HLS is one of the most prominent video streaming formats on desktop and mobile browsers. Since end-users have different screen sizes and different network performance, we want to create multiple renditions of the video with different resolutions and bitrates that can be switched seamlessly, this concept is called MBR (Multi Bit Rate).
For this task, we will use
ffmpeg, a powerful tool that supports the conversion of various video formats from one to another, including HLS both as input and output.
In this guide will show a real-world use of
ffmpeg to create an MBR HLS VOD stream from a static input file.
ffmpeg is a cross-platform program that can run on Windows and OS X as well as Linux.
- Download latest version from here
- Unzip the archive to a folder
- Open a command prompt in the unzipped folder
./ffmpeg– you should see FFmpeg version and build information
- Install homebrew
brew install ffmpeg(extra options can be seen by running
brew options ffmpeg)
./ffmpeg– you should see
ffmpegversion and build information
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mc3man/trusty-media sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install -y ffmpeg
CentOS / Fedora
yum install -y ffmpeg
Latest binaries for all platforms, source code, and more information is available at ffmpeg’s official website
To inspect the file properties run the following command:
ffprobe -hide_banner beach.mkv
The file is identified as mkv, 21 seconds long, overall bitrate 19264 kbps, containing one video stream of 1920×1080 23.98fps in h264 codec, and one AC3 audio stream 48kHz 640 kbps.
Multi Bitrate Conversion
Let’s build command for one rendition:
ffmpeg -i beach.mkv -vf scale=w=1280:h=720:force_original_aspect_ratio=decrease -c:a aac -ar 48000 -b:a 128k -c:v h264 -profile:v main -crf 20 -g 48 -keyint_min 48 -sc_threshold 0 -b:v 2500k -maxrate 2675k -bufsize 3750k -hls_time 4 -hls_playlist_type vod -hls_segment_filename beach/720p_%03d.ts beach/720p.m3u8
-i beach.mkv– set
beach.mkvas input file
-vf "scale=w=1280:h=720:force_original_aspect_ratio=decrease"– scale the video to maximum possible within 1280×720 while preserving the aspect ratio
-c:a aac -ar 48000 -b:a 128k– set audio codec to AAC with a sampling of 48kHz and bitrate of 128k
-c:v h264– set video codec to be H264 which is the standard codec of HLS segments
-profile:v main– set H264 profile to
main– this means support in modern devices read more
-crf 20– Constant Rate Factor, high-level factor for overall quality
-g 48 -keyint_min 48– IMPORTANT create a key frame (I-frame) every 48 frames (~2 seconds) – will later affect correct slicing of segments and alignment of renditions
-sc_threshold 0– don’t create key frames on scene change – only according to
-b:v 2500k -maxrate 2675k -bufsize 3750k– limit video bitrate, these are rendition specific and depends on your content type – read more
-hls_time 4– segment target duration in seconds – the actual length is constrained by key frames
-hls_playlist_type vod– adds the
#EXT-X-PLAYLIST-TYPE:VODtag and keeps all segments in the playlist
-hls_segment_filename beach/720p_%03d.ts– explicitly define segments files names
beach/720p.m3u8– path of the playlist file – also tells FFmpeg to output HLS (
This will generate a VOD HLS playlist and segments in
Each rendition requires its own parameters, though
ffmpeg supports multiple inputs and outputs so all the renditions can be generated in parallel with one long command.
it’s very important that besides the resolution and bitrate parameters the commands will be identical so that the renditions will be properly aligned, meaning key frames will be set in the exact same positions to allow smooth switching between them on the fly.
