Moooving Pictures

As part of my album writing/recording, I am taking a video diary of the whole thing. I was originally planning on producing video diaries and putting them online regularly, but I don’t think I have the time – so I am videoing everything and I will produce a documentary for the DVD when it is done.

But we have a problem. Video editing is rubbish on Linux. We have been in this constant state of nearly there for a long time, and I just wish we were actually there. There are a number of options available to us:

  • Cinelerra – a very competent, albeit ugly, pro-level editing solution, but I find it (a) waaay too complex and (b) it never really works for me. It also requires something akin to the computer from Star Trek for it to run.
  • PiTiVi – my personal hope for a long time – GNOME/GTK based and using GStreamer, but Edward Hervey, who is a friend of mine has struggled to find the time to work on the project with his many other commitments. He is always looking for help, and it is an extremely worthy project, but still not there yet.
  • Kino – too simple for what I want to do really, and I also find it pretty un-intuitive.
  • Open Movie Editor – another promising effort, but when I tested it, little worked for me.

Recently, we had an entry to the Pimp My LugRadio competition (in which you can win a Asus EEEPC!) that was created in Kdenlive. Aq had a fiddle with it and liked it, and mentioned it to me. I had a play with it, and it is looking pretty darn good.

My needs for video are pretty simple:

  • Get video my camera onto my computer.
  • Load it into a timeline.
  • Chop it into bits and re-arrange them.
  • Add background music.
  • Add titles.
  • A few simple effects – namely fades and black and white.
  • Save the finished video as something that others can play, such as MPG and Ogg.

Kdenlive seems to have all of these features built in, and it uses an Adobe Peemiere-ish interface, which I like. From playing with it, it works pretty well, but its main enemy is stability – I think it needs some serious testing and bug-fixing.

It is currently being ported to KDE 4.0, and I look forward to seeing how that version works out. Once again, we are nearly there, but I hope we actually get there with it soon. I have so much video stuff I want to play with!

  • Jason Brower

    I don’t know where you got the idea. But kino is pretty good. It does absolutely everything you wanted in that list. I have made many a video with it and use it about once a week. for example… It even exported my video to the flash format with the webpage and everything. I have the full videos in

  • Fred

    I couldn’t agree with you more. By the looks of things we might be in a perpetual state of “nearly there” with Linux video editing.

    The fact is there just isn’t enough interested programmers working on NLE in Linux. And there are competing frameworks.. MLT, Gstreamer, mencoder etc.

    I’d say Cinelerra has basically come to a stop, when I read that the community programmers want to rewrite it as their solution, Edward just has no time and no help, Richard Spindler of Open Movie editor is also only a single force behind his software and finally i wonder what progress being done with mlt ( the framework behind KDEnlive? )

    I really just think that the greater Linux “community” doesn’t really care about video editing and thats a shame.

  • Stu

    I can see where your coming from in the editing dept on Linux, but it all depends on what your aiming to achieve. example: I like to distribute a DVD from family holiday’s which generally include as much video as pictures. So my hunt for getting it onto DVD was a bit of a pain on Linux. But as I have long since rid my life of Windows and it’s software I had to experiment with various tools and command line tools (ffmpg, transcode, mencoder etc…).

    What I eventually settled on, purely from an ease of use “or laziness”:roll: was a combination of Kino (for effects and stringing them together) with KmediaFactory for production. The latter being extremely simple in terms of drag ‘n’ drop your images / videos and or edited bits ‘n’ bobs in a story board and create the menu’s or use the predefined templates. Sprinkle with some music and away you go.

    After some considerable playing, hey presto! Holiday DVD’s, and with Lightscribe support, a nice professionally looking (almost pressed like) dvd.

    As a footnote: I have tried and played around with Cinerella, KDEnLive and PiTiVi. But these were lacking in the ease of use or functionality department. I realise people put a lot of time and effort into these, but for now I’m quite happy with the results of KmediaFactory and Kino combined. It’s also worth mentioning “ManDVD” aswell. Although I can’t give a full review of it. It’s certainly Mac like in it’s execution.

