What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 134 Stack Exchange communities.

Just because a tool is command line does not mean it is off topic on Stack Overflow. For example, the compiler is a command line tool, git/svn are also command line tools, but no one would argue they need to be migrated to Super User.

Yet FFmpeg questions are said to be off topic and are often closed. However, FFmpeg is only used by programmers as a backend for their GUI programs. No one who is not a programmer uses it or knows about it.

This is an example of the command line of FFmpeg for converting videos to be compatible with Nokia 5800.

ffmpeg -i in.avi -f mp4 -vcodec libx264 -r 30 -s 640x360 -qcomp 0.6 -qmin 11 -qmax 51 -qdiff 4 -flags +loop -cmp +chroma -subq 7 -refs 6 -g 250 -keyint_min 25 -rc_eq \"blurCplx^(1-qComp)\" -sc_threshold 40 -me_range 12 -i_qfactor 0.71 -directpred 3 -f mp4 -threads 4 -strict experimental -acodec aac -ar 22050 -ab 64k -ac 2 -async 1 -crf 26 -aspect %3:%4 -y out.mp4

I really don't think that questions about something with that kind of command line can be reasonably answered on Super User.

share|improve this question
What would be an example of an on-topic question about ffmpeg? –  Jack Feb 23 '13 at 7:49
"FFmpeg is only used by programmers as a backend for their GUI programs. No one who is not a programmer uses it or knows about it". I have no idea where you came up with that; ffmpeg is a very commonly used tool –  Michael Mrozek Feb 23 '13 at 8:10
I see no reason a command-line user couldn't just see those as equivalent to checkboxes, select boxes, or text fields on a GUI. It doesn't take a programmer. And what does "that kind of command line" refer to? The number of options listed? Any user who understands ls -l can iteratively learn the options. And if a user frequently uses certain options, they can document the meanings in a file. I'm a programmer, and I can never remember what those options mean without looking them up. –  Kelvin Aug 9 '13 at 20:22

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

FFmpeg is both on and off topic; it depends on the usage, and there is some overlap between Super User and Stack Overflow. Not to mention that a question about the usage may be applicable to both, so it ends up being a big gray area.

But in short, it is just a tool, but not one specifically reserved for programmers. I have used it myself in more cases as a user than as a developer, and the times I have written a front end for it, my programming questions related to it are to its usage and not unique to programming with it.

But here's my take:

  • Using FFmpeg.exe via CLI → off-topic for SO, on-topic for SU
  • Developing applications using FFmpeg.exe and writing scripts to automate its usage → on-topic for both, but more on-topic for SU
  • Developing and contributing to the FFmpeg source → on-topic for SO, off-topic for SU

There have been numerous attempts to propose new sites that deal with FFMPEG, either as the sole purpose of the site, or as a related aspect to the scope, however only Audio-Video Production has made it out of the proposal stage and to a Beta site.

share|improve this answer
I added Video Production, which also have a small amount of FFmpeg questions, and they're definitely on topic there as well. –  slhck Feb 23 '13 at 8:09
@slhck I must have missed the beta sites when I went through and signed up for the related sites, thanks. I'm going to go look through that one now. –  psubsee2003 Feb 23 '13 at 8:11

We have over 500 questions on FFmpeg (command line) on Super User.

We currently have a small, but very active community of FFmpeg experts here, and most of the questions are answered within less than a day. All those people, including me, are fairly involved with the FFmpeg project itself as well.

ffmpeg is only used by programmers as a backend for their GUI programs. No one who is not a programmer uses it or knows about it.

So, no programmer has ever converted a video? I'm not really a programmer. When I use FFmpeg, I do it for my research, or fun things. For example, uploading things to YouTube. Making animated kitty GIFs from my phone's video.

But I definitely never used it for programming.

In fact, you can program with FFmpeg, even without using its command line interface. Here's an example. All questions related to that should of course belong on Stack Overflow. They have nothing to do with Super User.

Yet ffmpeg questions are said to be offtopic and are often closed

If the questions are closed, they're probably too vague. We'll happily take any FFmpeg question on Super User if it fulfills the following criteria:

  • It explains what the OP needs to achieve
  • It contains the full, uncut FFmpeg console output

Nothing more needed—the same quality rules apply everywhere. That being said, if you see a good question closed, consider bringing it to moderator attention to have it reopened or migrated.

I really don't think that questions about something with that kind of command line can be reasonably answered on SuperUser.

I really think you should check this yourself before making such bold claims.

share|improve this answer
+1 for mentioning the C API. Questions regarding it would definitely belong on SO and not SU. I agree that non-programmers can use command-line just fine. –  Kelvin Aug 9 '13 at 20:15
By "check this yourself" I presume you mean, come over to SU and see for yourself :) –  Kelvin Aug 9 '13 at 20:26

I've been responsible for responding to moderator flags on those questions (though I'm certainly not the only one), and here's how I decide whether a question based on that is off topic:

The problem with ffmpeg is that it does have applications outside of software development, as it says on its wikipedia page:

  • ffmpeg is a command-line tool to convert one video file format to another. It can also grab and encode in real-time from a TV card.

Here are some other issues:

  • Nothing written about ffmpeg claims its usage is unique to the programming industry.

  • It's not a programming language. It's a tool. You may interact with it through the command line, but I can also use many applications through the command line, and their usage are decidedly not unique to programmers (ping, traceroute, pretty much any network tool)

If a question asks how ffmpeg can be automated through a scripting language or how interaction with it can be automated, then that would fall into a question on topic for Stack Overflow (as would any question along those lines, so long as the goal was to program a solution).

If you have any examples of ffmpeg questions that has been closed that fall within the guidelines of a question that should stay on the site (as I mentioned above), please flag them for moderator attention and we'll take a look at them.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .