Video Editing in Linux: Kino v Open Movie v KdenLive

August 10, 2008

I have yet to see a decent article on using video with Linux, so I thought I would write one. I’ve been working with video and posting my clips on YouTube using Windows Movie Maker 2. It is an adequate program, but I’d like to find something that could be as good or better in Linux. Could I pull it off? Follow along and see…

I used a Canon Powershot A630 and captured the video on an SD card. The video was only about a minute long, just to keep it as simple as possible.

Would PCLinuxOS be able to read the output? Would I be able to edit it with a title and maybe add some music? Would I be able to post my video on YouTube? Let’s see.

I was looking for some likely video editors and these were on my list:



Open Movie


I’ve been using Movie Maker for all of my videos thus far, so anything I used in Linux would at least have to measure up to that. I had not used any of these but did some research on each of these and downloaded everything except Cinalerra. I’m not opposed to Cinalerra but didn’t want to spend scads of time learning features I would never use. I wouldn’t mind trying it eventually, but this is a basic project. Capture, edit, render and post. Once a body does that, we can experiment and tweak.

PCLOS was able to read my SD card, no problems. That’s more than I can say for my niece’s laptop which is running Vista. Oh well.

Meanwhile, I’m also playing with Ksnapshot for screen capturing. I’m definitely expanding my skill level with this exercise!


Kino looked pretty simple until I tried to import my .avi file. Then it acted confused as it wasn’t a DV file. I said import anyway, and away it went. It said it might take awhile. Okay. So I waited for a couple of minutes. And then some more. This movie was about 90 seconds long, so I was not going to wait forever. I purposefully made the clip short in order to limit processing and rendering issues.

Finally, it imported, taking a full 3 minutes. Next, I went to the timeline.

The Kino Timeline

The Kino Timeline

This did not look like a timeline view to me. I had a series of clips, each about 6 seconds long. I clicked the Trim button and saw that I could do a little basic editing, but it was not a timeline format I was familiar with using other editors I had fiddle with. Even the editor that comes with Nero seemed more full featured than this!

I looked at the export feature just to see what it looked like and it appeared to support several formats including some DVD options. But I decided to look else where to do this project. I didn’t see anywhere to put titles especially in light of not having a proper time line. Perhaps I missed something? I may need to do more research in order to warm up to Kino. NEXT!

Open Movie

For some reason, my package manager did not install Open Movie in the menu, so I ended up searching for it. Then I put an icon on the desktop.

Now here was an editor that I could understand a bit better. There was a more “normal” timeline with multiple tracks with the capacity to add even more audio and video tracks. But I ran into trouble when trying to add any effects other than a title. Plus, the program would simply disappear whenever I tried to preview my movie.

More research needed. I did look at the export options, and those options looked a bit complicated for someone used to using Movie Maker. Lots of promise here, but I need to be able to preview without the thing crashing.



I’m running out of options, here. Kdenlive came on to the scene relatively recently, and I was keen to give it a try. I had seen some YouTube videos made with this program, so I knew some people were using it. Could I use it?

The default video format stymied me for a bit. ATSC is something I hadn’t heard of before. Reading a bit, it sounded like a fancy name for mpeg-2. Okay, moving on…

Next I could decide how many audio and video tracks in my project. Movie Maker only allows one video and 2 audio so the flexibility to add more is nice. I decided to stay with the default of 2 and 2.

Next I was greeted by a screen that looked intuitive as it really seemed to fit with the KDE theme. Perhaps this would be the one.

So I went to Project>add clip and was able to browse for my movie clip. I was able to drag it to the timeline. So far so good! Next, clicked the “play” button in the preview window….

Not good. Not good at all.

So I tried it again, and the second time it worked. I have no idea what I did different if anything. So while I knew I might crash at any time, I also knew this program showed promise. So it was time to save before it crashed again.

Time to add a title, which looked like it needed to be a text clip. So I created and added it…or at least I think so.

It didn’t show up in my preview.

Okay, so far so good. Let’s render this thing out, shall we?

Under file, I tried “export timeline.” Good choice.

I had a lot of choices for high and medium quality. Medium is good enough for the moment so I picked mpeg 640×480 high. So far so good. Lots of audio choices, too. Now I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed as there really are a lot of choices here!

I finally clicked the export button and let fly. It said it should be finished in about 5 minutes and had a progress moniter to show me how things were going. This is the furthest I had gone with any of the programs and was looking good.

