understandable linux tips, tricks and tutorials

Yet again, with Lucid Lynx, Ubuntu has shunned a much better technology for no good reason other than what appears to be NIH syndrome. Ubuntu 10.04 came out last week, and included a movie editor in the default install for the first time. The movie editor they chose: PiTiVi.

Now PiTiVi has been around for a long time, but has progressed very little. It can do very basic video manipulation. It can cut and split files, and move them round on a time line. That’s pretty much it. Furthermore, as far as I’m aware, it currently does not support the most popular HD video format used in cameras today – AVCHD. It lacks any video or audio filters, does not do transitions, nor titling. I know that Ubuntu tries to provide basic tools that will appeal to the average user – hence the replacement of GIMP with F-Spot in the default install, but in my view support for HD video formats, filters and transitions are the bare minimum features anyone looking to do video editing in the current environment would require.

Furthermore, these features are provided by kdenlive in an interface which is just as simple as PiTiVi. But under the simple exterior, kdenlive has much more sophisticated features:

  • Capture from any source, including DV
  • Import and organise media files with folders
  • Drag and drop media to the time line
  • Render to a large number of formats using a wide variety of codecs
  • Support for DV, HDV, AVCHD, H264, mpeg, avi and mov
  • Support for uncompressed PCM, ac3, mp2, mp3, vorbis and wav
  • Predefined export settings
  • Heaps of effects, transitions and filters
  • Title creation tool

In my view, Ubuntu is doing desktop Linux a huge dis-service by putting in basic, buggy tools and then advertising its product as having “video editing” capabilities. The short point is that it hasn’t, and users moving to Ubuntu on the basis of this promise will be bitterly disappointed, tainting their overall view of Linux.

So why did Ubuntu do this? Either they are not aware of kdenlive and its capabilities – which can’t be true, because it’s available in their repositories, or they have an aversion to including anything in the default install that requires the KDE libraries. While I can understand that approach – there is only so much space on the CD – why substitute for a clearly inferior application. In my view this is both a poor technical and marketing choice. They would have been better leaving PiTiVi off the default CD rather than tainting user’s impression of the readiness or otherwise of Linux for the desktop. Whilst I’m not saying that video editing for Linux is as healthy as on other platforms, I am saying it is a hell of a lot more advanced that Ubuntu and PiTiVi would lead the average person to think.

  1. VideoLan Movie Creator (clever name) would have been a good choice but’s still in development.

  2. I am a Fedora developer but an important reason why Pitivi would have been chosen is that it uses gstreamer and therefore unlike ffmpeg, the codecs can be separated and yes, usage of KDE libraries is a problem for a GNOME Live CD not because of NIH but because of lack of space in the Live CD.,

    • Is the “separation” of codecs via gstreamer, and avoiding ffmpeg a good reason to include an editor which is basically useless as a non-linear video editor? I understand the space issues, but given that video editing is such a key component of a modern desktop – think youtube – my kids are forever uploading mindless videos to youtube, don’t you think ubuntu might make space for the best tool for the job?

  3. Kdenlive is a lovely movie editor — for Kubuntu. It requires Qt, which is a big chunk of code to pull in for just one application.

  4. that’s a KDE app. putting it into the ubuntu default install is a no-go, because it would require to put about a million KDE packages onto the install CD.

  5. and of course, kdenlive is only an apt-get away. Rather than griping that Canonical chose to not include a bunch of KDE libs just for your preferred movie editor, perhaps it would have been helpful if you pointed out that you could easily install it from the repos.

    • I did – read again. But that misses the point of the post. Including PiTiVi harms the reputation of desktop linux.

      • “You keep on using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

        It’s not “desktop Linux”, that’s not something that even exists. If you must call it something then call it an FDO.

  6. There are a LOT of good video tools for Linux. I know that they are often not as good as the $10,000 that some people steal and use on MS but for free, moral and legal they are very nice and quite perfect for most home use.

    Your a pro and you say that free stuff sucks? Pay the price or support an open source team with that $10,000 bucks and you will see them make something better than the pay stuff!

    Blender 3d – hard core but GREAT! I just blue screened a home movie with it today!

    Avidemux – easy to use once you see that the video copy setting makes the software do NOTHING! Dear Devs, fix this, copy SHOULD filter and save with the format that the original had not just sit there like a lump!

    Cinelerra – said to be most pro like.
    Open Movie Editor
    and there are more!