  • Steve

    I used kdenlive to do a wedding video and was impressed. It crashed a few times, but I didn’t seem to lose much work. It seemed to have all I needed. It could do with more documentation to show how you use the features.

    I used Kino before, but it is very limited.

    I’ve got a stack of DV tapes I need to do something with.

  • Peter

    LiVES ( might be of help. You still have to grab your movies with e.g. kino or similar, since LiVES is an editor, not a recording tool.

    Biggest drawback is that it unpacks your video to one .wav and several .jpg files before you can start editing. That eats up a lot of space, but it worked well enough for me.

  • karthik

    Hi did you try -Karthik

  • Marco

    Ah I wanted so much to send something for Pimp My Lugradio! I tried several video editing programs (the one you listed and Diva[that looks so dead]). But I don’t think any of them is what I want/need. Kdenlive could be the one, but it’s not mature enough.

    Some people say great things about Blender as video editor. I know it’s not a simple program to use, but if I have to spend my time on something hard I prefer to do it on Blender than Cinelerra.

    However I hope someone is going to resuscitate Diva that was really going in the right direction.

  • Rich Wareham

    Have you tried Blender’s sequence editor. I use it for editing together research proposal films and even entire feature films were edited in it, not to mention Elephants Dream.

  • Gez

    My workflow uses: – Kino for capturing from firewire (save as RAW DV for better quality) – Cinelerra for editing (using Microsoft AVI with DV Codec) – Avidemux for final format conversions (usually for DVD using the DVD present and deinterlace filters).

    For capturing Kino does the work. I use it for trimming the clips as well. With Cinelerra I have a love/hate relationship. It is a very capable software, it’s fast, if you stay with the same video format it just renders the transitions and doesn’t recompress the unmodified footage, it has some interesting filters and features but… It’s stuck. Development is nearly non-existent and afaik developers are not user-friendly (not to mention that Heroin Virtual and Cinelerra-CVS are currently two separated projects). Because of that Cinelerra is quite unstable, has several UI annoyances that make the editing process unnecesarily painful and, honestly, it looks ugly (users continuously offer UI ideas and mockups but developers don’t seem to be interested about that). And it’s a shame, because it is a great program. I’d say it has the most important things covered and it just needs some love to details. Anyway, if you are ready to struggle with it it can give you very good results. Just keep in mind that you won’t be using the “drag clip to timeline, chop it and re arrange the bits”. You’ll be using media and clips. The steps are: 1- open the clips (select the option “create new resources only”. The clips will end up in the media folder. 2- double-click the clip. It will take it to the viewer window for trimming. mark in/out points and convert to clip (i key) or place the trimmed clip in the timeline (there are icons for that, and they will be inserted in the play head position). 3-If you didn’t insert the clip/s in the timeline, go to the clip folder and drag the selected clip to the timeline manually. 4- arrange the clips and place transitions and filters.

    remember to press CTRL+S every 2 seconds. :-p

    Once you get used to the process, it’s quite efficient.

    You can use Blender’s sequence editor as a video editor too. It’s quite good, but I’ve never could get a realtime preview. And that’s pretty unconvenient when editing video.

  • Maxo

    Was Elephant’s dream built in Linux. They say all open-source tools so I assume that means Linux was used as well. Whatever they where using had to at least be up to par to make such a fantastic movie.

  • cmnt

    Elephant’s dream was done in Blender itself (I think). I have done some movies in Blender and I think it is an excellent video editor. Of course like all things in Blender you need to learn some keys to really work efficiently with it… Search for a tut about the sequence editor in Blender and your set to go…

  • Hubert

    In the non-free but not so expensive world, there is also MainActor, that performs quite well even for semi-professional tasks.

    There is also Jahshaka, but this is more focused on compositing but does a fairly good job there, plus it has a quite intuitve interface.

    Finally there is LiVES, it’s main focus is VJing but it brings some editing functions with it. It’s definetily one of those apps that need a bit more work though ;-).

    Anyway, Kdenlive is currently the most promising solution for free and open editing.