After rendering, the title still did not make an appearance. I went back and tried to fiddle some more but never was able to make the title appear in the preview window on top of the clip.

There were still choices available in Movie Maker that were lacking here, such as toggling between timeline and storyboard view and number of transiton and effects. But overall, this program is a pretty good fit. Or it would be without the niggling defect of not seeing the Title/text screen I created. I did not play with that many features as I wanted a quick and dirty demonstration just to see if using Linux with TouTube was even possible for a noob like me.

Out of the 3 programs previewed, I liked Kdenlive the best, but not having the Title show up was a real bummer. Kdenlive could eventually become my editor of choice by the time it gets to 1.0 status. The trick is going to be to keep the development moving and thus keep my interest alive. This type of progression is what has helped Linux reach critical mass as desktop choice. It is good enough now to hold the interest of the average user, even if it not totally perfect. Handling video tasks such as screencasting, editing for online viewing and working with webcams are going to be crucial in order to make this OS viable for the future. Video rendering remains one of the most intensive tasks most home computers do and it is becoming more and more necessary for business. The future of computing is in video, and Linux is woefully behind in that area. This is why Macs have seen such a rise in sales is because iLife makes video creation so easy and painless. Most prominent YouTubers are using Macs. It would be nice if Linux could at least make an appearance but right now Linux is in sad, sad shape in the area of allowing average users to generate content.

The finished product isn’t anything too special but here it is:

The good news is that I was able to completely capture and render the video and post to YouTube within Linux without having to go into Windows.  And really, that was the ultimate objective.  I’ll still use Windows for the majority of my video work, just because it is faster at the present time and plays nicely with my webcam on the laptop.

I’m also in search of screencorder software, similar to Camstudio.  Or it would be cool if Camstudio were ported to Linux. I feel this type of software is crucial to further development of Linux.  That is because no one is going to sit down with a book or manual to learn about Linux or software.  But they will watch a series of short, concise video tutorials on the subject.  I can learn more from 4 minutes of video than an hour of reading a technical manual.  I can’t do code, but I could make technical support videos for Linux if there existed the right tools.  The Xvidcapture that I found isn’t quite cutting it, even though it’s a good start.




  1. Nice review. Personally I like LiVES. PiTiVi is also a cool project. Give them a try and see if one of them fills your needs.

  2. We need a usable non-linear video editor, which DOES NOT exist for Linux as of this writing (not a Movie Maker alternative, but something like Premiere, Final Cut or Avid); I tried nearly all the available video editors around a year ago, even Cinelerra and they were cute, yet unusable (either unstable or just alpha/beta quality). I would be happy to see a more detailed review, including non freeware alternatives on Linux, assuming they do exist.

  3. I’m a KDEnlive user but recently started looking into Cinelerra, which I *heard* was incredibly complex but it really resembles and acts very much like KDEnlive (or vice versa perhaps).

    KDEnlive is in constant development and most repository packages are out of date, but getting a newer version requires building from source which is always changing its requirements and needed flags; currently the KDE3 version of KDEnlive has been retired and the KDE4 version is in development now; I believe it works about the same at this level but I’ve not looked into it yet.

    It could be a very long time before KDEnlive makes the 1.0 status — that number isn’t necessarily the mark of a completed or stable project; for example, K3B took about 12 years to get to 1.0 status, but it worked great before then. But KDEnlive isn’t ready for daily, fulltime use either IMHO, too many random crashes on my box. Still, I use it, and now Cinelerra also.

  4. Cinelerra requires you to get to know its foibles, quirks, and preferences. I’ve learned to always feed it video formatted in the .mov container using either mjpeg or mpeg4 compression, with audio in either mpeg4 (aac) or uncompressed pcm (wav) formats. I also run Cinelerra on Ubuntu 64 bit OS. It runs like a champ and is quite powerful and flexible. I do a lot of HD video and it’s no problem once you format your footage correctly, that’s the trick. I always export with .mov – mpeg4 video – uncompressed audio.

    Unfortunately this workflow is way too complicated for beginners. Kino is great if you have a real DV camcorder (not a point and shoot still camera like you are using.) Anything not in DV format will have to be converted to DV format which is time consuming as you found out.

    Kdenlive is very impressive and less demanding than Cinelerra, but still buggy and under development. Version 0.6 is due out any time now, it promises to be extremely capable and polished and may actually be the mid-level NLE we in the long-suffering Linux camp have been waiting for. Fingers crossed.

