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From what I've seen it looks to me like Libav's avconv is thought to become a successor of ffmpeg — is that correct?

If that's true, why is that so? What exactly is libav doing better and why would I want to choose it over ffmpeg?

I came to this "issue" while installing Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS in a VM and when I've installed ffmpeg it came up with a message telling mit ffmpeg is deprecated and I first thought "wtf?".

If I use avconvWill I be able to migrate my scripts depending on ffmpeg more or less easy to libav? I'm mostly using it for writing meta data and doing audio conversion (wav, flac, vorbis, mp3, aac).

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up vote 56 down vote accepted

First of all see Who can tell me the difference and relation between ffmpeg, libav, and avconv. Much of the confusion is the result of:

  1. Users not differentiating between the projects, FFmpeg and libav, and their respective command-line tools, ffmpeg and avconv.
  2. The poorly worded message(s) users get when they try to use libav's ffmpeg.

FFmpeg vs ffmpeg and libav vs avconv

  • FFmpeg is the project name. ffmpeg is the name of their command line tool.
  • libav is the project name. avconv is the name of their command line tool. For a short time libav also had a ffmpeg.

Users often think "project" when "tool" is being discussed which leads to...

A poorly worded message

So, as we learned from the Who can tell me... link, when libav forked from FFmpeg they also temporarily supplied their version of ffmpeg. As a member of libav, the ffmpeg maintainer in Debian and Ubuntu then decided to switch the distro to use libav. From the perspective of libav this was their best move: to force a large user community to use the fork.

Ubuntu switched during the transitional period when libav supplied both their version of ffmpeg and their renamed tool avconv. When users attempted to use libav's ffmpeg they got the following message:

This program is not developed anymore and is only provided for compatibility.  
Use avconv instead (see Changelog for the list of incompatible changes).

In this case the "ffmpeg" mentioned in the message was libav's temporary version which was later removed (as was the message). Remember the difference between FFmpeg and ffmpeg? Of course this message thoroughly confused many users who understandably did not make the distinction between project and tool; especially Ubuntu users who were not aware that their distro did a switcharoo or users who never heard of libav. I don't know if libav intended users to think this, but they probably enjoyed this side-effect.

Some Ubuntu users thought the message was too misleading and it was later changed to:

This program is not developed anymore and is only provided for compatibility.  
Use avconv instead (see Changelog for the list of incompatible changes).

A small improvement in my opinion, but I feel as if it is not clear enough.

Which one do I use?

Nobody can tell you which one to use. The main difference for users is that FFmpeg merges many commits from libav, but it's not so reciprocal since libav seems to pretend that FFmpeg does not exist and only occasionally cherry-picks from FFmpeg.

To the casual user, there should not be huge differences. For Ubuntu users who want to use FFmpeg, you can compile it by following How To Compile FFmpeg and x264, use Jon Severinsson's FFmpeg PPA, or get a simple static binary linked from the FFmpeg download page.

For more info see The FFmpeg/Libav situation.

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It's beyond a badly worded message, it's flat out wrong. FFmpeg hasn't stopped development at all, in fact FFmpeg has a far larger community than LibAV... the Ubuntu maintainers made that message to trick users into using LibAV out of the mistaken belief that FFmpeg was dead. it's 100% pure malice. – MarcusJ Apr 15 '15 at 23:48
avconv doesn't even support LADSPA – VassilisGr Jan 6 at 12:42

When you go here you'll see that the most recent update is September 2012 (a few months ago).

It looks like this says it's just specific to Ubuntu and Debian at this time.

Some time ago ffmpeg split into two forks under the name of ffmpeg and libav.

Debian is following the libav fork in it's distribution and in an upcoming upload the binary /usr/bin/ffmpeg will be replaced by /usr/bin/avconv.

As far as I know it is not necessary to switch immediately, but Winff should be upgraded to allow for either binary (from the Debian perspective, with a preference for avconv). I know you can set the location of the binary in the preferences, but I think that with the location set, Winff should be able to find the proper binary.

I think in the future also Windows and other distributions might be hit by this issue.

To answer your question about whether or not it's exactly the same:

I have implemented the checks for the correct binary in my local checkout, but reading up 1, I see that there are some inconsistencies between avconv and ffmpeg. That issue is larger, because the preset file will need adjustment and especially the way we create the command line will have to change. The options that operate on the input file need to go BEFORE the input file "-i".

Please note, this may be specific to the Windows version. This was posted regarding the Linux version:

FFmpeg audio/video conversion tool is now known as AVConv (a better name in my opinion). So "ffmpeg" command line tool is obsolete and "avconv" should be used. As far as I noticed all parameters remained the same, but further investigations should be made. Some modifications need to be done in CIS.


Install AVConv on the machine(s) that run CIS. Usually avconv should appear be updating ffmpeg (that worked on Ubuntu; not tested for Debian). Replace "ffmpeg" with "avconv" in cis/api/, class FFmpegTranscoder, field prog_bin, which represents the conversion tool executable. Refactor file names, class names, method names, variable names etc. that contain "FFmpeg" or "ffmpeg" such that they contain AVConv. An IDE like Eclipse could do this automatically. Test! If problems are noticed, debug!

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I strongly disagree with the post that says "ffmpeg is obsolete and avconv should be used". – slhck Jul 4 '14 at 14:06

The current situation (mid 2015)

It appears to be better to stick with FFmpeg. The whole situation is rather messy and ugly. I just started reading up on the fork a few days ago. Ignoring all the drama, here are what appear to be facts:

  • FFmpeg incorporates change sets from libav, while libav is reluctant to do so (see debian debate)
  • Chrome uses ffmpeg, and google has put serious effort into making it secure. libav is also incorporating those changes, but at a slower pace (google blog post)
  • FFmpeg attempts to keep as many codecs as possible, while libav dropped some (libav mailing list, post from a libav dev)
  • The FFmpeg community is larger than libav, and the most dedicated developer (michael niedermayer) stuck with FFmpeg (commit stats)
  • The ubuntu/debian maintainers for FFmpeg were part of the libav fork. they added deprecation messages to some command line tools, hinting that ffmpeg is deprecated. this caused a lot of confusion. both debian and ubuntu are switching back to ffmpeg.
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