I have a video stream with the following properties:

Stream #0:0: Video: mpeg4 (Advanced Simple Profile) (XVID / 0x44495658), yuv420p, 720x416 [SAR 1:1 DAR 45:26], 1908 kb/s, 25 fps, 25 tbr, 25 tbn, 25 tbc

When I run it in VLC, I have to press "A" to change aspect ratio to "4:3" to make the video show with the correct aspect ratio.

Looking at the video facts, Is the error that a) the actual video has been incorrectly stretched in the pixel data, or b) there is simply some metadata value that has been incorrectly set?

If the former, I know I can re-encode the video and change the width and height. But if the latter, what ffmpeg command to I run to fix the metadata without re-encoding the video itself?


There is a difference between Sample Aspect Ratio (SAR) and Display Aspect Ratio (DAR). If you want to change the video to display at 4:3, you will either need to change the actual pixels in the image (by scaling the pixels and changing SAR), or by setting a metadata flag that at the container level that tells external media players to stretch the image to your desired DAR.

You will not be able to scale the pixels and change SAR without applying a video filter. If you choose this method, you will be required to transcode the file - since you cannot "stream copy" the video stream while applying a video filter.

To scale the image and change SAR (while transcoding), try:

ffmpeg -i <INPUT_FILE> -vf scale=720:540 -c:v <Video_Codec> <OUTPUT_FILE>

On the other hand, if you just want to change the metadata flag and adjust the DAR, you will be able to stream copy the video. To do this, try:

ffmpeg -i <INPUT_FILE> -aspect 720:540 -c copy [OUTPUT_FILE]
  • 1
    Excellent! Changing the aspect worked straight away!
    – forthrin
    Apr 30 '15 at 18:04
  • 6
    You can't use -c copy and scale at the same time; however you can use -aspect to change the aspect ratio at the container level (but not the stream level).
    – llogan
    Apr 30 '15 at 18:56
  • @LordNeckbeard, using -aspect does work for playback in ffplay, but not in WMP or MPC-HC. It adds an additional SAR/DAR item to the Stream #… info line in FFmpeg/probe/play but doesn't seem to be solution for general playback. Stretching the video with the window seems like the easiest solution for MPC-HC playback.
    – Lumi
    Jan 3 '16 at 14:10
  • 1
    As was stated above, you can't just copy the stream and expect it to work (everywhere), you're going to have to re-encode, e.g.: ffmpeg -strict -2 -i [INPUT] -aspect 720:540 -strict -2 [OUTPUT]. I added -strict -2 (note that's -2, not just 2) to get ffmpeg to stop complaining about the aac audio in the original. This re-encoded a square source into an output at 4:3. May 20 '17 at 10:47
  • 1
    @MikhailV - for MPEG-2, -aspect is useless; you need to use -bsf:v mpeg2_metadata=display_aspect_ratio=4/3 (the only valid values are 4/3, 16/9, 221/100). Even this might not work, due to Sequence Display Extension metadata in the stream, in which case you'd have to set the aspect ratio there too, perhaps by demuxing and processing with ReStream.
    – Mike Brown
    Jul 5 '20 at 3:04

Changing the SAR without reencoding also works with ffmpeg on .mp4 using the h264_metadata as Gyan pointed out here:

ffmpeg -i in.mp4 -c copy -bsf:v "h264_metadata=sample_aspect_ratio=4/3" out.mp4
  • 2
    Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference.
    – MMM
    Feb 28 '20 at 11:15
  • Works great, and on .flv too, but you need a reasonably recent version of ffmpeg. The version 3.4.6 included in Linux Mint 19.3 / Ubuntu 18.04 still lacks the h264_metadata bitstream filter, I had to install 4.1.4 from a PPA. May 3 '20 at 10:50
  • 1
    @MMM, the working code is in my answer. The Link only gives credit to Gyan from whom I learned it. The Link is not needed to accomplish the goal.
    – drake7
    May 6 '20 at 11:15

Delgado's answer is correct that MP4Box can do this, but the -par option doesn't work quite as described. With an -out parameter (so as not to disturb your original file):

mp4box source.mp4 -out target.mp4 -par stream-number=width:height

When you use -par stream-number=width:height, you define the pixel aspect ratio – that is, the result of dividing the device aspect ratio by the storage aspect ratio. (Equivalently, you're describing the aspect ratio of a source pixel.) For example, suppose you have a DVD source that's 720×480, and the correct display aspect ratio is 4:3. For this case, you need:

mp4box source.mp4 -out target.mp4 -par 1=8:9

because (4/3) / (720/480) = 8/9.