We will create 4 renditions with common resolutions:
ffmpeg -hide_banner -y -i beach.mkv \ -vf scale=w=640:h=360:force_original_aspect_ratio=decrease -c:a aac -ar 48000 -c:v h264 -profile:v main -crf 20 -sc_threshold 0 -g 48 -keyint_min 48 -hls_time 4 -hls_playlist_type vod -b:v 800k -maxrate 856k -bufsize 1200k -b:a 96k -hls_segment_filename beach/360p_%03d.ts beach/360p.m3u8 \ -vf scale=w=842:h=480:force_original_aspect_ratio=decrease -c:a aac -ar 48000 -c:v h264 -profile:v main -crf 20 -sc_threshold 0 -g 48 -keyint_min 48 -hls_time 4 -hls_playlist_type vod -b:v 1400k -maxrate 1498k -bufsize 2100k -b:a 128k -hls_segment_filename beach/480p_%03d.ts beach/480p.m3u8 \ -vf scale=w=1280:h=720:force_original_aspect_ratio=decrease -c:a aac -ar 48000 -c:v h264 -profile:v main -crf 20 -sc_threshold 0 -g 48 -keyint_min 48 -hls_time 4 -hls_playlist_type vod -b:v 2800k -maxrate 2996k -bufsize 4200k -b:a 128k -hls_segment_filename beach/720p_%03d.ts beach/720p.m3u8 \ -vf scale=w=1920:h=1080:force_original_aspect_ratio=decrease -c:a aac -ar 48000 -c:v h264 -profile:v main -crf 20 -sc_threshold 0 -g 48 -keyint_min 48 -hls_time 4 -hls_playlist_type vod -b:v 5000k -maxrate 5350k -bufsize 7500k -b:a 192k -hls_segment_filename beach/1080p_%03d.ts beach/1080p.m3u8
The HLS player needs to know that there are multiple renditions of our video, so we create an HLS master playlist to point them and save it along side the other playlists and segments.
#EXTM3U #EXT-X-VERSION:3 #EXT-X-STREAM-INF:BANDWIDTH=800000,RESOLUTION=640x360 360p.m3u8 #EXT-X-STREAM-INF:BANDWIDTH=1400000,RESOLUTION=842x480 480p.m3u8 #EXT-X-STREAM-INF:BANDWIDTH=2800000,RESOLUTION=1280x720 720p.m3u8 #EXT-X-STREAM-INF:BANDWIDTH=5000000,RESOLUTION=1920x1080 1080p.m3u8
Example Conversion Script
Here is an example conversion script create-hls-vod.sh
bash create-vod-hls.sh beach.mkv
beach/ |- playlist.m3u8 |- 360p.m3u8 |- 360p_001.ts |- 360p_002.ts |- 480p.m3u8 |- 480p_001.ts |- 480p_002.ts |- 720p.m3u8 |- 720p_001.ts |- 720p_002.ts |- 1080p.m3u8 |- 1080p_001.ts |- 1080p_002.ts
How to choose the right bitrate
Bitrate is dependant mostly on the resolution and the content type. When setting bitrate too low image pixelization will occur especially in areas where there is rapid movement, when the bitrate is too high the output files might be excessively big without adding value.
To choose the right bitrate one must understand his type of content. Content with high motion such as sports or news events will require higher bitrate to avoid pixelization while low motion content such as music concerts and interviews will suffice lower bitrate without apparent changes to quality.
Here are some good defaults to start from:
|Quality||Resolution||bitrate – low motion||bitrate – high motion||audio bitrate|
|HD 720p 60fps||1280×720||3500k||4400k||128k|
|Full HD 1080p||1920×1080||4500k||5300k||192k|
|Full HD 1080p 60fps||1920×1080||5800k||7400k||192k|
How do I feed FFmpeg through stdin?
ffmpeg has a special
pipe: flag that instructs FFmpeg to consume stdin as media.
cat clip.mp4 | ffmpeg -f mp4 -i pipe: output.avi
What’s the difference between avconv and ffmpeg
avconv is a fork (clone) of ffmpeg that was created by a group of developers of
ffmpeg due to project management issues. While both are actively maintained, its recommended to use FFmpeg since it has larger community as explained here