Bookmarked FFmpeg - OTTVerse (OTTVerse)
FFmpeg is the Swiss Army knife of the video editing and processing world. You can practically do anything with it and in this category, we cover popular and useful uses of FFmpeg. 

Looks like a useful set of posts about using ffmpeg. I gave this one: Stack Videos Horizontally, Vertically, in a Grid With FFmpeg a quick try.

Earlier in the week I saw micro.blogger Dan Cohen’s newsletter: Humane Ingenuity 36: 15% Faster which linked to DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: Deformin’ in the Rain: How (and Why) to Break a Classic Film

Dan said:

Jason Mittell provides an extremely creative, occasionally bizarre, frequently hilarious, and ultimately rather helpful “inventory of deformative practices” to uncover hidden layers of meaning in media.

The article provides a pile of great gifs and distorted videos.

I’ve played around with this sort of thing before montages, gifsets and the like. Mostly DS106 inspired.

One idea I’d kept playing with is layering of images. My plan had been to layer a sequence into a movie, I’d never really got it going smoothly. I mostly just run a photo set through a script to get 1000s of images and choose a few interesting ones.

I usually use a few commandline tools for this, imagemagick & ffmpeg but there was a rather nice idea of using the StarStaX app an application for Star Trail Photography. I loaded it up with 90 odd jpgs images from a walk and merged them. I then stitched them together with ffmpeg and added some audio “Mysterious Ethereal Song” by theojt :

Not exactly a work of art but fun, I also learnt how to fade a video with ffmpeg which might be useful.

After seeing @adders on posting some timelapse I though I might have another go. My first thought was to just use the feature built into phone. I then though to repurpose a raspberry pi. This lead to the discovery that two of my PIs were at school leaving only one at home with a camera. This we zero had dome sterling service taking over 1 million pictures of the sky and stitching them into 122918 gifs and posting them to tumblr. I decommissioned that when tumblr started mistaking these for unsuitable photos.

My first idea were just write a simple bash script that would take a pic and copy it to my mac. I’ve done that before, just need to timestamp the image names. Then I found RPi-Cam-Web-Interface. This is really cool. It turns your pi into a camera and a webserver where you can control the camera and download the photos.

I am fairly used to setting up a headless pi and getting on my WiFi now. So the next step was just to follow all the instructions from the RPi-Cam-Web-Interface page. The usual fairly incomprehensible stuff in the terminal ensued. All worked fine though.

I then downloaded the folder full of images onto my mac and stitched them together with ffmpeg.

ffmpeg is a really complex beast, I think this worked ok:

make a list of the files with

for f in *.jpg; do echo "file '$f'" >> mylist.txt; done

then stitch them together:

ffmpeg -r 10 -f concat -i mylist.txt -c:v libx264 -pix_fmt yuv420p out.mp4

I messed about quite a bit, resizing the images before starting made for a smaller move and finally I

ffmpeg -i -vf scale=720:-2 outscaled.mp4

To make an even smaller version.

I am now on the look out for more interesting weather or a good sunset.


points to his blog post The way of the remix.

Where he asks:

Do you remix?
If so, how do you remix? What is your remix trigger? Is it curiosity or simply joining the dots as you see them? Do you like to layer-up? Or strive to simplify? Is it a tickly thought? Or a random one from left field?

Well yes, I think I do, although my definition of remix might be widened to include mashup. but of course, Everything is a Remix.

How, is a long story. I guess I prefer DIY approaches. I use baby steps, image editors (Fireworks is my fav), JavaScript, php, commandline tools (ffmpeg, imagemagick, gifsicle) and anything else that seems interesting.

The why is harder, I am not a developer or an artist, I don’t make anything as polished as the remixes that scale on social media. I like to think it is because I nearly can. That is I am going to learn something in the process.

DS106 was a major trigger, the people involved, especially @cogdog, @jimgroom and @mvdfunes The daily creates from DS106 often led to remixing.

Wouldn’t it be cool is another trigger, or I wonder, or will it be funny, or impress someone(Usually only me). Or I learn about a new, to me technology and try it out.

Here are a selection remixes & mashups I am quite please with:

Featured image, a remix of a gif that I made as a remix of an image in the Tate. using The way of the remix by @bryanMMathers is licenced under CC-BY-ND.

I liked the Pummelvision service so when it went I sort of
made my own. Which lead to this:
Flickr 2014 and DIY pummelvision and 2016 Flickring by.

I went a little early this year:

I’ve updated the script (gist) to handle a couple of new problems.

  1. Some of my iphone photos were upside down in the video as ffmpeg doesn’t see the Rotation EXIF. I installed jhead via homebrew deal with this.
  2. I installed sox to duplicate the background track as I took more photos and slowed them down a bit this year.

I have great fun with this every time I try it, I quite like the results but the tinkering with the script is the fun bit. I sure it could be made a lot more elegant but it works for me.

A couple of years ago I made a video of all my flickr videos in the style of the now dead pummelvision service.

I dug out the script tidied it up a little, and made the above video with my 2016 photos.

