PyAV Documentation

PyAV aims to be a Pythonic binding for FFmpeg or Libav.

Currently, it includes the basics for reading/writing audio and video. We aim to provide all of the power and control of the underlying library, but manage the gritty details for you as much as possible.

Basic Demo

import av

container ='/path/to/video.mp4')

for packet in container.demux():
    for frame in packet.decode():
        if frame.type == 'video':
            frame.to_image().save('/path/to/frame-%04d.jpg' % frame.index)


PyAV depends upon the following components of the underlying libraries:

  • libavformat
  • libavcodec
  • libavdevice
  • libavutil
  • libswscale
  • either libswresample or libavresample

Mac OS X

On Mac OS X Homebrew saves the day:

brew install ffmpeg

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

On Ubuntu 14.04 LTS everything can come from the default sources:

sudo apt-get install -y \
    libavformat-dev libavcodec-dev libavdevice-dev \
    libavutil-dev libswscale-dev libavresample-dev \

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

On Ubuntu 12.04 LTS you will be unable to satisfy these requirements with the default package sources. We recomment compiling and installing FFmpeg or Libav from source. For FFmpeg:

tar -xjf ffmpeg-1.2.2.tar.bz2
cd ffmpeg-1.2.2

./configure --disable-static --enable-shared --disable-doc
sudo make install

See this script for a very detailed installation of all dependencies.


From PyPI:

$ pip install av

From Source:

$ git clone
$ cd PyAV
$ virtualenv venv
$ . venv/bin/activate
$ pip install cython pil
$ make
$ python build_ext --inplace

On Mac OS X you may have issues with regards to Python expecting gcc but finding clang. Try to export the following before installation:

export ARCHFLAGS=-Wno-error=unused-command-line-argument-hard-error-in-future


We are attempting to write this wrapper to work with either FFmpeg or Libav. We are using ctypes to detect the differences that we have discerned exist as this wrapper is being developed. This is a fairly trial-and-error process, so please let us know if there are any odd compiler errors or something won’t link due to missing functions.

Additionally, we are far from wrapping the full extents of the libraries. Notable omissions include device and filter support, but there are many C struct members which are currently unexposed.

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