  • rcb

    Elephant’s Dream was produced with blender. See

    What other tools they used I don’t know. They have a forum though… 😉

  • Wolfger

    You didn’t mention the app I like to use for my meager video editing requirements: avidemux. It may not be all you want (my needs are less than yours), but I thought I’d point it out to you.

  • Bassam

    Hi Jono, Maxo Elephants Dream used blender to edit the video. Currently (at least for me) the only usable video editor is blender sequence editor on linux; kdenlive does nothing but segfault for me. One of the downsides of the sequence editor is that it is slightly non-intuitive- takes a bit of work to figure it out. however, there are some massive usability (and performance) enhancements in SVN that should make it much easier to use.

    Of course, I would welcome a standalone (multitrack) video editor that is a-usable, b-powerful and c-stable – sadly we are not quite there yet, but there are several promising projects. Cinellera can be good (if you can get it to behave) and perhaps projects like pitivi or kdenlive will start kicking a$$ in the future.

    The audio side is also very important- I doubt blender will ever be a good audio editor, so projects like audacity, ardor and of course Jokosher 😉 are key, as is the resolution of the linux sound-system mess into something that is good for everyday users AND for production needs.

  • Olafur Arason

    Blender has video editing capability, it’s called the sequencer. I’ve been looking at a lot of NLE. What I like about Blender is that it’s has an active community around it, it’s not trying to be a home editing tool, it has a node tool so it can possibly do stuff like Shake. But I have to test it more, but it has the greatest possibility of being something like Avid Xpress or Final Cut Pro, not like iMovie, Premiere.

  • Dan Dennedy

    Interesting that Kino is perhaps the only tool that can reliably do all of the above that you list, yet it’s “too simple.” As for unintuitive, I disagree based on most of your requirements, but it certainly is for some things like transitions and mixing the background music. However, the problem is not just a UI one; Kino lacks some of the foundation to support them with a more proper UI. OTOH, the capture, edit, and export parts are brain-dead simple and obvious. However, thanks for the compliments on kdenlive as I co-authored and continue to maintain its engine MLT.

    I don’t think we have been “nearly there for a long time” for the casual user. For the advanced/pro user, Cinelerra has been around a long time, but lacking the stability, which has gotten better in recent couple of years. Now, blender is really coming into its own for this user base. For casual users, I think Kino has only made it nearly there in the recent couple of years, and it’s just going to take a while to have something better for casual and intermediate users. This is going slowly because there is little cooperation among the hobbyist developers, and they only have their free time to work on it. I decided to stop developing Kino in order to help kdenlive to address this problem.

  • Kai

    Maxo: Elephant’s dream has been created using Blender and Blender’s video sequencer is indeed not a bad tool even if you only want to arrange a video.

  • Jesse Jarzynka

    Couldn’t agree more. I use Kino to grab video from my camera, but it’s always has lines when there’s a lof of movement. I think that’s dvgrab’s fault. I converted my buddy completely to Linux until he went a bought a Macbook because he wanted to do video editing 😥

  • Filip

    Wolfger: Believe it or not, but they actually built a video-editor into blender.

    Also, the blender projects (open movies, etc.) aren’t actually linux projects, but open source/media projects. The next movie will be rendered on Sun machines.

  • bobthevirus

    Maxo: They actually used blender to do this as far as I know, it has a reasonably capable video editor and can do all the things in Jono’s list. Unfortunately it’s slightly harder to learn.

  • Filip

    Sorry, that last message was to Maxo, I can’t read.

  • Urbano


    I never have done much video editing. And only try one time in Linux.

    Although there one tool that take my attention for video editing, and based in their site, seems to have a lot of potential.

    The tool: Jahshaka (

    Another tool, that I discover, but never heard before, is: ZS4 (

    Hope this can help!

  • Frank Daley

    Further to an earlier mention of “elephants dream” – it seems that Blender already has a lot of functionality for video editing.

