I'm new to this StackExchange site, and to using the FFmpeg encoder. I have a video that is 720x480 (3:2) that I would like to change to 720x406 (16:9) to match the other videos I have for a site. I have tried various command combinations, including:

ffmpeg -i myfile.mv4 -s 720x406 outfile.mp4
ffmpeg -i myfile.m4v -c copy -aspect 16:9 outfile.mp4

What I end up with is a video that scaled down to the specified height, but didn't preserve the width. It ends up at 608x406 or thereabouts. I've been playing with various GUI versions of FFmpeg today, and they seem to do the same thing.

What would be the proper options/parameters to pass in (assuming I'll have more control via the command line) to achieve the desired frame size?

1 Answer 1


using the scale filter will do it, but there is a bit more to it.

ffmpeg -i input.mov -vf scale=720x406 output.mov 

will create a movie with the required pixel dimensions, but if you look at the output you'll find that it adds information into the metadata so that it will play back at the same aspect ratio as the original, by using non-square pixels. So if you want to stretch the movie anamorphically to a new aspect ratio you need to manually set the pixel aspect ratio, called the SAR for "Sample Aspect Ratio", thus for square pixels use:

ffmpeg -i input.mov -vf scale=720x406,setsar=1:1 output.mp4

Alternatively you can set the display aspect ratio to whatever you want, thus:

ffmpeg -i input.mov -vf scale=720x406,setdar=16:9 output.mp4

What I'm doing with the -vf command and the x=y,z=a expressions that follow is creating a chain of filters. Filters can be quite complex, but in the most simple usage they take the form effect=parameter,nexteffect=anotherparameter, and they get processed in the order you write them.

You may want to put additional commands for the codec and so on, eg -c:v libx264 to use the x264 mp4 encoder, and something like -crf 20 to set the constant rate factor to 20 (usually a pretty good compromise between size and quality). So, a reasonably complete command would look like:

ffmpeg -i input.mov -vf scale=720x406,setdar=16:9 -preset slow -profile:v main -crf 20 output.mov

Main profile is good for device compatibility, the slow preset for the libx264 encoder is a pretty good balance of speed and quality, so this is a good general web-encoding workhorse. You can make it faster by using fast or veryfast or slower with veryslow and placebo will make it ever so slightly better than veryslow at the expense of a lot more processing time (hence the name).

BTW Don't use -c copy, that means just copy the video and audio streams without doing anything to them at all, so nothing you do in terms of scale, codec, bitrate etc will have any effect.

  • 1
    If you're using recent versions of ffmpeg you don't need to stipulate x264 as the codec any more, but it still might be worth looking at what settings you might want.
    – stib
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 0:06
  • 1
    I think metadata only has a DAR field. So using setsar is just indirectly setting the DAR?
    – jiggunjer
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 5:03
  • I have to use "-c copy", but in other side I want to resize screen. How can I achieve this?
    – Dr.jacky
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 12:49
  • 1
    @Mr.Hyde you should ask this as a new question instead of asking in a comment
    – stib
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 0:32

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