Editing video in Linux can be a right pain in the posterior. Most software is unstable or simply not powerful enough to get the job done, for example when editing HD video. Naturally a well-specified PC is your best friend when it comes to resource-intensive processes like video editing, but that’s not to say you’ll need a showroom model to get the job done.
Kdenlive is a free and cross-platform video editor that will probably mean more to your average Linux user than Windows or Mac types. The shortage of stable, usable and powerful editing suites on the Linux platform is the main reason for this.
If you’re searching for a decent, all-in-one solution for editing video on your Linux system then Kdenlive might just be the program you’re looking for.
Workspace & Features
If you’ve ever edited video before then you’ll probably feel instantly at home with Kdenlive, which is a typical non-linear video editor. If you’re a newcomer to the world of video editing then the interface shouldn’t put you off either.
The editor supports capture from a variety of devices, including Video4Linux compatibles and Firewire cameras as well as screen capture from the desktop. You can check if your device is supported on this compatibility list.
All the favourites are there – the timeline, a monitor window (with tabs for switching between individual clips and the whole production), file browser, transition window and a menu full of options and features. Overall the workspace is clean, attractive and responsive; if a little limited at times.
The program has a fairly extensive range of features, including a very handy transcoder. Transcoding video is as simple as adding source files to your project with the Add Clip button, right clicking your selection in the file browser and choosing Transcode. Kdenlive can do transcode to the popular DNxHD editing codec in two clicks and completely removes the need to download additional converters or doing it manually via command line.
Cutting up your freshly transcoded video into clips for arrangement on the timeline isn’t difficult, especially if you use the handy keyboard shortcuts. By default “I” is your in-point, “O” is your out-point and “Ctrl+I” creates a clip from your chosen area. Then it’s just a simple case of dragging your newly made clip onto the timeline.
Kdenlive also includes stop-motion capture, which by default worked using my laptop’s webcam. If you have a video device that is configured for use with Linux then there’s little reason you wouldn’t be able to use it for stop-motion here too.
Transitions, Effects & Usability
There’s a decent array of transitions and effects included with Kdenlive, and once you’ve read the how-to, adding them to the timeline is a fairly easy affair. Some users might find the naming and function of some effects and transitions confusing, as they don’t really give much clue as to what the selection does. This makes Kdenlive feel a little less user friendly than it could be at times.
Another thing that makes the program seem slightly unintuitive are the effects, and their applications. Instead of being able to change the volume of a clip by default in your timeline, volume is instead an effect that needs to be selected and applied. Fortunately you can keyframe it, but it’s nowhere near as quick or straightforward as some of the more advanced (and admittedly costly) non-linear editors out there.
On the Ubuntu 10.10 system I’m currently using, Kdenlive was incredibly stable. I’ve not actually enjoyed this level of stability from a Linux video editor ever, and I’ve tried nearly all of them. Whilst editing together a 7 minute 720p video with effects, transitions, images, additional audio and a lot of source videos the program crashed once in the entire editing process (don’t hit Save whilst you’re previewing your creation).
The only “major” problem I had were my sub-clips (selections of video within other files) somehow hid themselves and there was no clear way of getting them back. Eventually I worked out that creating a new sub-clip from the same source video reveals them again, but it’s annoying all the same.
When it comes to rendering you’ve got plenty of pre-defined output options, so choose carefully before you commit. Rendering always takes a while, and the more grunt your PC has the less time you’ll have to wait.
There’s also a decent community sharing custom creations including transitions, though these can be downloaded within Kdenlive from the drop-down Settings menu.
If you like the look of Kdenlive then you can download the following versions:
- Linux – Packages available for Debian, Ubuntu, Slackware and more as well as source code and instructions on compiling.
- Mac – From Macports.
- Live CD – Burn Kdenlive to a CD, DVD or USB stick and boot as an OS (perfect for Windows users).
- VirtualBox & FreeBSD – Versions for virtual machines and the FreeBSD OS.
I really like Kdenlive, even though it doesn’t feel quite user-friendly enough for everyone. Whilst it does have its bugs, quirks and annoyances it is still the most stable video editor I’ve yet to use on the Linux platform. For this reason (and its decent array of features) I’d recommend Kdenlive as a very workable solution, though if you are thinking of undertaking a project then don’t forget the software’s limitations.
If you’re looking for alternative Linux video editors, Kdenlive was featured alongside 6 others in this article.
Have you tried Kdenlive? Did you like it? Any better editors out there? Anything nearly as stable around?
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