    For example: “The VSE within Blender is a complete video editing system that allows you to combine multiple video channels and add effects to them. Its functionality has been inside Blender since the beginning. Even though it has a limited number of operations, you can use these to create powerful video edits (especially when you combine it with the animation power of Blender!) Furthermore, it is extensible via a plugin system to perform an unlimited number of image manipulations.”


    See also some comments at this article:

    especially: “Cinelerra and all of the other half baked Linux projects are not even close to the ability of Blender. It has the NLE component, and more importantly — the nodal editor. Give up on the half baked projects and get behind Blender please. Notable assets for use in a professional project: 1) OpenEXR – de facto standard in professional Visual Effects circles. 2) Amazingly versatile and easily modified nodal editor subsystem. Includes a good number of useful nodes while expanding at a blistering pace. 3) Fully customizable and GL accelerated interface to meet the needs of a variety of workflows. It offers an extremely professional feeling environment without all of the K / G clunk. 4) 16bpc and higher bpc support. Export support in development. The biggest gap holding back Linux editing at this point is knowledge. The non-whole framerate patch is in on Blender and DVC100 patches just hit ffmpeg’s SVG thanks to Maas work. For the sake of Free Software motion picture editing, please consider Blender.”

    I don’t know what all that means, but it sounds like there are serious efforts underway to continue to improve the capabilities of Blender for video editing.

  • Eugenia

    Well said. I wrote about the sad state of home video editing on Linux a few weeks ago too: Kino’s and Open Movie Editor’s developers read that blog post and agreed that the situation is difficult and pretty dire too. Which is what prompt me to put a message on the front page of gnomefiles to make known the need for a video editor that works. Of course, creating a video editor is not easy, it’s one of the most complex consumer applications out there.

    KDEnLive is interesting, as you said, but not stable. Whenever I load an h.264 mp4 file in it, it crashes instantly. And its HD handling is really bad. Even with the HDV patches, the editor becomes unusually slow and it can’t handle anything above 720p.

    I won’t say who, but I know a VERY well known person in the Linux community who wants to use Linux 100% (and he almost does), and yet he still has a Windows partition just so he can do some video editing in it. I think that this is very telling.

  • Eugenia

    but it’s always has lines when there’s a lof of movement.

    No, it is not Kino’s fault. Your camcorder records in interlaced format, so you see jaggies. You edit as such, but you have to export as progressive in order to not have jaggies.

  • Eugenia’s Rants and Thoughts » Blog Archive » Vindication

    […] Ubuntu’s Jon Bacon blogged about video editing too. He also agrees that video editing sucks balls on Linux. To me, this is the […]

  • Andre Noel

    Man, you said it all…

    My greatest pain on Linux is exactly that… And we concluded the same thing. I also like kdenlive (and I agree with the comments on each other), but the kdenlive bugs are very annoying…

    When you get many photos and use fad in/ou, on some photos the effect simply doesn’t work… Go figure…

    I’m sharing the same hope…

  • jaime hemmett

    me too. Though Edward does seem to still get stuff going all the time, I need to try Pitivi out again some day soon. I’d be happy to start with just cutting and joining the pieces to get rid of 30 minutes of the guy staring at his feet in the middle of our wedding video. :D.

  • Stephen

    I know. the lack of good editing software for Linux annoys me. The only good editor for Linux that I know of is Autodesk Smoke, but it’s a few hundred thousand dollars out of my price range for now. If I could get even a proprietary system like Premiere on Linux I would be happy.

  • Konjofsky

    Linux users deserve a nice video editor bundled (integrated) with the system so I hope to see putting more developer resources on Kdenlive and one day becoming an official part of the KDE project.

    For a very long time Windows had MovieMaker and MacOSX iMovie.

  • Thorsten Wilms

    So far I didn’t have much need for video editing. But you know, Linux/FLOSS is all about choice … among 5 to 75% solutions in cases 😉 If only the developers of a few of the listed apps could have worked together …

    Here’s someone who would like to get a fork of cinelerra going:

    The Ubuntu Studio head dev said he tried to work with the existing “community”, but they had no real interest in getting a cinelerra community edition packaged and prefer to keep things as they are with lots of local branches.

