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Dramatically Reducing Video File Size Using FFmpeg

A video camera with a long telephoto lens pointing straight at you from one foot away.
Photo by Matteo Bernardis

Sometimes you want to upload a video, but you can’t because its file size is too large. When that happens, you can use ffmpeg to shrink the video size with one command.

Steps to shrink a video file

  1. If you’re on a Mac and haven’t already, install Homebrew:

    /bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"
  2. Install ffmpeg using Homebrew (or download ffmpeg for your OS):

    brew install ffmpeg
  3. Run ffmpeg on your file:

    # General pattern
    ffmpeg -i path/to/original/file path/to/new/file
    # Example
    ffmpeg -i "Desktop/Screen Recording 2022-11-08 at 4.30.40" Desktop/code-walkthrough.mp4

That’s it — I was able to shrink a 10-minute macOS screencast from 1.4 GB to 148 MB just by running that command and waiting 6 minutes.

Where to go from here

This approach works best when your final video quality doesn’t need to be very high.

If you’re creating high-resolution content, you’ll want to dive deeper into ffmpeg’s configuration options or use a tool like Handbrake to help you select the quality you need.

Further reading