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I have noticed we get an extremely high number of ffmpeg questions on this site. I'm wondering if this is the best place for them. My initial thought had been that ffmpeg works with video, so why not. Certainly there are basic encoding (and even some advanced encoding) related questions that may be truly relevant to video production, but then we also end up with questions like this one:

Melt transitions from command line

They aren't worried about how to transcode with ffmpeg, but are actually trying to do advanced scripting with ffmpeg to use it as a poor mans video editor.

I would hazard that NOBODY in actual video production works this way. It isn't an effective use of time and there are far more easy to use free tools (even open source) that allow for editing in a meaningful and effective way.

While I generally appreciate the appeal of command line tools over their GUI counterparts for things like system utilities, the fact is this doesn't map over well to an inherently visual medium like video production. You can't preview, you can't see what you are working with, you can't easily identify what each cut is involved with. It simply is not an effective means of production.

The only situation in which these kinds of cases is really relevant is someone trying to do some basic splicing (more consumer/non-production) or trying to build a scripting environment (software development). In both of these cases, I feel like these questions end up being noise that is irrelevant to the target audience of the site and don't add any value here.

They seem to lead to an incorrect understanding of what the site is about and scare off less technical users who may see this as a video handling oriented SO rather than a broader film and video production oriented site.

I'm not sure how we set the bar for what questions are and aren't on topic since we certainly want to support being able to use ffmpeg as a transcoder, but it seems like we need to draw the line somewhere to avoid being overwhelmed by "how do I use ffmpeg as my editing platform" type questions.

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    Some stats: [ffmpeg] has 668 questions, and there are a further 70 questions outside that tag where the question itself mentions ffmpeg. With 5,028 questions total on the site, that's between 13.3 and 14.7% questions about ffmpeg, depending on how many of those 70 we count. That's about 1 in every 7 questions. – doppelgreener Aug 21 '17 at 14:22
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    It's worth noting that a decent chunk of those may be "how do I encode xyz" which would still be good fits even under the recommended changes. I'm specifically only worried about questions which are trying to use ffMPEG to perform actual editing or programing related tasks. – AJ Henderson Aug 21 '17 at 14:25
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    Note that Super User is also appropriate for some ffmpeg questions – DavidPostill Aug 21 '17 at 16:45
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    Never seen it spelled as "ffMPEG" before (FFmpeg = project, ffmpeg = cli tool), and melt is from an unrelated project and is a different tool than ffmpeg. It seems to me you are asking a bigger question about what this site is about rather than questioning specific use cases of ffmpeg. Do you feel that the use of ffmpeg by "videographers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts" spans the "fields of video and media creation"? I do, because I often use it at work to create video and media. – llogan Aug 25 '17 at 17:35
  • @LordNeckbeard - Thanks for the correction on capitalization. I changed it out. I'm not sure what you mean by "Do you feel that the use of ffmpeg by "videographers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts" spans the "fields of video and media creation"?" – AJ Henderson Aug 25 '17 at 18:39
  • My specific concern is that we have a lot of people trying to do things with ffmpeg that I have never seen a professional videographer, producer or editor actually do. It's a great tool for some command line automation, but when people start trying to do complex editing via the CLI, that simply isn't something I've ever seen in the real world. I've seen a good deal of use for encoding and transcoding, but not for editing outside of things that are more programing oriented (like automatically add a leader or trailer before publishing to the web for example). – AJ Henderson Aug 25 '17 at 18:44
  • It's almost like we need ffmpeg.stackexchange.org or even commandlinevideoandaudioprocessing.stackechange.org – stib Dec 26 '17 at 2:14
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The scope for this site doesn't limit itself to traditional or industry-standard processes. Taken literally, 'Video Production' covers any use that results in video output. Whether that's conventional video which starts as registration of photons or a completely synthetic creation (3D, anime, procedural..). Being cheeky, of course, but only a bit.

I've seen very few questions which look to setup a production pipeline primarily using CLI tools. Even the linked question isn't seeking to carry out a creative operation on footage. The output they want can be described programmatically. And CLI tools are easily suited for such tasks. It doesn't fit the mold of questions that seek to subvert established editing methods.

The FFmpeg questions which seem off-topic are those which concern inter-operation of CLI use within some source code, or API use, or help with compilation..etc. Those belong on Stack Overflow. The frequency of such questions has increased somewhat over the past few months, but they still don't describe most FFmpeg questions I see here.

With regards to "They seem to lead to an incorrect understanding of what the site is about and scare off less technical users who may see this as a video handling oriented SO rather than a broader film and video production oriented site.", two things to keep in mind are

1) the Stack Exchange network of sites started out as a resource for help with coding. A large percentage of the participants have that background, and so a sister site unsurprisingly fields a large number of questions that involve video manipulation using pseudo-programming interfaces. This, I think, should be expected. Many of these participants are referred here from Stack Overflow..etc. Which leads to my second point.

2) the density of FFmpeg questions isn't what's limiting the growth or distorting focus of this site. Video production is a mature industry (duh) so it already has several well-established communities for seeking help and discussion. Anyone search for video production help will be directed by Google to one of those sites.

