I'm using ffmpeg to take a mjpeg feed from an IP camera and convert it into a series of still jpeg images. Here's the command I'm using:

ffmpeg -i http://xxx:[email protected]/vid.mjpg -f image2 -vcodec mjpeg %05d.jpg

Does anyone know a way to specify the level of jpg compression when using ffmpeg to create stills?

5 Answers 5


Here's what ended up doing the trick for me:

ffmpeg -i http://xx.xx/mjpg/video.mjpg -q:v 1 %05d.jpg

The -q:v 1 was the ticket. It sets the quality of the video encoder, where the -q means quality and the :v means video. Values range from 1 to 31, where lower means better.

  • 4
    I don't know if this was available years ago but if you want the source JPEG images unmodified from MJPEG, the answer is here: ffmpeg.org/ffmpeg-bitstream-filters.html#mjpeg2jpeg ---- In short: -c:v copy -bsf:v mjpeg2jpeg instead of q:v 1.
    – juanitogan
    Dec 24, 2016 at 11:51
  • 3
    Does anyone know what default value it uses? Oct 10, 2017 at 16:35
  • 1
    @JayR.Wren I did some tests and in my case it seems to start out low (good) and after a few seconds rises to 24.8 (bad). I don't know why. ffmpegs shows the current quality as q. Here it is 24.8 for example frame= 64 fps=5.0 q=24.8 Lsize=N/A time=00:00:16.00 bitrate=N/A dup=10 drop=299 speed=1.25x May 2, 2019 at 16:26
  • The default value is variable. It starts at 7, but quickly moves towards 1 or 31, based on a few other settings. My build of ffmpeg has a default output avg bitrate of 200000 (wow), so it quickly moves down to q:v 1 (opposite to @JayR.Wren). If you instead specify -b:v 10000 (avg bitrate target 10k) you'd see it quickly move up towards q:v 31. That said, 7 seems to be the starting point of the variable rate, and to me also seems like a sane default, before tweaking up or down from there (I personally find myself using values from 3 to 9).
    – jameslol
    Mar 31, 2021 at 3:09

$ ffmpeg -r 1/4 -i %03d.jpg -b 5000 -vcodec mjpeg -qscale 1 5000.avi


$ ffmpeg -r 1/4 -i %03d.jpg -vcodec copy -qscale 1 copy.avi


r       delay between next jpg, results 4 second
b       bitrate
vcodec  use jpeg encode
qscale  quality ratio
  • does qscale "compete" with the bitrate specifier, I wonder?
    – rogerdpack
    Jan 19, 2013 at 17:45
  • 2
    Isn't this opposite of what is being asked? This looks like jpeg to mjpeg. mjpeg to jpeg is the ask.
    – juanitogan
    Dec 22, 2016 at 23:35

You could try to export into PPM and use some other tool to convert into JPEG.

I looked into ffmpeg/libavcodec/mjpeg.c. I believe the quality is set to a fixed value.

Also you seem to convert a MJPEG video into JPEG still frames. I think in this case the code in ffmpeg/libavcodec/mjpeg2jpeg_bsf.c runs and the data isn't recoded. So the image quality wouldn't improve anyway.

This is the quantization table definition, I didn't see any reference to *val_?c where the values were scaled before use.

/* Set up the standard Huffman tables (cf. JPEG standard section K.3) */
/* IMPORTANT: these are only valid for 8-bit data precision! */
const uint8_t ff_mjpeg_bits_dc_luminance[17] =
{ /* 0-base */ 0, 0, 1, 5, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 };
const uint8_t ff_mjpeg_val_dc[12] =
{ 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 };

const uint8_t ff_mjpeg_bits_dc_chrominance[17] =
{ /* 0-base */ 0, 0, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 };

const uint8_t ff_mjpeg_bits_ac_luminance[17] =
{ /* 0-base */ 0, 0, 2, 1, 3, 3, 2, 4, 3, 5, 5, 4, 4, 0, 0, 1, 0x7d };
const uint8_t ff_mjpeg_val_ac_luminance[] =
{ 0x01, 0x02, 0x03, 0x00, 0x04, 0x11, 0x05, 0x12,
  • I'm not familiar with PPM, what is that?
    – weotch
    Aug 3, 2011 at 22:28
  • Also, the images look better when I access the camera from the browser compared to the jpgs I'm creating. That's why I was thinking some compression was occurring.
    – weotch
    Aug 3, 2011 at 22:31
  • PPM is simplest color image format one can imagine. Its just a header like "P6 640 480 255\n" and then the raw data. I just looked. Maybe it actually can't output this format. The only other option then would be -vc rawvideo. Did you try -quality?
    – whoplisp
    Aug 3, 2011 at 22:41
  • 1
    -vcodec ppm is needed to export ppm
    – OrangeDog
    Jan 10, 2012 at 14:08

Simpliest way I found

Explode video file in .png (lossless) then convert them in jpeg:

ffmpeg -i inputfile.avi image-%07d.png

(without option, this will extract all frames.)

I prefer using png compression even if ffmpeg is able to produce .ppm files (not compressed). Because using PPM will require a lot of disk space and won't be quicker (due to disk write time, of course not tested with SSD;).

Then (using netpbm tools)

for file in *.png;do
    echo -n $file...
    pngtopnm $file | pnmtojpeg -q $JPEGQUALITY >${file%.png}.jpg
    echo -e \\e[6Djpg\\e[K.

note down the number of a specific frame

mpv --osd-msg1='${estimated-frame-number} / ${estimated-frame-count}' vid1.mp4

Save frame numbers in a file one below other eg. frm.txt then run:

sed -i 's/^/eq(n\\,/' frm.txt; sed -i 's/$/)\+/'  frm.txt; sed -i '$ s/.$//' frm.txt;        #adds eq(n\, #adds )+ at the end of each line #remove + in lastline (last digit)

then extract them as bmp or png

frms=$(cat frm.txt); ffmpeg -i vid_1.mp4  -vf "select='$frms'" -fps_mode drop "frames_%03d.bmp"

then convert to jpg - the difference is HUGE 350kb (ffmpeg jpg of best quality vs 2MB (bmp converting to jpg)!!!!

for pic in *.bmp; do convert  -units PixelsPerInch -density 300 -quality 100  "$pic" "${pic//}_j.jpg"; done

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