Vinod Kurup

Hospitalist/programmer in search of the meaning of life

Aug 10, 2011 - 3 minute read - Comments - linux video mac

Openshot Video Editor

Ever since my Dad brought home an Apple IIe back in 1980, I’ve been a huge Apple fan. The design of my website back in the mid 90’s was a ripoff of the Mac OS 9 System menu. (I found a later version on the Wayback Machine. I had swapped out the Apple icon for the icon of the startup I was working with at the time.) I loved OS X for a while, especially on my 12" Aluminum powerbook. But over time, I got more and more frustrated by it. I wanted to be able to configure more. When the hard drive on that Powerbook died, I decided to move to all linux.

I am happy and productive, but I am occasionally jealous of Mac OS X. I set up a Mac Airbook for my mother-in-law a few months ago and … can I just drool for a minute about that computer? But, I was able to set it up, wipe up my drool, and then return to my Ubuntu machines without too many pangs of jealousy. For the stuff that I do, Linux works perfectly.

The one pain point that I’ve been having over the past few years is video editing. I take a lot of movies of the kids and I like to do some very simple editing of them before uploading them to youtube. This was super easy in iMovie back in 2007. I haven’t found a similar experience on Linux. It’s reassured me a little to hear that iMovie has gotten weaker and weaker over the years, so I didn’t feel any need to go back to Mac for this one function.

I had been using Kino, but the developer stopped working on it and it had some minor bugs. It doesn’t play well with PulseAudio, the overarching audio system in linux. So I had to start it with the command padsp kino which allows kino to bypass PulseAudio. That then makes all other sound on the computer stop until I quit Kino. And with every OS update, there would be minor changes that would require me to fiddle with the audio settings again. Finally, I didn’t really understand the Export settings, so my videos were never as optimized as they could be. There were tabs for DVD and MPEG output, but there was also one for Other and there were MPEG options in there too. I was thoroughly confused and was hoping for something to come along that would be better. Mark Pilgrim mentioned OpenShot once and I looked at it back then, but I couldn’t figure it out. I tried valiantly for a day and then returned to hacking on Kino.

Fast forward about a year and after a little more frustration with how my videos looked on youtube, I gave OpenShot another try. Version 1.2 is packaged in Ubuntu 10.10, but 1.3 offered some other nice features, like exporting directly to Youtube, so I downloaded the PPA and installed 1.3.

Openshot Main Window Openshot Main Window

What a breath of fresh air! It was so easy to import clips. It was so easy to place clips on the timeline. It was easy to splice and add transitions. It was easy to add titles. Most importantly it was easy to export to HD video format so now the videos look better on Youtube.

I don’t use Linux for its video editing capabilities. I use it because I believe in the idea of free software and because for my purposes, emacs and a web browser are all that I really need. But I am pleasantly surprised when I see something like OpenShot evolve and improve to the point that it solves my problem exactly. I will be donating some dollars over there.