Version 21 (modified by saste, 2 years ago) (diff)

drop link to not-so-useful libav-user thread

FFmpeg provides a subsystem for hardware acceleration.

Hardware acceleration allows to use specific devices (usually graphical card or other specific devices) to perform multimedia processing. This allows to use dedicated hardware to perform demanding computation while freeing the CPU from such computations. Typically hardware acceleration enables specific hardware devices (usually the GPU) to perform operations related to decoding and encoding video streams, or filtering video.

When using FFmpeg the tool, HW-assisted decoding is enabled using through the -hwaccel option, which enables a specific decoder. Each decoder may have specific limitations (for example an H.264 decoder may only support baseline profile). HW-assisted encoding is enabled through the use of a specific encoder (for example nvenc_h264). Filtering HW-assisted processing is only supported in a few filters, and in that case you enable the OpenCL code through a filter option.

There are several hardware acceleration standards API, some of which are supported to some extent by FFmpeg.

VDPAU (Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix)

Developed by NVidia for UNIX/Linux systems. To enable this you typically need the libvdpau development package in your distribution, and a compatible graphic card.

Official website:

Note that VDPAU cannot be used to decode frames in memory, the compressed frames are sent by libavcodec to the GPU device supported by VDPAU and then the decoded image can be accessed using the VDPAU API. This is not done automatically by FFmpeg, but must be done at the application level (check for example the ffmpeg_vdpau.c file used by ffmpeg.c). Also note that with this API it is not possible to move the decoded frame back to RAM, for example in case you need to encode again the decoded frame (e.g. when doing transcoding on a server).

Several decoders are currently supported through VDPAU in libavcodec, in particular MPEG Video, VC-1, H.264, MPEG4.


XVideo Motion Compensation. This is an extension of the X video extension (Xv) for the X Window System (and thus again only available only on UNIX/Linux).

Official specification is available here:


Video Acceleration API (VA API) is a non-proprietary and royalty-free open source software library ("libVA") and API specification, initially developed by Intel but can be used in combination with other devices. Linux only:


Direct-X Video Acceleration API, developed by Microsoft (supports Windows and XBox360).

Link to MSDN documentation:

Several decoders are currently supported, in particular H.264, MPEG2, VC1 and WMV3.

DXVA2 hardware acceleration only works on Windows. In order to build FFmpeg with DXVA2 support, you need to install the dxva2api.h header. For MinGW this can be done by downloading the header maintained by VLC:

and installing it in the include patch (for example in /usr/include/).

For MinGW64, the dxva2api.h is provided through the pacman repository, and can be installed using one of the two following commands, depending on the architecture:

pacman -S mingw-w64-i686-gcc
pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-gcc

To enable DXVA2, use the --enable-dxva2 configure switch.

To test decoding, use the following command:

ffmpeg -hwaccel dxva2 -threads 1 -i INPUT -f null - -benchmark


Video Decoding API, only supported on MAC. H.264 decoding is available in FFmpeg/libavcodec.

Developers documentation:


NVENC is an API developed by NVIDIA which enables the use of NVIDIA GPU cards to perform H.264 and HEVC encoding. FFmpeg supports NVENC through the nvenc_h264 and nvenc_hevc encoders. In order to enable it in FFmpeg you need to locally install the nvEncodeAPI.h header from the NVENC SDK and configure with --enable-nvenc.

To read more about the supported GPUs and download the NVENC SDK go to the following link:

Intel QSV

Intel QSV (Quick Sync Video) is a technology which allows decoding and encoding using recent Intel CPU and integrated GPU, supported on recent Intel CPUs. See:

To enable QSV support, you need the Intel Media SDK integrated in the Intel Media Server Studio:

The Intel Media Server studio is available for both Linux and Windows, and contains the libva and libdrm libraries, the libmfx dispatcher library and the intel drivers. libmfx is the library which selects the codec depending on the system capabilities, falling back to a software implementation if the hardware accelerated codec is not available).

FFmpeg QSV support relies on libmfx, but the library provided by Intel does not come with pkg-config files and a proper installer. Thus the easiest to install the library is to use the libmfx version packaged by lu_zero here:

Requirements on Windows: install the Intel Media SDK packaged in the Intel Media Server Studio, which comes with a graphic installer, and a MinGW compilation enviroment (for example provided by MSYS2 with a corresponding Mingw-w64 package). Then you need to build libmfx and install it in a path recognized by pkg-config. For example if you install in /usr/local then you need the update the $PKG_CONFIG_PATH environment variable to make it point to /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig.

Requriments on Linux: you need either to rely on the Intel Media Server Studio for Linux, or use a recent enough supported system, with the libva and libdrm libraries, the libva Intel drivers, and the libmfx library packaged by lu_zero. Note: in case you use the Intel Media Server Studio generic installation script, the installation script may overwrite your system libraries and break the system.

Check the following website for updated information about the Intel Graphics stack on the various Linux platforms:

To enable QSV support in the FFmpeg build, configure with --enable-libmfx.

Support for decoding and encoding is integrated in FFmpeg through several codecs identified by the _qsv suffix. In particular, it currently supports MPEG2 video, VC1 (decoding only), H.264 and H.265.

For example to encode to H.264 using h264_qsv, you can use the command:

ffmpeg -i INPUT -c:v h264_qsv -preset:v faster out.qsv.mp4


Official website:

Currently only used in filtering (deshake and unsharp filters). In order to use OpenCL code you need to enable the build with --enable-opencl. An API to use OpenCL API from FFmpeg is provided in libavutil/opencl.h. No decoding/encoding is currently supported (yet).

External resources