Home » How do I convert a video to GIF using ffmpeg, with reasonable quality?

How do I convert a video to GIF using ffmpeg, with reasonable quality?


ffmpeg example

GIF output from ffmpeg

ffmpeg can output high quality GIF. Before you start it is always recommended to use a recent version: download or compile.

ffmpeg -ss 30 -t 3 -i input.mp4 -vf "fps=10,scale=320:-1:flags=lanczos,split[s0][s1];[s0]palettegen[p];[s1][p]paletteuse" -loop 0 output.gif
  • This example will skip the first 30 seconds (-ss 30) of the input and create a 3 second output (-t 3).
  • fps filter sets the frame rate. A rate of 10 frames per second is used in the example.
  • scale filter will resize the output to 320 pixels wide and automatically determine the height while preserving the aspect ratio. The lanczos scaling algorithm is used in this example.
  • palettegen and paletteuse filters will generate and use a custom palette generated from your input. These filters have many options, so refer to the links for a list of all available options and values. Also see the Advanced options section below.
  • split filter will allow everything to be done in one command and avoids having to create a temporary PNG file of the palette.
  • Control looping with -loop output option but the values are confusing. A value of 0 is infinite looping, -1 is no looping, and 1 will loop once meaning it will play twice. So a value of 10 will cause the GIF to play 11 times.

Advanced options

The palettegen and paletteuse filters have many additional options. The most important are:

  • stats_mode (palettegen). You can force the filters to focus the palette on the general picture (full which is the default), only the moving parts (diff), or each individual frame (single). For example, to generate a palette for each individual frame use palettegen=stats_mode=single & paletteuse=new=1.

  • dither (paletteuse). Choose the dithering algorithm. There are three main types: deterministic (bayer), error diffusion (all the others including the default sierra2_4a), and none. Your GIF may look better using a particular dithering algorithm, or no dithering at all. If you want to try bayer be sure to test the bayer_scale option too.

See High quality GIF with FFmpeg for explanations, example images, and more detailed info for advanced usage.

Also see the palettegen and paletteuse documentation for all available options and values.

ImageMagick convert example

GIF output from ffmpeg

Another command-line method is to pipe from ffmpeg to convert (or magick) from ImageMagick.

 ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -vf "fps=10,scale=320:-1:flags=lanczos" -c:v pam -f image2pipe - | convert -delay 10 - -loop 0 -layers optimize output.gif

ffmpeg options:

  • -vf "fps=10,scale=320:-1:flags=lanczos" a filtergraph using the fps and scale filters. fps sets frame rate to 10, and scale sets the size to 320 pixels wide and height is automatically determined and uses a value that preserves the aspect ratio. The lanczos scaling algorithm is used in this example.

  • -c:v pam Chooses the pam image encoder. The example outputs the PAM (Portable AnyMap) image format which is a simple, lossless RGB format that supports transparency (alpha) and is supported by convert. It is faster to encode than PNG.

  • -f image2pipe chooses the image2pipe muxer because when outputting to a pipe ffmpeg needs to be told which muxer to use.

convert options:

  • -delay See Setting frame rate section below.

  • -loop 0 makes infinite loop.

  • -layers optimize Will enable the general purpose GIF optimizer. See ImageMagick Animation Optimization for more details. It is not guaranteed that it will produce a smaller output, so it is worth trying without -layers optimize and comparing results.

Setting frame rate

Set frame rate with a combination of the fps filter in ffmpeg and -delay in convert. This can get complicated because convert just gets a raw stream of images so no fps is preserved. Secondly, the -delay value in convert is in ticks (there are 100 ticks per second), not in frames per second. For example, with fps=12.5 = 100/12.5 = 8 = -delay 8.

convert rounds the -delay value to a whole number, so 8.4 results in 8 and 8.5 results in 9. This effectively means that only some frame rates are supported when setting a uniform delay over all frames (a specific delay can be set per frame but that is beyond this answer).

-delay appears to be ignored if used as an output option, so it has to be used before - as shown in the example.

Lastly, browsers and image viewers may implement a minimum delay, so your -delay may get ignored anyway.

Video courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center.

If you would prefer to avoid intermediate image files, the commands provided by LordNeckBeard can be piped between ffmpeg and ImageMagick’s convert so that no intermediate files are required:

ffmpeg -i input.flv -vf scale=320:-1 -r 10 -f image2pipe -vcodec ppm - | convert -delay 10 -loop 0 - output.gif

The -f image2pipe tells ffmpeg to split the video into images and make it suitable to be piped out, and -vcodec ppm specifies the output format to be ppm (for some reason if the format is png, either convert does not read all the images from the pipe, or ffmpeg does not output them all). The - for both commands specifies that a pipe will be used for output and input respectively.

To optimize the result without saving a file, you can pipe the output from convert to a second convert command:

ffmpeg -i input.flv -vf scale=320:-1 -r 10 -f image2pipe -vcodec ppm - | convert -delay 10 -loop 0 - gif:- | convert -layers Optimize - output.gif

The gif:- tells convert to pipe its output as gif formatted data and -layers Optimize tells the second convert to perform optimize-frame and optimize-transparancy methods (see the ImageMagick Introduction to Animation Optimization). Note that the output from the -layers Optimize may not always provide a smaller file size, so you may want to try converting to a gif without optimization first to be sure.

Remember that during this whole process everything is in memory so you may need sufficient memory if the images are quite large.

As of ffmpeg 2.6, we can do even better. Based on High quality GIF with FFmpeg:


ffmpeg -i input.flv -vf "$filters,palettegen" -y $palette
ffmpeg -i input.flv -i $palette -lavfi "$filters [x]; [x][1:v] paletteuse" -y output.gif

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