How to compile the best version of FFmpeg for Windows

audio conversioncompilecygwin;ffmpegvideo-encoding

It's generally accepted that, due to licensing reasons, the pre-compiled Windows executables of FFmpeg come out of the box with lower-quality encoders – particularly when it comes to the default AAC encoder and the default resampler.

According to these sources, the solution is to compile the program from source:

FFmpeg supports two AAC-LC encoders (aac and libfdk_aac) and one
HE-AAC (v1/2) encoder (libfdk_aac). The license of libfdk_aac is not
compatible with GPL, so the GPL does not permit distribution of
binaries containing incompatible code when GPL-licensed code is also
included. Therefore this encoder have been designated as "non-free",
and you cannot download a pre-built ffmpeg that supports it. This can
be resolved by compiling ffmpeg yourself

The Fraunhofer FDK AAC codec library. This is currently the
highest-quality AAC encoder available with ffmpeg. Requires ffmpeg to
be configured with –enable-libfdk-aac
(and additionally
–enable-nonfree if you're also using –enable-gpl).

If you want FDK-AAC you have to compile handbrake yourself. I did it and the audio sounds great now.

I already have Cygwin available on my machine, and I'd rather use that to compile the program rather than setup another software ecosystem or burn a whole Linux distribution.

How can I use Cygwin to compile FFmpeg with better external libraries?

Best Answer

This is easier said than done, and has taken me over a month to figure out how to do without any issues, but I've spent enough time on it that I decided I'd document the process well enough to be completed virtually seamlessly by anyone following me.

Unfortunately, Cygwin's default toolchain (i.e. the gcc-core package included with the Cygwin installer) is inherently broken for cross-compiling purposes, and there doesn't seem to be any intent from the Cygwin maintainers to fix this, so currently, the only way to compile software for Windows with Cygwin is to set up a MinGW-w64 toolchain under it. Thankfully, this is as easy as installing a few packages. After this, we'll be compiling the remaining packages, before using a combination of both to compile FFmpeg itself.

Using this Guide

Following this guide in its entirety will build a static FFmpeg installation with external libraries such as fdk-aac, libopus, x265 and the SOX resampler. I may consider adding instructions for compiling specific external libraries to the guide if I get enough requests to do so for a particular library.

The dependencies used by this guide - made up of the MinGW-w64 cross-compile toolchain itself, all packages installed by apt-cyg and all packages compiled from source - will consume up to 2.8GB of disk space, although the guide also includes commands to clean up everything but the FFmpeg installation once done. The installation itself, made up of the binaries and documentation, occupies just over 200MB of disk space.

This guide will create a folder in your Home directory called ffmpeg_sources, where it will download and compile all of the packages being built from source. FFmpeg will be installed to /usr/local, where the FHS standard recommends that software compiled by the user is installed to. This location also has the secondary advantage of being on the system PATH by default in Cygwin, and so doesn't require the $PATH environment variable to be updated.

Install package manager dependencies

To begin with, download the latest version of the Cygwin installer to install the wget, tar, gawk and git packages. The good news is that these packages are dependencies for a tool that can prevent you from ever needing to use the Cygwin installer again.

Install the apt-cyg package manager

Next, install kou1okada's fork of the apt-cyg package manager. If you don't currently use a package manager for Cygwin, this step will not only make the rest of the guide a breeze, but will also make your Cygwin experience rival that of any Linux distribution.

Even if you already use a package manager for Cygwin, such as a different fork of the original apt-cyg, I highly recommend you replace it with this one, which is a much more fully-fledged piece of software compared to the original, as well as the only package manager for Cygwin that is currently in active development.

To install kou1okada's apt-cyg:

mkdir -p /usr/local/src &&
cd /usr/local/src &&
git clone https://github.com/kou1okada/apt-cyg.git &&
ln -s "$(realpath apt-cyg/apt-cyg)" /usr/local/bin/

Install build tools and set up the MinGW-w64 cross-compiler

apt-cyg install \
autoconf \
automake \
binutils \
cmake \
doxygen \
git \
libtool \
make \
mercurial \
mingw64-x86_64-SDL2 \
mingw64-x86_64-binutils \
mingw64-x86_64-fribidi \
mingw64-x86_64-gcc-core \
mingw64-x86_64-gcc-g++ \
mingw64-x86_64-headers \
mingw64-x86_64-libtheora \
mingw64-x86_64-libvpx \
mingw64-x86_64-runtime \
mingw64-x86_64-win-iconv \
mingw64-x86_64-windows-default-manifest \
mingw64-x86_64-zlib \
nasm \
pkg-config \
subversion \
texinfo \
yasm

Compile the dependencies

Each section below compiles an external library that will allow you to compile FFmpeg with support for that library enabled. Copy and paste the whole of each command into your shell.

If you decide you don't require your build of FFmpeg to support a given library, skip its section and remove the corresponding --enable-package line when compiling FFmpeg in the final stage of this guide.

