Shell Bash Script to Create M3U8 Playlist From Input MP4 Video & Play it as HLS Live Streaming in Command Line




HLS-Stream-Creator is a simple BASH Script designed to take a media file, segment it and create an M3U8 playlist for serving using HLS. There are numerous tools out there which are far better suited to the task, and offer many more options. This project only exists because I was asked to look into HTTP Live Streaming in depth, so after reading the IETF Draft I figured I’d start with the basics by creating a script to encode arbitrary video into a VOD style HLS feed.


Usage is incredibly simple

So to split a video file called example.avi into segments of 10 seconds, we’d run


Adaptive Streams

As of HLS-6 the script can now generate adaptive streams with a top-level variant playlist for both VoD and Linear input streams.

In order to create seperate bitrate streams, pass a comma seperated list in with the -b option

By default, transcoding for each bitrate will be forked into the background – if you wish to process the bitrates sequentially, pass the -f option

In either case, in accordance with the HLS spec, the audio bitrate will remain unchanged.

Multiple Resolutions

As of HLS-27 it is possible to (optionally) specify a resolution as well as the desired bitrate by appending it to the bitrate it applies to:

In the example above, the first two bitrates will use their specified resolutions, whilst the last will use whatever resolution the source video uses.

The format to use is

Note: There are currently no checks to ensure the specified resolution isn’t larger than the source media, so you’ll need to check this yourself (for the time being).

You should consider the potential ramifications of player behaviour before using this functionality.

Encrypted Streams

HLS-Stream-Creator can also create encrypted HLS streams, it’s enabled by passing -e

The script will generate a 128 bit key and save it to a .key file in the same directory as the segments. Each segment will be AES-128 encrypted using an IV which corresponds to it’s segment number (the default behaviour for HLS).

The manifests will then be updated to include the necessary EXT-X-KEY tag:


As of version 1, the HLS resources will be output to the directory output (unless a different directory has been specified with -o). These will consist of video segments encoded in H.264 with AAC audio and an m3u8 file in the format

Using a Specific FFMPEG binary

There may be occasions where you don’t want to use the ffmpeg that appears in PATH. At the top of the script, the ffmpeg command is defined, so change this to suit your needs

H265 details

Check has been added for libx265 to enforce bitrate limits for H265 since it uses additional parameters.

Audio Codec Availability

Because libfdk_aac is a non-free codec, and is not available in all builds, commit 0796feb switched the default audio codec to aac.

However, in older versions of ffmpeg, aac was marked as experimental – this includes the packages currently in the repos for Ubuntu Xenial. As a result, when running the script, you may see the following error

There are two ways to work around this. If you have the libfdk_aac codec installed, you can specify that it should be used instead

Alternatively, you can update the ffmpeg flags to enable experimental codecs

And the re-run HLS-Stream-Creator.

HLS-23 will, in future, update the script to check for this automatically.

Additional Environment Variables

There are few environment variables which can control the ffmpeg behaviour.

  • VIDEO_CODEC – The encoder which will be used by ffmpeg for video streams. Examples: libx264nvenc
  • AUDIO_CODEC – Encoder for the audio streams. Examples: aaclibfdk_accmp3libfaac
  • NUMTHREADS – A number which will be passed to the -threads argument of ffmpeg. Newer ffmpegs with modern libx264 encoders will use the optimal number of threads by default.
  • FFMPEG_FLAGS – Additional flags for ffmpeg. They will be passed without any modification.
  • FFMPEG_INPUT_FLAGS – Additional flags for ffmpeg which apply to the input file only. They will also be passed without any modification.

Example usage:

OS X Users

Segment encryption won’t work out of the box on OS X as it relies on arguments which the BSD grep and sed commands don’t support. In order to use encryption on OS X you must first install their GNU counterparts

Note: As of HLS-33 it is no longer necessary to force brew to expose default names (since support has been dropped for --with-default-names).

It should be possible to get HLS-Stream-Creator up and running on a Mac by running the following


HLS-Stream-Creator was originally created as a short bit of research and has since grown significantly. The consequence of this, is that it was primarily focused on being run manually.

Although still not a perfect solution to automation, an example of automating HLS-Stream-Creator can be found here. Better automation support will hopefully be added sometime in the future (pull requests very welcome).


HLS-Stream-Creator is licensed under the BSD 3 Clause License and is Copyright (C) 2013 Ben Tasker

Issue Tracking

Although the Github issue tracker can be used, the bulk of project management (such as it is) happens in JIRA. See for a HTML mirror of the tracking.

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