    For a super heavy duty NLE, the Cinelerra devs are working on a total rewrite of Cinelerra called Lumiera. These guys know what they’re doing but it will be a year before they have a beta to test. If we can just hold out long enough for either of these two projects to come to fruition . . .

  5. Video editing in Linux still has a few sharp edges, but it’s usable enough. I think you need try those programs a little more.
    I’ve used Kino several times and works great, by far the most stable. And it does have the option to add titles. I recently added moving titles with fadeins and fadeouts. However, Kino is different from your regular video editor. It began just as a program to export video from DV cameras, so its interface is unusual.
    I’ve also used Kdenlive successfully with titles and other effects, although it does crash once and awhile.
    I’m glad you finnished your project 🙂

  6. Kdenlive is good. I’ve never had any trouble with titles; your problem is unusual. However, it does crash way too often in the 0.5 release. Let’s hope 0.6 comes along soon enough (it’s still being developed) and fixes the stability problem.

    Remember, it was only two years ago that video transcoding always desynced video and audio on Linux – so we’ve come a long way.

  7. Thanks for the tip, Mitch. I’ll give those a try for my next review!

    I agree, deadcabbit, that we’d be better served by aiming higher than movie maker. Linux, itself, needs to gun for something closer to a Mac experience, specifically iMovie for movie editing. I too would like to see more detailed reviews!

    KDEnLive seems to have won me over among the reviewed contenders, Lefty, even though it is the least mature of the bunch. This speaks well of this project if it continues.

    Thanks for the info, update, Artinvent. One reason why I didn’t mess with the capture process is because I know different programs can be fussy about format issues let alone hardware issues with cameras. I was mainly looking at what was a quick and easy editor and this was a relatively quick review.

    You’re right, Carlos, in that I need to spend more time with these programs to better understand them. But you’ll understand that my focus is more on generating actual content instead of the process of creating it. The above review was a purely creative/experimental endeavor in order to determine which of these I’ll be spending/wasting time with!

    I agree that there has been good progress with video NLE, Chris, but Linux lags way, way behind Mac and drags behind Windows. Yes, it’s free but it still should be able to compare to something as sloppy as Windows Movie Maker!

    Thanks all for stopping by and commenting!


  8. I’ve gotten so frustrated with the current state of editing on Linux, I’ve decided I’m going to attempt writing my own NLE. I couldn’t do much worse; the ones they’ve written so far are pathetic, especially when you consider how much interest there is in this and how much A/V support Linux provides in terms of libraries.

  9. Why not avidemux??

  10. well, i use kdnlive and i cant figure out how to put music on to my videos any ideas?

  11. I think that you probably just put the title under the video in the timeline, that would explain the disappearance.

    Kdenlive is the only one I find usable.

  12. Before Kino hit 1.0 or thereabout it wasn’t really full-featured-and was a bit frustrating given the lack of features. With new versions and the plug-ins you can compare it to Apple and MS’s stuff. In my opinion Kino is allot better than either of those two-in terms of features and ease of use. I still haven’t figured out how to get either Windows Movie Maker or iMovie to actually create a video for me. I think the real problem is that the majority of people learned it one way and now expect everything else to work that way. I’m in the minority in having learned Kino before trying Windows Movie Maker or iMovie (actually I tried MS Windows Movie Maker first I think years ago-failed though). I’m betting the reason you have had a hard time with Kino is it is different than what you were expecting. The other video editing applications are a bit different. The other thing to think about is the distributions may not have it quite right. I notice that often times things aren’t the way they are suppose to be- or are missing features in the distributions versions of an application.

  13. Spent hours trying to get clean video and synched audio from a FLIP into KINO. Had to do all sorts of crap, converting to mpg then importing to dv etc etc. Then read where the lead dev on kino said he was abandoning it himself for kdenlive. Loaded up kdenlive on my ubuntu 8.04 and voila, clips came in (fast!) directly from the FLIP and had sound and everything. I’m crying in my beer for all the time wasted prior to kdenlive.

  14. Nice post. One thing, i’m running Win 7 with the Firefox 4 Beta browser and your columns are overlapping a little. Though you may want to fix it 🙂

  15. Just now I ran across the web for exactly this kind of info. Thank to your article that search has got to ending right now. You had written the post in a very comprehensible way. With this, I included your web sites among my personal favorites! Cheers!

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