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What is FFmpeg?

Does your website have a lot of images, audio, video, or other multimedia content:? A hosting plan that includes FFmpeg can keep your bandwidth and disk space usage down. FFmpeg is free, open-source software designed to facilitate the creation, management, conversion, and streaming of multimedia content.

If you think your multimedia-rich site will be fine with your unlimited bandwidth hosting, you might want to recheck your terms of service: “unlimited" isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

For a website full of multimedia, those video, audio, image files could use up tons of bandwidth. If you go over your allotted bandwidth, you could find yourself in violation of your terms of service, and in danger of getting your site shut down. If you’re lucky, your host might allow you to download your files… but if they decide to deny you access, your website will just be gone.

Luckily, there’s a hosting feature called FFmpeg that will help keep your multimedia-rich site’s bandwidth usage down.

Created in 2000, FFmpeg is a free and open-source collection of tools and libraries that allows users to record, convert, and stream video and audio in a multitude of formats. These tools are extremely useful in optimizing files for online sharing and streaming.

Video and audio files in their original, uncompressed formats are often enormous in size. For example, a high-quality MPEG2 file captured right from your DVD would be a huge file, into the hundreds of megabytes for just a few minutes. By converting it to a much smaller, but still viewable, VOB format, you could save tons of space and bandwidth—two critical considerations for any website owner in an age where “unlimited bandwidth" doesn't always live up to its name.

Could Your Website Benefit From FFmpeg Hosting?

Depending on the type of website you're looking to create and the bandwidth you need for your multimedia, you may need more than the sometimes basic multimedia support included with many hosting packages. If you plan to stream multimedia content for your users, or provide tools for the conversion, sharing, and streaming of user-created content, then you may want to look into a comprehensive multimedia management tool such as FFmpeg.

Your website could benefit from FFmpeg software if it includes:

  • streaming video,
  • video uploading and sharing,
  • podcasts,
  • user-submitted images, such as for product reviews,
  • multimedia sharing and downloads,
  • image galleries,
  • …or other multimedia-rich features.

With FFmpeg hosting, you can rest assured your site won’t violate your host’s terms of service by exceeding your bandwidth, even if you let visitors to your site upload and convert their own content for sharing and streaming, or share content from around the Web.

How Does FFmpeg Work?

FFmpeg is a free open-source project, available to download from the FFmpeg official website. You can actually use it on your own computer, to play, stream, decode, encode, and manipulate all kinds of multimedia in other ways. In addition to conversions to and from almost any media type, FFmpeg also supports basic editing, so you (or your users) can resize, resample, or change the aspect ratio of content to fit the requirements of your site.

Many multimedia-rich websites across the web use FFmpeg software. If you’ve ever seen a YouTube video embedded on another website, you’re seen FFmpeg in action, detecting which file type to use to optimize the file to play on your browser.

When FFmpeg comes with your hosting plan, you can download it as a one-click install via the hosting control panel (cPanel) of many popular providers. Some web hosts already have FFmpeg scripts pre-installed with your hosting plan. If you don’t see an option to install FFmpeg and you’re not sure how to enable it, contact your host’s support and they’ll be able to guide you.

Once FFmpeg is installed and enabled, you’re good to go! You and your visitors can upload video, audio, and images to your website, and FFmpeg will work behind the scenes to optimize your files while minimizing your bandwidth and disk space usage.

Select the Right Hosting Plan

FFmpeg software itself is free and open-source, so it shouldn't add anything to your monthly hosting expenses, but keep in mind that streaming content and big file sizes can add up quickly—and some hosts charge overage fees or even shut down sites that exceed their usage limits.

Depending on your needs for your website, you might consider other hosting features for your multimedia website, such as uptime guarantees or video streaming.

Some hosts won’t enable FFmpeg unless you get a dedicated hosting plan, so be sure to check the details before you select your hosting plan. If you plan to host and stream a lot of multimedia content, select a plan with plenty of available storage space and bandwidth, and read the terms of service carefully so you don’t risk exceeding your limits.

FFmpeg Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is FFmpeg?

    FFmpeg is a software project with libraries and programs for handling multimedia data, such as audio and video. FFmpeg contains over 100 codecs for encoding and decoding multimedia data, including libavcodec, an audio/video codec library, and libavformat, an audio/video container mux and demux library.

  • What can FFmpeg do?

