Comparing seven current video editing programs

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Like Auteur, Kino's development has been on ice for some time [5]. The last version is from 2009, but it is still found in a lot of distributions. Kino differentiates itself from its competitors in several ways. For example, it focuses on editing DV material, while not being able to do much with high-resolution HD videos from current camera models. It also provides a rather unusual user interface, which is aimed primarily at beginners (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Kino provides the essentials for getting started in video editing, but is limited to DV material.

Imported videos are collected in a vertical list on the left-hand side of the window. Kino automatically detects scene transitions and creates separate clips for each scene, which works amazingly well with vacation videos with calmer shots. The completed video consists of all the clips in the list, in the order from top to bottom.

You can change the order using drag-and-drop. Although the preview in the middle pane shows only the entire video, the viewing possibilities lack nothing. Using the appropriate buttons, you can jump from clip to clip, and the single-frame preview provides precise positioning. You can even get a "shuttle" slider to set the output rate. Once you get used to it, this function helps you find the appropriate point in the video.

Kino distributes further editing functions across multiple panes. For example, a number of tools can be found on the Trim pane, and effects and transitions are available on the FX pane. The tools may not be self-explanatory initially but can be learned rather quickly.

To shorten a clip's beginning or end, you just click it in the list and move the two triangles into position, and that's it. The few provided effects are standard, such as reverse playback or a simple wipe. Many effects cannot be fine-adjusted, but at least the preview is real-time.

Kino exports the completed video preferably in DV format or as a sequence of frames. You'll need external programs for other formats. For example, the Mjpegtool creates Mpeg2enc files from the upcoming MPEG2. Alternatively, the editing program can push the results back to the camera over a Firewire connection.


At first glance LiVES [6] doesn't distinguish itself much from its competitors. Apart from the usual editing functions, LiVES also provides a timeline. Additionally, it provides some special functions for VJs and video artists who want to show videos with real-time effects at events, mix them, and present them on a projection screen. Thus, you can assign keyboard shortcuts to certain effects to be used in performances, or you can use joysticks or MIDI controllers. LiVES is capable of streaming videos over the network to other LiVES installations. On demand, you can also have the application capture the resulting artwork made during the event for subsequent editing on the timeline.

The number of functions does add complexity, however. Additionally, its developers have given little attention to user-friendliness. The program has two modes: In Clip mode, you can shorten the videos and apply effects (Figure 5). In Multitrack mode, you can subsequently arrange them on the timeline (Figure 6).

Figure 5: Clip mode lets you edit and apply effects in LiVES.
Figure 6: To arrange multiple videos in LiVES, switch to Multitrack mode.

The software converts each imported video into a sequence of PNG images, which speeds up applying effects, but the resulting video eats up plenty of space. For example, a one-minute video can swell from 240MB to 1.6GB.

LiVES not only imports videos from the hard disk, via Firewire or an analog TV card, but it can also read DVDs or tap into YouTube. Unfortunately, the program doesn't provide media management; it simply collects all the clips in the Clips menu.

The playback controls are hidden in the upper right corner of the menu bar. There are no single-frame previews. To select only part of a clip, use the text entry fields for the appropriate values or use the white bars to move them together. Alternatively, you can open a preview window. You can set the beginning and ending frames with the controllers, but some trial and error is involved in getting it right. Unlike the other programs, trimming the beginning of a clip involves marking the section and using the corresponding function to remove it.

The user interface changes completely in Multitrack mode. At the upper left is the preview, and to the right is a kind of overview of the loaded videos that show the effects next to the clips. At the bottom is the timeline onto which you drag-and-drop the clips.

If you inadvertently double-click a clip, LiVES switches to Clip mode without warning, and all the changes made in Multitrack mode are lost. To move a clip on the timeline, grab and hold it with a left-click. The pointer switches to a movie icon, and you can then drop the clip where you want it.

Applying transitions is equally nonintuitive. On the timeline, you first activate the tracks you want to include in the transition. You then define the range in which you want the effect applied by moving a small gray slider at the top of the timeline.

Finally, you can drag the transition to the timeline, upon which a window opens for making the appropriate settings. As in other programs, removing a clip closes the gap between the remaining clips. The audio track (there's only one) is synchronized with the video track.

The program provides numerous effects, thanks to the Frei0r collection. Among them are funky examples for video artists, such as the "strudel" effect. You also can expand the effects through plugins, for which the developers provided the so-called RFX interface. The built-in title generator doesn't really deserve the name. You can only enter text, give it RGB color values, apply a font, and set the position in pixels.

You can convert the video on the timeline into a single clip and export it to a file. LiVES transmits the export to an external tool so that you can apply all the popular video formats. The LiVES manual is comprehensive but outdated in many ways [7].

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