Build Your Own Video Community With Lighttpd And FlowPlayer (Debian Lenny)

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme
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This article shows how you can build your own video community using lighttpd with its mod_flv_streaming module (for streaming .flv videos, the format used by most major video communities such as YouTube) and its mod_secdownload module (for preventing hotlinking of the videos) on Debian Lenny. I will use FlowPlayer as the video player, a free Flash video player with support for lighttpd's mod_flv_streaming module. I will also show how you can encode videos (.mp4 .mov .mpg .3gp .mpeg .wmv .avi) to the FLV format supported by Adobe Flash.

This document comes without warranty of any kind! I want to say that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

In this tutorial I use the hostname with the IP address These settings might differ for you, so you have to replace them where appropriate.

We need a lighttpd installation with PHP support, as shown in this tutorial: Installing Lighttpd With PHP5 And MySQL Support On Debian Lenny. I won't cover this here, so please refer to this tutorial if you haven't already set up lighttpd with PHP support.


2 Installing ffmpeg

We will use ffmpeg to convert our video files to the FLV format. The problem with the official Debian ffmpeg package is that is doesn't come with MP3 encoding support, which means that our FLV videos will lose their sound after the conversion. Therefore we add the Debian-Multimedia repository to our sources.list and install the ffmpeg package from that repository - it comes with MP3 support by default.

vi /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the Debian-Multimedia repository (you can find a mirror close to you here), e.g. like this:

deb stable main
deb-src stable main

Then download the debian-multimedia-keyring package and install it:

dpkg -i debian-multimedia-keyring_2008.10.16_all.deb

Finally update your package-list:

aptitude update

We can now install ffmpeg as follows:

aptitude install ffmpeg


3 Installing flvtool2

When we convert videos to the FLV format, we need to add some metadata such as the duration of the video to the FLV file so that FlowPlayer can properly display the length of the video. We can add this metadata with flvtool2. We can install flvtool2 as follows:

aptitude install flvtool2


4 Creating Video Directories

In this tutorial I'm assuming that your lighttpd document root for your video web site is /var/www (the default document root for lighttpd on Debian). Of course, we don't want to store the original videos and the FLV videos in the document root (or a subdirectory) to prevent that anyone can download them directly (if he knows the link). Therefore we create a directory for the original videos (e.g. /var/videos/incoming) and a directory for the FLV videos (e.g. /var/videos/flv) outside the document root:

mkdir -p /var/videos/incoming
mkdir -p /var/videos/flv

You (or your users) can then upload their original videos to /var/videos/incoming (e.g. through FTP or some web interface that you program), and you can then encode the videos to FLV (either manually or through some script), as shown in the next chapter.


5 Encoding Videos To FLV

Let's assume we have a video called video.avi in /var/videos/incoming (works for the extensions .mp4 .mov .mpg .3gp .mpeg .wmv as well). We want to convert it to the file video.flv and store it in the directory /var/videos/flv. I want video.flv to have a size of 320x240 pixels with an audio sampling frequency of 44100 Hz, two audio channels (stereo), and a frame rate of 12 fps. This is how we do it:

ffmpeg -i /var/videos/incoming/video.avi -s 320x240 -ar 44100 -r 12 -ac 2 /var/videos/flv/video.flv

(For more options, take a look at

man ffmpeg


This can take some time, and the output should look something like this:

server1:~# ffmpeg -i /var/videos/incoming/video.avi -s 320x240 -ar 44100 -r 12 -ac 2 /var/videos/flv/video.flv
FFmpeg version SVN-r13582, Copyright (c) 2000-2008 Fabrice Bellard, et al.
  configuration: --prefix=/usr --libdir=${prefix}/lib --shlibdir=${prefix}/lib --bindir=${prefix}/bin --incdir=${prefix}/include/ffmpeg --enable-shared --enable-libmp3lame --enable-gpl --enable-libfaad --mandir=${prefix}/share/man --enable-libvorbis --enable-pthreads --enable-libfaac --enable-libxvid --enable-postproc --enable-libamr-nb --enable-libamr-wb --enable-x11grab --enable-libgsm --enable-libx264 --enable-liba52 --enable-libtheora --extra-cflags=-Wall -g -fPIC -DPIC --cc=ccache cc --enable-swscale --enable-libdc1394 --enable-nonfree --disable-mmx --disable-stripping --enable-avfilter --enable-libdirac --disable-decoder=libdirac --enable-libschroedinger --disable-encoder=libschroedinger --disable-altivec --disable-armv5te --disable-armv6 --disable-vis
  libavutil version: 49.7.0
  libavcodec version: 51.58.0
  libavformat version: 52.16.0
  libavdevice version: 52.0.0
  libavfilter version: 0.0.0
  built on May  3 2009 12:02:42, gcc: 4.3.2
Input #0, avi, from '/var/videos/incoming/video.avi':
  Duration: 00:10:53.82, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 5455 kb/s
    Stream #0.0: Video: mpeg4, yuv420p, 1024x576 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 24.00 tb(r)
    Stream #0.1: Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, 5:1, 448 kb/s
Output #0, flv, to '/var/videos/flv/video.flv':
    Stream #0.0: Video: flv, yuv420p, 320x240 [PAR 4:3 DAR 16:9], q=2-31, 200 kb/s, 12.00 tb(c)
    Stream #0.1: Audio: libmp3lame, 44100 Hz, stereo, 64 kb/s
Stream mapping:
  Stream #0.0 -> #0.0
  Stream #0.1 -> #0.1
Press [q] to stop encoding
[libmp3lame @ 0xb7cad610]lame: output buffer too small (buffer index: 8359, free bytes: 281)
frame= 7847 fps= 11 q=2.0 Lsize=   21696kB time=653.92 bitrate= 271.8kbits/s
video:16067kB audio:5114kB global headers:0kB muxing overhead 2.428783%

Please make sure that in the Output section, you see two streams, one for video, one for audio. If you see video only, this means that the sound gets lost.

After the conversion, we can now add metadata to video.flv with flvtool2:

cat /var/videos/flv/video.flv | flvtool2 -U stdin /var/videos/flv/video.flv
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