I uploaded the script in the unlikely event that someone else would want to do something like this. It is not a thing of beauty, I am well out of my depth and just type and test. The script need ffmpeg on your computer (I’d guess mac only as it used sips to resize images) and a Flickr API key.

The script also leave you with up to 500 images in a folder. Before I deleted them I made a montage and averaged them using imageMagick

montage -mode concatenate -tile 25x *.jpg out.jpg which is the featured image on this post.


convert *.jpg -average aver.jpeg


I guess all that the average proves is that most of my photos are landscapes, given the hit of a sky…

A few years back I used pummelvision to make a video of all of my flickr photos. Pummelvision was an online service where you pointed it to your flickr stream and it built a video for you and posted to vimeo. It could also take input from tumblr and facebook.

I though it might be interesting to make a similar video for my photos this year. However going to look for pummelvision drew a blank, the company had closed. I then though It might be interesting to try to create a similar video. From my memory and looking at my old video, pummelvision made a video with no transitions and very fast. As far as I remember it just used one tune. I downloaded my old video from vimeo and extracted the audio file using QuickTime pro. I took a guess that the frame rate was about 6 photos per second.

Grabbing the images

I guess there a few ways to grab all your photos from flickr, but this is how I did it. If I was doing it frequently I’d look into automating it, but this was a once off, or once a year if I do it again.

Flickr’s api would allow you to do this, but it seemed a bit excessive to try and write a pile of code. The Flickr API has a section to test all of the command so I headed to: Flickr Api Explorer – There I put my own user ID in, set the min_date_taken and max_date_taken, increased the per_page to 500 and added the large photo url to the extras field.

This produced an xml file will all the information:

Flickr xml

I then extracted the 397 urls from the text. There will be many ways to do this, but I am experimenting with the Sublime Text application at the moment, it found & selected all of the https: occurrences and the with cmd-shift-right arrow expanded the selection to the quotes. One copy got all of the files!

Once I had a list of urls I edit those so that each line was:

curl "" > image_183.jpg

With the numbers out the image sequential and padded to 3 characters, eg image_001.jpg, image 002.jpg etc. I also numbered then in reverse so the oldest photo would be first.

I saved this text as a file, and moved into the terminal:

cd path/to/thefolder
chmod +x

This code set the file to executable and then ran it, the terminal filled with text and the folder with images. Curl is the command-line tool for downloading files.

Sizing images

Downloading the large size gave a folder full of images but some where landscape and some portrait, ie 1024 × 768 or 768 x1024 I need the images to all be the same size. So i used the sips utility to first resize them, sips --resampleHeight 768 *.jpg, then to pad the portrait ones: sips --padToHeightWidth 786 1024 *.jpg

Which gives me pictures like this for the portrait ones:

Img 076 toad

Making the movie

I discounted using iMove, moviemaker or the like as I wanted something quick (not necessary quick this time…) and that could be automated. I am also not sure in iMovie can show as fast as 6 per second. (Update, a quick look shows iMove can set speed to fractions of a second per frame.)

I though of a couple of ways to make the move, using Quicktime pro or ffmpeg. Quicktime pro proved the easiest option, opened the app and File -> Open Image sequence…, choose 6 frames per second, then all I had to do was save the movie.

Unfortunately Quicktime pro has been replace by Quicktime and it is a bit of a bother to get your old QT pro working if you had paid for a license. So I though I’d figure out ffmpeg too.

With great power comes great complexity

FFmpeg is A complete, cross-platform solution to record, convert and stream audio and video. It is a command line application and has a lot of variables. I can usually find out the right command with a bit of google. This one took quite a lot of google and failures. Most of these failures came from me trying to set a framerate, which lead to skipped frames. Eventually I dropped the idea of using the framerate options and got a very (too) fast video with this:

ffmpeg -f image2 -i IMG_%03d.jpg -c:v libx264 -pix_fmt yuv420p out.mp4

Note to self, in the -i, iput option IMG_%03d.jpg means all the images with 3 numerals, eg 001, 002… 375

I then slowed it down a little with this:

ffmpeg -i out.mp4 -filter:v "setpts=4.0*PTS" 2014-flickr-show.mp4

And added the audio:

ffmpeg -i 2014-flickr-show.mp4 -i pum.mp3 -map 0 -map 1 -codec copy -codec:a aac -strict experimental -b:a 192k -shortest 2014-flickr-show-audio.mp4

It took a fair bit of google to get the audio right too, the -codec:a option seems to sort things out.

Whys and Wherefores

As noted above, I could have done most of this with iMovie. But by using ffmpeg or QT pro, I’ve the opportunity to play, learn and possibly end up with an automated system. It would seem well within the realms of possibility to have a script that used the flickr api to download a bunch of images, perhaps for a year or with a tag and make a movie from them.

I’ve now figured out how to do most of this by piecing together the above fragments and finding out a bit about loops and renaming files, but I’ve no idea of how to create a bash script that will replace my hard coded tags, usernames ect with input, more to learn.

Once you have a lot of jpgs

You might as well do other things with them: Flickr 2014