Create a directory at the root of your Cygwin installation with the following:

rm -rf /ffmpeg_sources &&
mkdir -p /ffmpeg_sources

This is the directory we'll be downloading our source code to, and compiling it from.

libmp3lame

To compile the LAME audio codec for MP3:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf lame-svn &&
svn checkout https://svn.code.sf.net/p/lame/svn/trunk/lame lame-svn &&
cd lame-svn &&
./configure --host=x86_64-w64-mingw32 --prefix="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" \
--enable-static --disable-shared &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install 

libx264

To compile the x264 video codec:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf x264 && 
git clone --depth 1 https://code.videolan.org/videolan/x264.git && 
cd x264 &&
./configure --cross-prefix=x86_64-w64-mingw32- --host=x86_64-w64-mingw32 \
--prefix="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" --enable-static &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install 

libx265

To compile the x265 video codec:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf x265 && 
hg clone https://bitbucket.org/multicoreware/x265 &&
cd x265/build/linux &&
cmake -G "Unix Makefiles" -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" \
-DENABLE_SHARED=OFF -DCMAKE_EXE_LINKER_FLAGS="-static" ../../source \
-DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE="/ffmpeg_sources/x265/build/msys/toolchain-x86_64-w64-mingw32.cmake" &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install

libogg/libvorbis

The Ogg format is a dependency for the Vorbis audio codec, so will need to be compiled before it:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf ogg &&
git clone --depth 1 https://gitlab.xiph.org/xiph/ogg.git &&
cd ogg && ./autogen.sh &&
./configure --host=x86_64-w64-mingw32 --prefix="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" \
--enable-static --disable-shared &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install

Then compile Vorbis as normal:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf vorbis && 
git clone --depth 1 https://gitlab.xiph.org/xiph/vorbis.git &&
cd vorbis && ./autogen.sh &&
./configure --host=x86_64-w64-mingw32 --prefix="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" \
--enable-static --disable-shared &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install

libaom

To compile the AV1 video encoder:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf aom && 
git clone --depth 1 https://aomedia.googlesource.com/aom && 
mkdir -p /ffmpeg_sources/aom/build && cd /ffmpeg_sources/aom/build && 
cmake -G "Unix Makefiles" -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" \
-DCMAKE_EXE_LINKER_FLAGS="-static" .. \
-DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE="/ffmpeg_sources/aom/build/cmake/toolchains/x86_64-mingw-gcc.cmake" && 
make -j$(nproc) && 
make install

libopus

To compile the Opus audio encoder:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf opus && 
git clone --depth 1 https://github.com/xiph/opus.git &&
cd opus && ./autogen.sh &&
./configure CFLAGS="-I/usr/local/llsp" --host=x86_64-w64-mingw32 --prefix="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" \
--enable-static --disable-shared &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install

libfdk-aac

To compile the Fraunhofer FDK encoder for AAC:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf fdk-aac && 
git clone --depth 1 https://github.com/mstorsjo/fdk-aac &&
cd fdk-aac && autoreconf -fiv &&
./configure --host=x86_64-w64-mingw32 --prefix="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" \
--enable-static --disable-shared &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install 

libsoxr

To compile the SOX resampler library, you'll first need to create a CMAKE toolchain file for the MinGW-w64 toolchain as the project doesn't include one by default.

Create a new file in the Cygwin root directory, and call it toolchain-x86_64-mingw32.cmake (make sure Windows is showing extensions, and that the extension is .cmake).

Copy and paste the following into the file:

SET(CMAKE_SYSTEM_NAME Windows)
SET(CMAKE_C_COMPILER /usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-gcc)
SET(CMAKE_CXX_COMPILER /usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-g++)
SET(CMAKE_RC_COMPILER /usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-windres)
SET(CMAKE_Fortran_COMPILER /usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-gfortran)
SET(CMAKE_AR:FILEPATH /usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-ar)
SET(CMAKE_RANLIB:FILEPATH /usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-ranlib)
SET(CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH /usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32)
SET(CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH_MODE_PROGRAM NEVER)
SET(CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH_MODE_LIBRARY ONLY)
SET(CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH_MODE_INCLUDE ONLY)
SET(QT_BINARY_DIR /usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/bin /usr/bin)
SET(Boost_COMPILER -gcc47)

Now you can compile the SOX resampler as normal:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf soxr &&  
git clone --depth 1 https://git.code.sf.net/p/soxr/code soxr &&
mkdir -p soxr/build && cd soxr/build &&
cmake -Wno-dev -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release \
-DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX="/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw" \
-DBUILD_SHARED_LIBS=OFF .. -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE="/toolchain-x86_64-mingw32.cmake" &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install