If the source represents true SD NTSC pixels (in which case only the central 704×480 pixels are supposed to map to a 4×3 screen, with 8 pixels overscan on either side), the correct command would be:

mp4box source.mp4 -out target.mp4 -par 1=10:11

because (4/3) / (704/480) = 10/11 – exactly the reference pixel aspect ratio for standard definition NTSC video.

For the case given in the question, if it's really 4:3, that gives a very odd pixel aspect ratio: (4/3)/(720/416) = 104/135. It's 720 wide, which suggests a DVD source; it's a 25 fps video, suggesting PAL, but the PAR works out to less than 1, suggesting NTSC. It could be 4:5, I suppose (very close to 104:135), but I don't know of anything that produces that pixel aspect ratio; maybe try that first, and then try 3:4 if it still looks a little too stretched horizontally. If you're certain it's exactly 4:3, of course, just use 104:135.


ffmpeg can't change parameters of a video stream without re-encoding (edit: or let's say does it in a strange way by adding a 2nd pair of SAR/DAR, instead of overwriting them), MP4Box (part of gpac) and mkvmerge can. In case of one (edit: 16:9 stretched) video stream and a real/correct aspect ratio of 4:3, you may want to try:

MP4Box -par 1=3:4 VideoFile.mp4

    "-par" : PixelAspectRatio (adjusts DAR + SAR with respect to the video resolution)
    "1"=   : stream number
    "3:4"  : aspect ratio (lower number 1st!) (edit: 16:9 * 3:4 = 4:3)
    Changes are directly applied to "VideoFile.mp4", no copy

To verify before and after: ffmpeg -i VideoFile.mp4

  • The first statement is incorrect. ffmpeg can do this with the -c copy option, as described in @occvtech's previous answer. May 1 '20 at 16:12
  • You are wrong. Read occvtech's answer again, and have in mind: ffmpeg in conjunction with -c copy works on container level, not on stream level (container is the thing that combines an audio stream and a video stream to a single file and may contain meta information). The downside on not fixing the video stream's aspect ratio is that the created container file has both aspect ratios inside and it depends on the player software, which is selected for play back (see working/not working comments above).
    – Delgado
    May 2 '20 at 19:42
  • I can personally witness that ffmpeg is able to fix the stream level as well as the container level. You are right, though, that @occvtech's answer alone is insufficient. You have to factor in @drake7's answer using -bsf:v h264_metadata. Perhaps a combined answer would be appropriate. Note that you need a reasonably recent version of ffmpeg for that. The version included in Linux Mint 19.3 is too old and lacks the h264_metadata bitstream filter. I had to use a PPA. May 3 '20 at 10:42
  • Interesting. I did test runs on debian 10 and its ffmpeg (4.1.4-1): Without the -aspect switch, it conserved the original aspect ratio - regardless of other options (copy / bitstream / video filters). Using -c copy -aspect 4:3 produced a warning: "Overriding aspect ratio with stream copy may produce invalid files", and adds a 2nd pair of SAR/DAR. That confuses me and some software player. I prefer single nailed SAR/DAR values. If this works for you, great. ffmpeg produces a file that works for most cases. Doubtless.
    – Delgado
    May 6 '20 at 19:18
  • 1
    Re: "2nd pair" ... The first pair of SAR/DAR you'll note is in square brackets and comes from the video stream. The second pair is not in square brackets and comes from the container. Use -aspect to set the DAR in the container and -bsf:v h264_metadata=sample_aspect_ratio=x/y to set the SAR in the video stream.
    – Mike Brown
    Jul 5 '20 at 2:59

ffmpeg 4.3.2 -bsf:v h264_metadata=sample_aspect_ratio=x/y gives an error on DNxHR coded Quicktime files while MP4Box writes a second line of PAR into the metadata.

Width : 720 pixels Height : 540 pixels Display aspect ratio : 16:9 Original display aspect ratio : 4:3

I tested multiple players and even an NLE and so far all display the correct aspect ratio.


Use this command line for changing the resolution and display aspect ratio.

ffmpeg -i "input file" -vf scale=$w:$h -aspect $w:$h "output file"


ffmpeg -i "input file" -vf -vf scale=$w:$h -aspect x:y "output file"

$w - resolution width
$h - resolution height
x - aspect ratio width
y - aspect ratio height


  • If you put -aspect x:y without -vf scale=$w:$h, the output will only have the change on display aspect ratio.

  • If you put -vf scale=$w:$h without -aspect x:y, the output will only have the change on the resolution.

  • The command -vf scale=$w:-1 or scale=-1:$h will not always provide the expected output so to make sure you get both change on resolution and aspect ratio, you can just use the above command line.

** I only tried this with input.mkv and output.mkv files since this is only what I am working on at the moment. Feel free to try this with the other file types.

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