    Call me crazy, but it might be worth to have a look at Blender’s video capabilities.

    Personally, I would add JACK support to the requirements.

  • Karthik

    Hi is definitely good

  • Richard

    Open Movie Editor Developer here, happy to hear all your problems, and provide all the help necessary to get you up and running with it. 😉

    Cheers -Richard

  • Odin / Velmont

    I’m a professional video editor (as in: that’s where I earn my money). I’ve been tracking Cinelerra for a long time, because I really want to trash my Mac with Final Cut Pro. I’ve found out that this won’t happen in a long time; however, this yule I sat down with Cinelerra, to really give it a fair try.

    And my oh’ my was I ever impressed. I can actually be used for video editing; I made a cut of a DV-tape I had lying around – and it was rather painless once I understood that you don’t have tools in Cinelerra, you must use RMB, MMB and LMB for different trimming-options.

    I can’t switch to Cinelerra as my work platform (but I never expected that), however I’ll use it for all my personal stuff in the future. Because it actually works, and works well.

    BTW: My laptop has 512MiB RAM and 1.5Ghz processor, so the «requirements» are just bull – use the CV-version. I tried kdenlive, but too unstable and crashy. has a article series on video editing now soon; you should really read that when it is published.

  • Dries Desmet

    I’ve come to the same conclusion like many of you regarding video editing on linux. I’m not willing to give up just yet though. I have been most impressed with the diva project, although dead by now, it had the right approach. It doesn’t mean that a community driven editing app is not ever going to emerge. I see a few pitfalls: – There currently isn’t a fully working well documented editing framework. We need this first. This actually is the sole point why diva came to a stop. The developer started with gstreamer, but the gnonlin part of that framework wasn’t and still isn’t ready to start building a well establised editing app. Have to look into this, but it’s not even sure that gstreamer is the right approach at all. It was never meant as an editing framework, but in linux that is no reason to rule it out either. – We need to concentrate on very basic editing first: cut cut editing has to work superstable. No fancy video filters or transitions are necessary at the beginning. They just should be plug-in-able afterwards. – We need to concentrate on 1 video container format, that is not limited to 1 codec. Preferably open source, but no idea if .ogg is ready for this. I would actually opt for a professional open format that is called mxf. It can contain multiple video and audio layers and is interchangeable between all professional apps. – Do not try to include all the features of professional apps but do follow professional standards. Consumer formats tend to change and wave off in different directions and are unmaintainable because of that. If necessary, implement import export filter, but work in a common base system. Avid, for example, reencodes or rewraps all input sources to a common base system. Allthought I agree there is overhead when you want to mix different formats by doing so, but at least it keeps things consisent. – Don’t overload the ui. Editing is done with keyboard shortcuts only, nothing more. Gigantic play and pause buttons just – Good trimming: frame accurate trimming is EVERYTHING in editing. This has it’s influences in the codec to be used. I don’t care if file sizes are bigger, as long as good trimming and scrubbing video is rock solid. – Consider titling and other effects to be a completely different module or even a completely different app. There are far more possibilities with node based input-output workflows a la fusion, shake and nuke than trying to cram everything on a timeline based editing package. – Bake in the possibility of doing offline and online editing. This may sound ‘professional’ but really is nothing more than implementing a low quality codec and a full quality coded’. If relinking mediaclips is well organized and consistent, than this is a feature that can be very usefull for home videos as well. Just use different terms for online or offline if that is the thing that scares you. – Since the target audience for an app like this is rather limited in the linux world, it would be a nice plus to be able to run it on os x or windows alike. I note that most of the existing editing apps actually don’t use the native os gui: Avid, Premiere,Shake,Nuke,…

  • mrben

    I’ve been doing various bits of editing under Linux for 3+ years now. When I first started Cinelerra just wouldn’t work for me, but Kino did, and was surprisingly reliable. I think you can actually do most things in Kino that you can do in kdenlive, but it’s not nearly as intuitive.