    FFmpeg can be used to convert multimedia into other formats, such as .wav to .mp3, or flash videos to mp4s. It can also be used to edit video and audio files, including cropping, cutting, resizing, rotating, and more. Using FFmpeg on your website, you can convert and stream video and audio files.

  • What file types does FFmpeg support?

    FFmpeg supports hundreds of different audio, video, and image formats, from the most popular (.gif, .mp3, .mp4, .jpeg, .wma) to many more obscure files including audio formats for Nintendo Wii, SimCity, and Sega Saturn; and video formats for Chinese MP3 players, Bethesda Softworks games, Quake III, and Wing Commander IV.

  • Is FFmpeg free?

    Yes, FFmpeg is available as a free download from the official site. It’s licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License 2.1+, or GNU General Public License 2+, depending on which version you choose.

  • Who created FFmpeg?

    FFmpeg was first created by French computer programmer Fabrice Bellard in 2000, and is now maintained by Austrian developer Michael Niedermayer since 2004, with input from other developers.

  • What operating systems does FFmpeg support?

    FFmpeg was developed for Linux operating systems, but it can be compiled to run on other operating systems including Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. FFmpeg can be used on Windows servers, but it’s most commonly used on Linux.

  • What are the benefits of web hosting with FFmpeg?

    FFmpeg can be used on your website to automatically convert multimedia files to specified formats, which can dramatically lower your storage and bandwidth use. This is crucial for multimedia rich sites. Many large brand name websites and software applications use FFmpeg to handle their multimedia efficiently, including YouTube, Plex, Blender, and Google Chrome. With FFmpeg hosting, you can run your own streaming video, audio, or image sharing website without using up a lot of unnecessary bandwidth.

  • What kinds of websites can benefit from FFmpeg software?

    Besides multimedia-sharing websites, any website that uses a lot of multimedia files can save on storage and bandwidth usage by using FFmpeg’s tools. If your website has a large gallery of images, allows users to upload multimedia, or if you host podcasts on your site, you could also benefit from FFmpeg.

  • How does FFmpeg compare to Libav?

    Libav is another free software project that has libraries and programs for handling multimedia, also available under a GNU license, and also supporting many operating systems. Libav is actually a fork that split off from the FFmpeg project in 2011 due to conflicts between developers, which is why it shares many similarities. The main differences today are that FFmpeg has a few more features and more active development and shorter release cycles than Libav, and is slightly more popular, perhaps due to its longer history.

  • How does FFmpeg compare to Handbrake?

    Handbrake is a free, open source video transcoding app. It was originally developed in 2003 to make it easier to rip DVDs. It runs on Windows, OSX and Ubuntu. It's a popular tool for quickly converting video files to other formats online in order to upload to YouTube or other sites. While Handbrake may be an easy tool for beginners to use, FFmpeg can be a much more powerful tool with more advanced options for not only video, but other multimedia files as well.

  • What’s the difference between FFmpeg and GStreamer?

    GStreamer is a multimedia framework written in C. Programmers can use the framework to incorporate multimedia handling into their projects, such as audio and video playback, recording, editing, and streaming. It uses a plugin architecture for its functionality, and FFmpeg happens to be one of the plugins available for GStreamer.

  • How do I install FFmpeg to use on my website?

    Some web hosting plans come with FFmpeg pre-installed or available as a one-click installation, but since it’s free to download, you should be able to install it yourself if you have root access. Be sure to check with the hosting company before purchasing to be sure that their technology meets the minimum requirements for installation.

  • Is FFmpeg web hosting expensive?

    Not necessarily. Since FFmpeg is free software, many web hosting companies are able to provide FFmpeg hosting at inexpensive rates. However, if you're planning on creating a website that will use a lot of storage space and bandwidth due to multimedia file sharing, you may want to invest in a better hosting plan, or consider a VPS or dedicated server. If you go over normal bandwidth limits, even on “unlimited” hosting accounts, you may be charged for the extra storage and bandwidth, or even lose your website altogether.

  • What should I look for in a FFmpeg host?

    Make sure that the hosting plan you choose will have adequate storage and bandwidth for your website needs. If it’s “unlimited,” check the terms of service carefully, since streaming or sharing media may not fall under their guidelines. If your plan doesn't come with FFmpeg already installed, make sure it meets the minimum installation requirements. If you're not sure, contact the hosting company and ask if your chosen plan will meet your website’s needs.

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