understandable linux tips, tricks and tutorials

kdenlive is a program which has allowed me to return to video editing on linux – previously, I was a refugee using Sony Vegas on Windows. Recently I bought a Canon HD camera which recorded video to the AVCHD format. This was a problem for linux. There was no native video editing application that could deal with this format, so the only option was to transcode to another format, which was not an easy process. Thankfully, ffmpeg has finally got support for AVCHD, which meant that support came to kdenlive shortly thereafter. This is a major breakthrough for linux video editing, as AVCHD seems to be the format being used as standard in HD video cameras. In addition, kdenlive has a nice and intuitive interface. It has most of the features you’d expect from a consumer level non-linear video editor, and it feels fast and solid.

installation

Installation of kdenlive should be relatively straightforward. There are packages for a large number of the mainstream distros. In addition, most mainstream distros have a package for kdenlive in their repos.

That being said, I’ve noticed a few issues with the packages produced on the openSuse platform, as well as for other distros. Stability seems to be an issue, and I also had trouble with the timeline not snapping video clips, and playing them in a strange order. This was fixed by compiling from source. The resulting program was stable, and the kinks with the timeline were fixed. So if you’re having trouble with stability, or other issues with kdenlive, consider compiling from source as a way to improve things.


Features and Usage

layout/interface

kdenlive has an interface that will be very familiar to anyone whose used a video editor on windows or mac. Project assets and effects on the top left. Video preview of the timeline, clips and imported video on the top right. Finally, a multitrack timeline along the bottom. You can re-arrange the layout how you want it. The timeline can be zoomed in and out. Zoom out to see the whole project in the window without scrolling, or zoom right in to detailed placement/cutting of tracks etc.

Other features include:

  • Capture from any source, including DV, AVCHD and other pro level capture formats
  • Import and organise media files with folders
  • Drag and drop media to the time line
  • Clip preview and editing
  • 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 for different disc formats and websites
  • Heaps of effects, transitions and filters for both video and audio
  • Title creation tool
  • DVD creation wizard, including basic menu support

raw material

kdenlive will allow you to import material from your dv camera, as long as you’ve got dvgrab installed, as well as the relevant firewire libs. It will also import, and allow you to use any video files that ffmpeg can read including XDCAM-HD™ streams, IMX™ (D10) streams, DVCAM (D10) , DVCAM, DVCPRO™, DVCPRO50™ streams and DNxHD™ streams. So you can create a project that combines dv, AVCHD, flv, h264, xvid and mpeg1 video files.

slicing and dicing

One of the key requirements of a non-linear video editor is “editing” – adding video to the timeline, splitting, deleting, dragging to a new location. kdenlive allows you to do all of this. To add clips to the timeline, simply drag it from the “project tree” to the track you want to use on the timeline. Once on the timeline, you can drag the clip arount on a particular track, or move it to a new track. You can then change the cursor tool to split mode, and split a track where you want. The timeline has a feature that I’ve not seen before on other video editors. Once you’ve cut a clip on the timeline, you can still play with its length by hovering over the end of a clip and then dragging the end of the clip to stretch or shorten it.

kdenlive supports multiple tracks of audio and video, in fact, I understand that the number of tracks is unlimited. You can turn on and off the video and audio on a particular clip, and split the audio and video.


effects and transitions

kdenlive comes with a huge number of video and audio effects. The video staples such as sepia, greyscale, gamma, inverse colour and speed changes are there. There are also some great audio effects/filters, including reverb, equalisation, gain, and declipping. Adding effects is simply a matter of dragging the effect from the Effect List tab onto the video clip you want it applied to. Alternatively, you can right click on a clip and choose a filter or effect to add. You can then tweak the parameters of the effect in the Effect Stack tab. The effects are rendered on the fly, and does not impact the speed of playback in the timeline monitor.

Adding transitions is just as simple. Again there are a large number of transitions, including the standard dissolve, wipe, slide, and fade. To add a transition, you need to overlap clips on two adjacent tracks, then hover over the end bottom corner of the first clip, click on the green triangle that appears and an dissolve transition is added. To add a different type of transition, right click on the first clip and choose the transition to use. You’ll then need to stretch or shorten the transition to match the overlap between the two clips. Tweak the transition in the Effects Stack tab. Adding and audio fade in/out is really simple. Just click on the top corner of a clip, and move the resulting red triangle to the length of fade you desire. This the easiest way to add audio fades I’ve seen on any video editor.

Previously, one significant omission from the effects/transitions available was a tool for adding titles or text to the video. Now kdenlive has a titling tool so that you can create titles as a new media clip (under the Project Tree tab), and then drag the title to the time line. The titling tool supports different coloured backgrounds, transaparency and animations of the text. It is quite a powerful little tool.

export

Exporting your completed video to a file is very easy, and the range of options is mind-blowing. Because export uses the ffmpeg engine, you can export to any format supported by ffmpeg. The export tool has a wide range of pre-configured export formats, including size and quality settings. You can export to different preset templates, such as DVD, vimeo, or youtube. You can also choose the audio format to export to. No other video editor I’ve used has such a wide range of easily configurable formats to choose from. You can also export back to your dv camera using the firewire export of that’s how you want to do it.

If you’re looking to create a DVD, there is a wizard that’ll create a basic menu, including motion backgrounds, chapter settings, and other effects. There are no standard template layouts, so things are a bit DIY, but if you want to crank out a basic DVD, this tool does the job. For a more sophisticated DVD creation tool, check out 2manDVD

Documentation

Often open source projects fall down on their documents, or lack of documentation. However, kdenlive has some very good documentation here. But the best resource are the video tutorials that are here. Some really good material showing you how to really push kdenlive to its limits.

Conclusion

Having looked at a wide range of video editors, I’m really impressed with kdenlive. I think it’s now up to the commercial consumer level packages available on Windows and Mac. It has a nice intuitive interface, is stable and fast, incredibly versatile in terms of file formats, and has some great editing tools and effects. Finally, video editing has come to Linux in a big way.

11 Comments
  1. The articles on this site lack a date. Not much use if you don’t know if they are from 1999 or now…

  2. I concur with BAReFOOt. I was tempted not to read this article for lack of a date.

    Good article though! Very informative.

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Site last updated October 20, 2012 @ 12:53 pm; This content last updated September 13, 2012 @ 2:21 am