    • Soon to include Lightworks – which can easily compete with the $10k professional editing suites – the number of Hollywood blockbusters it’s been used on is quite astounding.

  7. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Openshot non-linear video editor.. It has most, if not all the features missing from PiTiVi, without the QT library dependencies!
    Granted, you might need to setup a PPA repository for APT/Synaptic, but it’s real easy to do.

  8. Number of people employed to work full-time on PiTiVi: 2

    Number of people employed to work full-time on kdenlive: 0

    (hardly an unusual pattern for GNOME vs KDE apps).

    Frankly, I’d bet on PiTiVi.

    • Really? And that’s the best they can do? Just supports my view that it’s the technology that’s holding them back.

  9. Ubuntu should have always used KDE as its default. instead Kubuntu is lags far behind in development. There is no reason for anyone to have to use Gnome!

  10. I love kdenlive, and use it oftenly, but I do understand reluctance to include it in default Ubuntu installation due to size of kde libs.
    But what could easily be done is to follow Kubuntu example regarding Firefox. They made it extra easy for anyone to install Firefox by having the Firefox installer in default application menu.
    Same principle could be used for kdenlive and ubuntu i believe.

  11. canonical are morons…. they either are not aware of the good and bad in the software community or they don’t care… they keep making bad decison after bad decision… it amazes me…. pulse audio was a major bad decision…. now plymouth/kms is a bad decision as it requires commandline user intervention to fix when you enable proprietary nvidia drivers…. and that shouldn’t be the case with a distro like ubuntu… it is suppose to be ready for the masses and feature complete/easy to use…. they are morons

  12. I think perhaps the other main reason ( aside from it being a KDE app ) Kdenlive wasn’t included is stability. While there are quite a few video editors nowadays for Linux, if you want to include one in a default install it should be the most stable one available with a decent interface. I have not used PiTiVi so actually am just assuming it is more stable than the others but from experience can say the Cinelerra and Kdenlive are not totally stable programs.

  13. If kdenlive was included by default, then the Ubuntu (gnome version – their MAIN distro release) would be required to include many kde-libraries. There is a good chance they wouldn’t be able to fit the resultant full release into one live CD.

    Also, although I AM a 100% kde fan and indeed like kdenlive, it (kdenlive) is still relatively new and has its own bugs and deficiencies.

    Ubuntu sucks anyway, and any computer user who would want to do video editting is likely savvy enough to install more video editting software through the software management system, so who cares…??

  14. The main problem is with codec support. For good reasons (like not wanting to get sued), distros DO NOT want to ship with a lot of patent encumbered codecs that are needed by most video editors to make them usable… nor do they want to pay the licensing fees for their users.

    Heck, playback of most of the formats you mentioned is either not included or limited in many distributions.

    I like Kdenlive but my experience with it is that it crashes ALOT. Perhaps that has been a combination of the media I’ve used… but it is very buggy and that too would give Linux a bad reputation.

    I’ve wanted to do very simple editing and I’ve tried everything I’m aware of (including OpenShot) but I’ve always run into a snag or a program behavior I didn’t like. Linux has a long way to go in the video editing arena… although I do have some hope for VLC Movie Creator once it is out of beta.

    • The irony is that I thought kdenlive was crashy to, until I moved from ubuntu to opensuse. Software in general seems a hell of a lot more stable in opensuse.

  15. OpenShot is very good for beginners (and has transtition effects)

  16. Dear author, why do you like those words – battle, fight, kill, masskill, headshot, dead corps, etc…

    why you dont understand that there is no battle in opensource world.. we have developers who want to give their capabilities for free.. as a simple gift – this is not a bomb..

    canonical made a decision which you hate, but i`m sure that you dont know anything about it, developement, and so on.. you are a simple man who can cry, but cant observe ideas and oportunities..

    • Thanks for your comment. For the record I’ve been using linux exclusively on my desktop for over 10 years. I’ve also spent a lot of time developing on linux and have developed a number of tools and applications which I release under the GPL. I have observed a number of opportunities and ideas in linux go to waste over the 10 years, often due to the dogmatic adherence of developers to a particular technology or toolkit. You’ve clearly missed one of the points of my argument, that shunning a tool simply because it is created with a particular toolkit, when it is clearly superior to another is bad for linux technology and hence bad for the free desktop.

