How can I Use FFmpeg or ffplay as a library, instead of calling exe in C/C++?

Video editing and multimedia content are of great interest to me. In order to improve my video editing abilities, I’ve taken on a personal project and decided to investigate FFmpeg’s capabilities as a flexible multimedia framework. I did face a particular difficulty on my quest, though.
I’ve been exploring with FFmpeg, which occasionally makes working with external executable files difficult. I’m now eager to simplify my process and learn how to include FFmpeg or ffplay as a library directly to your C/C++ code.

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Instead of calling FFmpeg or ffplay as separate executables, you can immediately integrate and link the FFmpeg libraries into your application to use them as libraries within your C/C++ code. This gives you the ability to programmatically use FFmpeg’s multimedia features.

Follow these detailed directions:

1. Downloading FFmpeg

Make sure that you have FFmpeg installed on your system, if not refer to the given links:

2. Create C/C++ Project

Establish a C or C++ project where you plan to incorporate FFmpeg as a library.

3. Include FFmpeg Headers

Add the required FFmpeg headers to your C/C++ code. Your particular requirements will determine the exact headers needed, but typical ones include.

#include <libavformat/avformat.h>

#include <libavcodec/avcodec.h>

#include <libavutil/avutil.h>

4. Link with FFmpeg Libraries

During compilation, specify the proper library flags to link your project with the FFmpeg libraries.
Here is an example of using GCC:

g++ -o your_program your_program.cpp -lavformat -lavcodec -lavutil

Your_program should be changed to the name of your output binary, and depending on how you plan to use it, you should modify the flags to include the necessary FFmpeg libraries. Libavformat, libavcodec, and libavutilare typically required as core libraries.

5. Initialise FFmpeg

Call av_register_all() to start the library before using FFmpeg functions.


6. Use FFmpeg Functions

  1. You may now use FFmpeg directly in your code to carry out a number of multimedia activities, including opening, decoding, encoding, and altering multimedia files.

  2. For example, the following is how to open a video file:

AVFormatContext* formatContext = avformat_alloc_context();

if (avformat_open_input(&formatContext, "input.mp4", NULL, NULL) < 0) {

// Handle errors


  1. Using FFmpeg features, keep in mind to effectively manage mistakes and release allocated resources.

7. Compile and Run Your Application

To carry out your multimedia processing activities, first, compile your application and link it with the FFmpeg libraries.

These instructions will help you smoothly integrate FFmpeg or ffplay as libraries into your C/C++ program. By doing so, you can manage multimedia operations precisely without having to call external executables. Because FFmpeg has a wide range of functionality, consult the FFmpeg documentation ( and relevant documentation for the particular multimedia tasks you want to carry out in your application.

Do let me know if you have further queries.

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Can you tell me how can I effectively manage errors and release allocated resources when using FFmpeg functions in my C/C++ code?

Hey lvan!

Yes, it’s important to look for and deal with issues after calling each function call when utilizing FFmpeg functions. The sample presented shows how to handle errors while opening a video file. In addition, remember to release resources allocated by utilising FFmpeg calls like avformat_free_context().

Then, why is it important to call av_register_all() before using FFmpeg functions, and what role does it play in the integration process?

Basically, prior to utilizing any FFmpeg functions, you should call av_register_all() to initialize the FFmpeg library. It registers all codecs, formats, and protocols that are accessible so that your program can fully take advantage of FFmpeg’s multimedia capabilities.

Got it! Thank you for the detailed answers.