There are several ways to utilize "null" in ffmpeg. This can be useful for testing and benchmarking purposes, creating inputs, and filtering. For example:

  • testing decoding speed
  • testing encoding speed without the cost of disk writes
  • testing speed of input from a device
  • creating a blank video "canvas" for filtering
  • making silent audio

Null muxer

The null muxer does not generate any output file. It is mainly useful for testing or benchmarking purposes. The null muxer uses a wrapped frame so there is no muxing overhead (i.e. it can accept any type of input codec, doesn't have to be rawvideo for instance).

Decoding & demuxing

To test decoding and demuxing (using null muxer):

ffmpeg -i input -f null -


It can also be used to test encoding without the overhead of outputting a file. This example will map the first video stream, encode with libx264, then discard the output:

ffmpeg -i input -map 0:v:0 -c:v libx264 -f null -

With a particular muxer

You can output to /dev/null, or NUL in Windows, if you want to choose a muxer but not actually output a file:

ffmpeg -y -i input -c:v mpeg4 -f mp4 /dev/null

-benchmark option

Adding the -benchmark global option will output benchmarking information at the end of an encode which can be informative with the null muxer. Shows CPU time used and maximum memory consumption. Maximum memory consumption is not supported on all systems; it will usually display as 0 if not supported.

$ ffmpeg -benchmark -i input output
bench: utime=8.483s
bench: maxrss=52736000kB

*nix users can also use the time command.

$ time ffmpeg -i input output
real    0m3.365s
user    0m8.533s
sys     0m0.541s


There is a variety of null filters:


The anull audio filter will pass the audio source unchanged to the output.


The null video filter will pass the video source unchanged to the output.


The anullsrc audio source filter can create silent audio. For example, to add a silent audio stream to a video:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -f lavfi -i anullsrc -c:v copy -c:a aac -shortest output.mp4

anullsrc can be particularly useful with the concat filter because all inputs to the filter must have the same number of streams. Example where input0 and input1 have video and stereo audio with 48000 Hz sample rate, and input2 has video only:

ffmpeg -i input0 -i input1 -i input2 -t 1 -f lavfi -i anullsrc=r=48000:cl=stereo -filter_complex \
"[0:v][0:a][1:v][1:a][2:v][3:a]concat=n=3:v=1:a=1[v][a]" \
-map "[v]" -map "[a]" output

Note the -t 1 input option: you do not need to match this duration value with the associated video stream. It only needs to be shorter as the concat filter will pad the remaining duration with additional silence.


The nullsrc video source filter returns unprocessed (i.e. "raw uninitialized memory") video frames. It can be used as a foundation for other filters where the input is ignored or you don't mind somewhat random input. Example to generate noise in the luminance plane with the geq filter:

ffmpeg -f lavfi -i nullsrc=s=256x256:d=5 -vf "geq=random(1)*255:128:128" output


The anullsink audio sink with do absolutely nothing with the input audio.


The nullsink video sink will do absolutely nothing with the input video. ffmpeg is "greedy" and will grab whatever stream it can find, so if your filtergraph does not "output" anything it will just re-encode the inputs and ignore the filter. Example:

ffmpeg -i input -filter_complex "[0:v]split[a][b];[a]nullsink" -map "[b]" output.mkv

In this case the ffmpeg output specifies:

  split:output1 -> Stream #0:0 (libx264)

...which means the second output from the split is being encoded and the first output has been sent to nullsink.

Last modified 13 months ago Last modified on Jan 4, 2016, 8:08:14 PM