  17. Oh I thought they were gonna go with Open Shot !

    Although I can’t vouch for kdenlive, but I agree that PiTiVi isn’t a good choice. As a casual user who sometimes likes to mess around with & edit videos, Open Shot serves the purpose brilliantly.

    PiTiVi, on the other hand is severely limited in terms of interface-friendliness and options available. I never felt comfortable with it.

    With Open Shot, I was actually elated by the simplicity, effectiveness & versatility of the interface & editing choices available. Would like to try kdenlive sometime.

  18. What a rant…I use Xubuntu myself, having made the transition from Windows about half a year ago. When making the switch, it was development tools I had my eyes on more than anything.

    Seriously, I didn’t even take a look at what was in the default distribution but, scoured the web of reviews and the like, then making the decision which tool to use.

    pitivi isn’t that bad, it isn’t that great, it does exactly what Canonical wanted though. It demonstrated that the tools are there. This article to me is the equivalent of installing Windows and laughing at the whole of Windows due to its Movie Maker.

    Different folks, different strokes. At least Pitivi will work on all versions of Ubuntu. I don’t like KDE myself for example.

  19. I was using iMovie on the Mac, tried Pitvi (terrible) and then found OpenShot (more than good enough for me). So, I stopped using iMovie.

    About Pitvi : Ubuntu made a choice for a LTS release. Developers can a) get on board and make it great or b) make something better and offer it as a candidate for the next LTS.

    Personally, I think that Ubuntu is now the standard bearer for desktop Linux. IMHO it would be wise for people to focus on making Pitvi great.

    Most of my computers and my computer time is Ubuntu now. I only use the Mac and Windows for testing my web site on those operating systems.

    IMHO a great video editor is important because it can make it easy for people to create video tutorials explaining Ubuntu and the software apps.

    The codecs issue is annoying. I would really love to see a Linux magazine throw all the proprietary codecs onto a CD in a magazine. One idea : They could pay the codec owners royalties based on the magazine sales. Right now, the codec owners generally get nothing at all. A magazine could offer usage tips, installation instructions, etc.

    Another idea is to pay royalties based on an activation code or registration process.

    Another idea is to sell the codecs in the (future) ‘for money’ section of the Ubuntu Software Centre.

    Another idea is for 7Digital to sell the proprietary codecs through their music store. It would be very convenient for businesses using Ubuntu that need to legalise their codecs.

    Just some ideas.

  20. I gave video editing a try recently but I didnt test them first.
    instead I gave my grade school son and his friends the task to tell me which editor they liked best.
    Most were familiar with Imovie and WIndows Movie Maker.

    I DL all the usual suspects on Linux and the UNANIMOUS choice was KDEnlive. 7 votes out of 7.

    When I came around to trying them out myself, I came to the same conclusion.

    This isnt scientific or anything but since Ive moved the family to Linux 2-3 years ago (PCLinux was then by far the friendliest and Just Works distro), Ive been looking to find matching programs for my faves like VLC, Winamp, Irfanview and so on.
    VLC is still the best, Winamp has been replaced by a few different players like XMMS, Audacious and Amarok, Digikam is absolutely amazing for downloading my digital camera pix and KDEnlive has been the missing link.
    Tried it about a year ago and it was tempting but still too prone to problems but this spring, it was ready.

    I have high hopes for VLC editor just because its VLC but I will use whatever is the best tool at the time and right now, KDEnlive is it.

    As far as poor tech choices, I worry more as a developer the infatuation Ubuntu and especially GNOME has with Mono and incorporating it in the infrastructure.
    (I have no problems with non-libre apps like Skype and Opera)
    That worries me more then another half-assed apps change.
    There are enough Mac envying douchebags in the Buntu camp to make many more of those.

  21. A good simple video editor is very imperative for linux.

    The whole world is using video these days (youtube).

    Until a good video editor for linux arrives a lot op people will stick to windows.

    The best I have tried is cinelerra, but it was difficult to to use.

    I also tried blender but it was terribly difficult to use.

    We need a simple easy one, I think, so one can edit ones home movies and insert subtitles en an easy way.

  22. I use Kdenlive every day (yes, start up video business) and have used it consistently since swapping over from Kino and a couple of other apps combined.

    Pititvi just doesn’t come close.

    Openshot is good and improving. Not up there with Kdenlive, but at the rate it’s being developed I can say that it’s not far off.

    As for crashing, yes I’ve had a few but not too many to worry about.

  23. Why no mention of LiVES either ? Version 1.3.2 is included in Lucid.

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