Compile the FFmpeg binary

The only thing that's left to is compile FFmpeg itself, using the libraries downloaded or compiled above:

cd /ffmpeg_sources && rm -rf ffmpeg &&
wget -O ffmpeg-snapshot.tar.bz2 https://ffmpeg.org/releases/ffmpeg-snapshot.tar.bz2 &&
tar xvf ffmpeg-snapshot.tar.bz2 && rm -f ffmpeg-snapshot.tar.bz2 && cd ffmpeg &&
CFLAGS=-I/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw/include &&
LDFLAGS=-L/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw/lib &&
export PKG_CONFIG_PATH= &&
export PKG_CONFIG_LIBDIR=/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw/lib/pkgconfig &&
./configure \
--arch=x86_64 \
--target-os=mingw32 \
--cross-prefix=x86_64-w64-mingw32- \
--prefix=/usr/local \
--pkg-config=pkg-config \
--pkg-config-flags=--static \
--extra-cflags=-static \
--extra-ldflags=-static \
--extra-libs="-lm -lz -fopenmp" \
--enable-static \
--disable-shared \
--enable-nonfree \
--enable-gpl \
--enable-avisynth \
--enable-libaom \
--enable-libfdk-aac \
--enable-libfribidi \
--enable-libmp3lame \
--enable-libopus \
--enable-libsoxr \
--enable-libvorbis \
--enable-libvpx \
--enable-libx264 \
--enable-libx265 &&
make -j$(nproc) &&
make install

Remember to remove --enable-\*package\* lines for each package in the list above that you didn't download or compile a library for.

Compiling FFmpeg will take much longer than compilation of the external libraries, but once it's done, you should have a fully working binary enabled with all of the libraries you compiled it with. To run it, simply run ffmpeg in the Cygwin terminal.

Clean up/uninstall

By this point in the guide, you will have taken up around 2.8 GB of disk space with downloading, installing and compiling. The majority of this is now redundant, and should be cleaned up. More than 2.6 GB of it can be safely purged, which brings the total footprint of our FFmpeg installation down to as little as 200MB.

Post-install clean up

Running the following will free up more than 2.3GB of disk space:

apt-cyg remove \
cmake \
doxygen \
git \
mercurial \
subversion \
texinfo \
yasm &&
rm -rf /ffmpeg_sources &&
rm -rf /usr/local/lib/{libav*,libpost*,libsw*} &&
rm -rf /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig/{libav*,libpost*,libsw*} &&
rm -rf /usr/local/include/{libav*,libpost*,libsw*} &&
rm -rf /toolchain-x86_64-mingw32.cmake

As well as removing the ffmpeg_sources directory and unneeded static libraries, this will also remove any packages installed earlier that are no longer needed, except for those that are commonly needed for building tools on Cygwin/Linux.

Remove the cross-compiler

If you no longer intend to compile any other programs using the MinGW-w64 cross-compiling toolchain built earlier in this guide, you can safely uninstall it, as well as all the remaining packages installed earlier:

apt-cyg remove \
autotools \
autoconf \
automake \
gcc-core \
gcc-g++ \
pkg-config \
libtool \
make \
nasm \
mingw64-x86_64-SDL2 \
mingw64-x86_64-binutils \
mingw64-x86_64-fribidi \
mingw64-x86_64-gcc-core \
mingw64-x86_64-gcc-g++ \
mingw64-x86_64-headers \
mingw64-x86_64-libtheora \
mingw64-x86_64-libvpx \
mingw64-x86_64-runtime \
mingw64-x86_64-win-iconv \
mingw64-x86_64-windows-default-manifest \
mingw64-x86_64-zlib &&
rm -rf /usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32

This will free up an additional ~450 MB of space.

Uninstalling FFmpeg

If you ever need to reverse all of the steps in this guide and purge the FFmpeg binaries from your system, simply run the following:

apt-cyg remove \
autotools \ 
autoconf \
automake \
binutils \
cmake \
doxygen \
gcc-core \
gcc-g++ \
git \
libtool \
make \
mercurial \
mingw64-x86_64-SDL2 \
mingw64-x86_64-binutils \
mingw64-x86_64-fribidi \
mingw64-x86_64-gcc-core \
mingw64-x86_64-gcc-g++ \
mingw64-x86_64-headers \
mingw64-x86_64-libtheora \
mingw64-x86_64-libvpx \
mingw64-x86_64-runtime \
mingw64-x86_64-win-iconv \
mingw64-x86_64-windows-default-manifest \
mingw64-x86_64-zlib \
nasm \
pkg-config \
subversion \
texinfo \
yasm &&
rm -rf /ffmpeg_sources &&
rm -rf /usr/local/bin{ffmpeg,ffprobe,ffplay} &&
rm -rf /usr/local/lib/{libav*,libpost*,libsw*} &&
rm -rf /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig/{libav*,libpost*,libsw*} &&
rm -rf /usr/local/include/{libav*,libpost*,libsw*} &&
rm -rf /usr/local/share/doc/ffmpeg &&
rm -rf /usr/local/share/ffmpeg &&
rm -rf /usr/local/share/man/man1/ff* &&
rm -rf /usr/local/share/man/man3/{libav*,libpost*,libsw*} &&
rm -rf /usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/ &&
rm -rf /toolchain-x86_64-mingw32.cmake 

This will remove everything installed during the process of this guide, and revert your system to exactly how it was before starting it.