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Get Video Duration in Seconds Using FFmpeg / FFprobe


We'll get the value back in seconds as well as HH:MM:SS if you prefer.

Quick Jump: Demo Video

We’ll be using ffprobe but that’s a tool that gets installed by default with ffmpeg. You can apt / brew / etc. install ffmpeg if you need to install it.

We can do it based off the container format or stream duration of the video:

# Container format:
$ ffprobe -v error -show_entries format=duration -of default=noprint_wrappers=1:nokey=1 myvideo.mp4

# Stream format:
$ ffprobe -v error -select_streams v:0 -show_entries stream=duration -of default=noprint_wrappers=1:nokey=1 myvideo.mp4

With quite a few videos I’ve noticed if you round each one to the nearest second they both produce the same result. You can round it up by piping the command into | xargs printf "%.0f\n". You can change the 0 to 1, 2 or whatever precision you want.

You may also want to use LC_ALL=C xargs /usr/bin/printf instead of printf to avoid edge cases between shells and language settings. There’s a nice write up about that here, but if you’re running this as a 1 off script with an English locale then printf should suffice.

I didn’t formally benchmark it but both appear to finish in about the same time if you run them with time. I tried it on a video that was over 3 hours long and both commands finished between 220-240ms on my workstation with an old i5 quad core 3.2ghz CPU.

If you want more details about the output you can remove the -v error flag which is the log level. It defaults to -v info if you omit it. You can find more details in the docs.

We can also get the HH:MM:SS.MICROSECONDS format with the -sexagesimal flag if you prefer:

# Container format:
$ ffprobe -v error -show_entries format=duration -of default=noprint_wrappers=1:nokey=1 -sexagesimal myvideo.mp4

# Stream format:
$ ffprobe -v error -select_streams v:0 -show_entries stream=duration -of default=noprint_wrappers=1:nokey=1 -sexagesimal 2022-10-26,21-09.mp4

That could be handy depending on what you’re doing. A while back I made a video to do the above but I used a combo of ffmpeg and grep because I didn’t know about the above command.

As for a real world use case. I ended up getting the video duration in seconds for 200+ videos for one of my video courses to help seed my local database with realistic values for the course platform I’m building.

Demo Video


  • 0:31 – Getting the duration in seconds in 2 different ways
  • 1:47 – Real world use case
  • 2:16 – They both run at about the same speed
  • 2:59 – The v flag lets us see more information (log level)
  • 3:42 – Getting the value in HH:MM:SS format
  • 4:13 – Rounding up the seconds with xargs and printf
  • 5:17 – Handling edge cases with your locale and printf

What use case will you be using this for? Let me know below.

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