The way to address that is for video.SE members who also frequent these other sites to nudge and coax their members, when relevant, to visit Q/A links on this site. This site will remain marginal w.r.t traditional video production if organic search traffic remains the primary funnel. In the meantime, the traffic driven by FFmpeg searches should bump up the site's overall credibility.

  • Thanks for taking the time to write the response. I did have a few thoughts/questions I wanted to point out to get your input on. First, while the site is named 'Video Production' (which is a poorly thought out artifact of the split from AVP that is also part of the problem I'm trying to get addressed) the actual topic of the site according to the help center is actually considerably narrower and is based on the history of the site and discussions. – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 10:55
  • Certainly the question of what is or isn't a good fit is a hard one. It's a hard line to be drawn wherever it goes. I don't have a clear answer on that, so thank you for offering an alternative possibility for a line, even if it similarly is somewhat ambiguous. – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 10:56
  • As for my statement about scaring off less technical issues, that isn't some nebulous concern of mine. That's direct comments from multiple actual users. Both this and the naming discussion came up from multiple attempts to start Q/As such as Film Production or other related topics on Area 51. In each case, they've ended up closed and pointing to us, which I believe is correct, however it made me start investigating why this was happening. – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 10:58
  • The two main issues described to me were that a) the name didn't seem to cover the range they were looking for and b) looking at the site, the types of questions and in more than once case, specifically the ffmpeg type highly technical questions, led to the impression it was more of an SO for video. – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 10:59
  • As for the reason and the means of growth. Certainly having more active posting of questions in other sites will help with growth, but looking at other arts and humanities related sites, I don't see other sites having the kind of over-technical issues we're having, certainly not in terms of leaning towards CLI tooling in ways that aren't used in their actual target audience. Photography for example does have more questions about optics than would necessarily be normal, but they are still of relevant interest. 1/7th of the questions aren't about CLI processing of images. – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 11:02
  • Now, some of that is expected since I'm really not aware of any CLI dependent workflows in photography where as there certainly are established workflows that do make some use of CLI tools in video, but it still makes a clear point. While the arts sites started largely from SO and highly technical users. – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 11:04
  • Most setup bounds that kept the topics relevant to the broader community and started working on establishing their way in on their own merits. It feels to me more like we're setting ourselves up to stay a niche focused on a type of video work that the rest of the video world doesn't care about if that is our largest single focus (which at 1/7th of our questions, it probably is.) – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 11:05
  • I agree we can leverage our strength with ffmpeg in to better discovery via search results. It certainly is something we are uniquely strong on. However, we aren't going to get anyone from the larger Video Production field searching for questions like the above. We will get them on questions related to getting render pipelines setup or hard transcoding situations. Trying to scope limit wasn't my first stop along the way. I'd honestly prefer not to need to, but direct evidence from talking with people who were put off from the site indicates it is a problem. – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 11:08
  • The only thing I'm not sure about is how much the problem of the scale of it is also do to the self selection that the site name causes. It is possible changing the name itself will fix a significant part of the issue, but it also isn't clear if we'll be able to get that done, where as scope adjustment would help clarify and is something we can directly tackle without needing SE to back it. – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 11:10
  • (Also, sorry for the wall of text. I really appreciate your response. I'm glad to be having this discussion and wanted to give it the attention it deserves.) – AJ Henderson Aug 26 '17 at 11:13
  • @AJHenderson In some way, I agree the highly technical ffmpeg questions are ... intimidating, but at the same time, ffmpeg is exactly the tool for my needs now and future projects I have in mind. In fact, I credit this community entirely for alerting me to ffmpeg's existence and usefulness. I use a proper editor, but the supplemental use of ffmpeg has been invaluable this last year since I started using it. So, I think I'm suggesting that this CLI focused approach to video production is maybe more than a niche, and perhaps a segment in vp that is not quite founded yet. – DigiVision Media Oct 27 '17 at 19:17
  • However, my future projects will certainly induce questions more suited for SO, than here, where the questions about actually making videos are fewer than programmatic implementations of ffmpeg. – DigiVision Media Oct 27 '17 at 19:19
  • In short, I see and feel the issue you mention, but I'm at a loss for what to do about it, and even torn if anything should be done at all. Mulvya seems to suggest we embrace it entirely, as trying to compete with uber established vp communities already in existence is a losing battle. He may be right, which if he is, the issue becomes one of personal desires for the site, rather than plans for future success. – DigiVision Media Oct 27 '17 at 19:20
  • @DigiVisionMedia - out of curiosity what types of things are you using it for? If you have uses that I haven't mentioned that you think should be on topic, it is probably worth adding them as part of another answer. Part of the goal of this meta post is trying to figure out the very difficult question of where/if the line should be. I'm not sure what you might be doing with ffmpeg, but I know that none of your questions that I can recall have ever struck me as things that were more on the software development side than the video editing side. – AJ Henderson Oct 27 '17 at 19:30
  • @AJHenderson For now, I'm only encoding pro level files into end-user files. As a result, I've had questions regarding batch files and the like. I think those should not be on topic here, as that is about how to use cmd, not ffmpeg. In the future, I intend to use it to record files, mark cues on the fly while recording, extract images (on the fly and in post), mark ins and outs for trimming, concatenate files, and batch produce end-user files. Much of this will require custom programming that has little to do with vp. – DigiVision Media Oct 27 '17 at 20:14

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