Live Streaming

FFmpeg-Based Streaming: A Comprehensive Guide

Streaming media over the internet has become a staple of modern life. Whether it's a live broadcast or on-demand content, streaming is the go-to method for delivering video and audio to viewers worldwide. One of the tools that make this possible is FFmpeg, a free, open-source software that can handle a multitude of multimedia tasks, including streaming. This article will delve into the details of FFmpeg-based streaming, covering both live and on-demand scenarios with examples.

What is FFmpeg?

FFmpeg is a powerful software suite that can record, convert, and stream audio and video in various formats. It's a command-line tool, meaning it's operated entirely through text commands. Despite its seemingly complex nature, FFmpeg is incredibly versatile and capable, making it a popular choice for many multimedia applications, including streaming.

FFmpeg for Live Streaming

One of the most common use-cases for FFmpeg is live streaming. With FFmpeg, you can take an input source, such as a camera or a screen capture, encode it in real-time, and send it to a streaming server. Here's a basic example of how to stream a video file to a remote server using the RTMP protocol:

ffmpeg -re -i input.mp4 -c:v libx264 -preset veryfast -maxrate 3000k -bufsize 6000k -pix_fmt yuv420p -g 50 -c:a aac -b:a 160k -ac 2 -ar 44100 -f flv rtmp://server_url/stream_key

In this command, -re tells FFmpeg to read the input file at its native frame rate, simulating a live stream. The -c:v libx264 -preset veryfast -maxrate 3000k -bufsize 6000k -pix_fmt yuv420p -g 50 options set the video codec and encoding parameters. The -c:a aac -b:a 160k -ac 2 -ar 44100 options set the audio codec and parameters. Finally, -f flv rtmp://server_url/stream_key specifies the output format and the destination server.

FFmpeg for On-Demand Streaming

FFmpeg can also be used for on-demand streaming, where the media is not broadcasted live but is available for viewers to watch at their convenience. This typically involves converting the media into a format suitable for streaming and then serving it through a web server or a dedicated streaming server.

Here's an example of how to convert a video file into the HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) format, which is widely supported by various platforms and devices:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -codec:v h264 -codec:a aac -map 0 -f hls -hls_time 10 -hls_list_size 0 output.m3u8

In this command, -codec:v h264 -codec:a aac -map 0 sets the video and audio codecs. -f hls -hls_time 10 -hls_list_size 0 specifies the output format and the HLS parameters.


FFmpeg is a powerful tool for streaming media, whether it's live or on-demand. With its flexible command syntax and extensive feature set, FFmpeg allows you to handle a wide range of streaming scenarios. Whether you're broadcasting a live event or serving on-demand content, FFmpeg has got you covered.