    That said, there are bits of kdenlive that I find annoying – for instance, why do you have to create text as a seperate video when you want to overlay, rather than an effect? It makes it very confusing when you’re trying to crossfade to other video having overlaid. For a relatively simple video (just still images with overlaid text) I ended up using 4 video tracks.

    Still – kdenlive seems to be the current best, but I am hopeful that things are moving forward, albeit slowly, because we are in a better state than 3 years ago….

  • Eugenia

    why do you have to create text as a seperate video when you want to overlay, rather than an effect?

    It is more correct to have it as separate video because this way it allows for more modifications and customization and animation. It might require from you to learn to use it a bit more, but in the long run, it is the right decision.

  • Dries Desmet

    I agree that titles should be a separate layer: if you wanted the overlay text to be animated over a cut, you have to be able to put it on top of both clips at once. An effect is something that is done to a single clip. You should be able to apply effects on a whole edit as well though. In avid, this is achieved by dropping an effect on an empty layer on top of your completed edit.

    Something I always liked in avid as well is collapsing of layers. Double clicking and you can go in, add as many layers as you want.

  • Nick Alderweireldt

    NLE might be only ‘nearly there’ but at least I get done what I want (using kino for capturing and cinelerra and kdenlie for editing). I have seen a lot of progress last couple of years (kino is solid, kdenlive came, …).

  • troy_s

    Blender. It is our only glimmering hope for professional editing at this point.

    @Dries Desmet: “if you wanted the overlay text to be animated over a cut, you have to be able to put it on top of both clips at once. An effect is something that is done to a single clip.”

    Which is why no professional house does effects work on an Avid or any other cutting tool. The work flow doesn’t expect a single tool to do it all. There are editors and visual effects supervisors with their respective houses / teams.

    Generally, all effects work is done in a compositor, and the best of the best are all available for Linux. And yes, they are proprietary. Nuke, Shake, Houdini, etc. Don’t expect to find a layer in Nuke. It’s all nodes all the time.

    That said, shock, Blender too has a nodal compositor. Cut your work in the NLE then apply your effects in the Nodal compositor. Don’t try and do too much in the editor. Lord knows we have all seen enough of that rubbish on YouTube with the wonderful text overlays as someone shoots someone in Halo. Woo.

    If we are serious about pushing FOSS, we really need the final patches to get into ffmpeg’s SVN for DVC100, and other details as they happen. ( See )

    That helps plenty on the P2 front, which has made a serious dent into professional television production — the P2 is a standard tool for quickie shots that don’t require visual effecting.

    The proprietary war to be fought on the Panavision Genesis and Arri’s 35mm feature film replacement products is yet to be seen, and I don’t know much about the format being laid to tape / disk, but I suspect that with Sony involved in the Genesis at one point (and now with their own camera — the one which shot Speed Racer) that it is proprietary. I would need to do a little more chit chat with the folks that are in the know on that sort of thing.

    Sincerely, TJS

  • Dries Desmet

    @troy_s: “Which is why no professional house does effects work on an Avid or any other cutting tool. The work flow doesn’t expect a single tool to do it all. There are editors and visual effects supervisors with their respective houses / teams.”

    Which is why I mentioned Nuke, Shake and Houdini in my previous post. I think Avid is crap at effects, but for editing, it’s one of the best out there: excellent media management, simple mark in/mark out approach, robust and nice trimming. I suspect the robustness and trimming responsiveness has a lot to do with the codec all avid video gets converted to. There is simply too much cruft in video codecs and container formats, not only in the FOSS world, but also on Windows. Like or dislike quicktime, but at least it feels like os x is consistent in media production formats. My hope is that mxf will rise as a cross platform professional container format, that can hold DV, but also h264,mpegHD, and so on.

    P2 is just a medium, it has nothing to do with container format nor codec.

    Not sure about Panasonic, but Sony Broadcast camera’s already record directly to .mxf files.

  • troy_s

    @Dries: Sorry on the P2 slang. I was referring to Panasonic’s HVX200 — which was commonly referred to as the ‘P2’. I guess we should be a little more careful throwing the term ‘P2’ around now that there are more models out there.

    The HVX200 dumps down DVC100 to disk.