in my code I am building video frames, 720x480x24bit. I have in mind generating a large number of these, as long as a full DVD worth at 30fps, then using ffmpeg (followed by dvdauthor) to encode them in to MPEG2 for DVD usage.
There were a few replies, but no definitive answer. With considerable experimentation, I got it to work. It turns out that (as far as I can tell) ffmpeg does not have the ability to accept piped in RGB frames. It will however accept piped in data in its “yuv4mpegpipe” format. With some searching and reading I found that this is roughly akin to the format of raw DV video; each frame consists of a header something like this:
YUV4MPEG2 W%d H%d F%d:%d Ip A0:0 C420mpeg2 XYSCSS=420MPEG2
… then an LF character, then data for the the Y, U, and V “planes”. The Y data is full resolution, while the U and Y are half-resolution (this is called “420” in the video world). These planes are uncompressed, one byte per pixel. All of my past work with computer video (going back to Commodore 64s and Apple IIs) has arranged all of the bits for each pixel within a few bytes of each other; this format (with all the Y data for the whole frame, then all the U data, then all the V data) is starkly different.
The essential problem remaining was how to convert RGB to YUV. Happily there are plenty of online references for this. Unhappily there are few fast implementations, and a naive implementation will be very slow. I solved this problem by finding and hiring an expert in low-level data processing with MMX, SSE2, etc. instructions. (I am not in a position to publish that code here.)
In retrospect, though, there are routines included in Intel’s “Integrated Performance Primitives” library which perform this transformation in a highly optimized way. IPP is a bargain: for only a few hundred dollars you get a wealth of high optimized ready-to-use library routines for signal processing.
The ffmpeg piping solution consists, therefore, of:
- A module which generated frames in RGB format, to contain whatever contents your application requires.
- A module to very quickly convert these to YUV in yuv4mpegpipe format (write your own, or use routines in IPP, for the RGB->YUV420 part).
- Pipe this data stream to ffmpeg with stdin; ffmpeg is invoked something like this: ffmpeg -y -f yuv4mpegpipe -i – -i audio.mp3 -target ntsc-dvd -aspect 4:3 foo.mpg
By using a multicore CPU and threads, this whole process can be made to happen in real time or better (i.e., one second of “wall clock” processing time, for one second of finished MPEG2 video). The resulting MPEG2 file can be used with a DVD authoring application to produce a ready-to-burn DVD ISO image.
Update: the data format above is published here as part of the mjpegtools man pages.