libavfilter provides an audio and video filtering API, and all the supported filters.
  • libpostproc provides video postprocessing routines
  • libswresample provides an audio resampling, rematrixing and sample format conversion API, and many high-quality optimized routines.

These can be useful for instance if you don't have access to a command line to run ffmpeg as an executable, or if you want to use just a small "part" of FFmpeg inside your own program, or if you want access to raw video frames in your program, etc. Also note that if you just need access to raw video frames, you could also write an audio or video filter and compile it along with FFmpeg and distribute that. Another way to access raw video frames is to have ffmpeg output to "stdout", like ffmpeg -i ... -. Also note that if you just need to convert/transcode videos within your own application, you could make a system call out to the FFmpeg executable to do the heavy lifting for you. You can parse the output for stdout for status information, or use the -progress option to make the output even more parseable.

Getting Started

Here is the official documentation for using these libraries (the "Libraries Documentation" section).

Also check doc/examples; the doxygen documentation is fairly complete and should work as reference (example: the example codes as doxygen).

In general, you must:

  • have the appropriate library compiled/available on your machine (for instance, if using packages, something like libswscale-dev must be installed, or configure, build, and install FFmpeg yourself using the --enable-shared configure option)
  • include the appropriate header file in your C code
  • link against that library's linker file, like gcc input.c -lswscale or the like during the linker phase

Community-contributed Tutorials

There are a few tutorials on the web, however, some of them are outdated. The doc/examples files provided by FFmpeg usually use the latest ABI (i.e., they are the best reference on which libav calls to make) and are therefore more trustworthy.



Check its Doxygen documentation. See most of the tutorials, as well.


Check its Doxygen documentation. See most of the tutorials, as well.

Determining the right values to pass to AVCodecContext:

One user shared this advice for determining all the correct values:

[An] approach to figuring this out is:

  1. come up with the ffmpeg app command line which does what you want
  1. use the gdb debugger to execute the ffmpeg_g app, put a breakpoint on avcodec_encode_audio2() (or whichever method you need), and see what values the ffmpeg app uses for AVPacket and for the (audio or otherwise) related fields in AVCodecContext.


This file is also given as documentation.


This file is also given as documentation.


Check its doxygen documentation.

Here is an example on Opening dshow with avformat_open_input.


See the MultimediaWiki entry on libavfilter and also the examples, and already existing filters. We have more doxy, some examples and a libavfilter-design document in the documentation.


If you have problems, one place to get help is to ask the libav-user mailing list, its description: "This list is about using libavcodec, libavformat, libavutil, libavdevice and libavfilter." IRC might work also.

Last modified 7 years ago Last modified on Nov 10, 2017, 10:08:54 AM
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