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Install FFmpeg on a Raspberry Pi with .h264 support

FFMpeg is a great and highly versatile utility for converting image and video from the command line. Follow the below steps to learn how to install and use FFMpeg.

Table of contents

  1. FFmpeg
  2. Install h264 library
  3. Install ffmpeg with h264
  4. Converting (h264) videos

FFmpeg

The Raspberry Pi is great for recording images and video. One issue is that it records videos in the compressed .h264 container, which is hard to work with. In many cases it is desirable to convert videos to widely applicable formats like .mp4 to be able to view them properly and get the right meta information. For this I recommend the program FFmpeg.

ffmpeg is a very fast video and audio converter that can also grab from a live audio/video source. Installing FFmpeg on a Raspberry Pi is not as simple as downloading an executable from the command line, but it is also not too difficult.

Install h264 library

Open a terminal window on the Raspberry Pi (or via SSH connection). First we will download the h264 library:

git clone --depth 1 https://code.videolan.org/videolan/x264

Now change to the x264 folder:

cd x264

and configure installation the installation as follows:

./configure --host=arm-unknown-linux-gnueabi --enable-static --disable-opencl

We can now create the installation (for four cores):

make -j4

And finally we can install the h264 library on the system:

sudo make install

Install ffmpeg with h264

Now we will install FFmpeg. First change to the home directory:

cd ~

Now download ffmpeg:

git clone git://source.ffmpeg.org/ffmpeg --depth=1

Change to the ffmpeg directory:

cd ffmpeg

Configure the installation:

./configure --extra-ldflags="-latomic" --arch=armel --target-os=linux --enable-gpl --enable-omx --enable-omx-rpi --enable-libx264 --enable-nonfree

Create the installation for four cores:

make -j4

Note this step may take a long time! And now finally run the installation:

sudo make install

There are many options available and other ways to convert h264 videos with ffmpeg, but the above commands are the quickest of the methods that I tested.

Note: If you are working with an older model of the raspberrypi (< 3 B+) then you may not have 4 cores available. You will then have to change make -j4 to make -j.

Converting (h264) videos

Now you are ready to convert (h264) videos on your Raspberry Pi. To convert a single video with ffmpeg:

ffmpeg -i USER_VIDEO.h264 -vcodec copy USER_VIDEO.mp4

It is a bit more tricky to (automatically) convert whole folders of videos. I have written a special Convert functionality as part of my pirecorder package to facilitate this. For example, to convert a folder of videos, add frame numbers to the topleft corner of each video frame, and resize the video by half:

convert --indir VIDEOS --outdir CONVERTED --withframe True --resizeval 0.5

You can read its documentation here.


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