Comparing seven current video editing programs

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Jonathan Thomas wasn't happy with existing video editing programs, so he created his own. The resulting OpenShot [8] quickly blossomed into a popular tool among Linux users. A detailed article about this tool can be found in this issue [9].

OpenShot's user interface proves to be simple and clear. As with other programs, the media management is at the top left, with the preview pane to the right, and a timeline at the bottom (Figure 7). You can expand the two default tracks to as many as you need.

Figure 7: OpenShot has gained popularity especially among newcomers.

In the timeline, the clips are "magnetically" assembled edge to edge. This feature applies to a single track only. If you want to intersperse a clip on a second track, all you can do is manually move it to the first track. This can be annoying in that the timeline scale can only be increased to a maximum one second.

To make an accurate cut, you must carefully pull the timeline bar to the proper location and press the cut button. You can always add markers to the timeline so that you move quickly to them. Trimming a clip works only on the timeline. To do this, switch to the cutting tool and pull the handle ends. Alternatively, you can open the clip properties with the right-click context menu and enter the runtime in seconds. An accurate frame cut may not always work.

For effects and transitions, you can drag-and-drop on or between clips in the timeline. Right-click a clip to choose still further effects, such as rotating the clip 90 degrees. Fine-tuning effects only works if you right-click the effect or clip and then open the Settings context menu. There, you'll typically find a few controls but no preview. Thus, you might have to open the settings several times to get the effect to match your expectations.

OpenShot provides a simple title generator. You can type the text, move it to the correct place, and then set the formatting using a layout template. If suitable, you can export the title to Inkscape first. If you have the Blender 3-D program installed, it's possible to create animated 3D lettering; however, OpenShot presents some limits on how far the animation can go.

When exporting, you simply set a profile, such as DVD or Web , and make three settings. Advanced users can make more adjustments, if not to all aspects of the code. On demand, the software loads the completed video to YouTube.


For a while, Ubuntu provided the PiTiVi [10] program by default, but now it's available, as in all other distributions, from the package manager. The user interface is extremely tidy and strikingly along the lines of OpenShot. Media management is on the left, the effects are in the middle pane, the previews are on the right, and the timeline is at the bottom (Figure 8).

Figure 8: PiTiVi resembles OpenShot in concept and functionality.

During testing, PiTiVi read AVCHD videos without protest but then didn't play them in the preview. You can drag-and-drop videos easily to the timeline. A practical feature is that, if you move a clip under an existing track, it automatically creates a new track for it. PiTiVi also provides "ripple editing," whereby trimming a clip moves the subsequent clip right up against it, leaving no gaps.

A single-frame preview unfortunately is not provided; however, if you zoom in on the timeline to its maximum, you can easily move the timeline vertical bar to the exact place. PiTiVi synchronizes the clips to their audio material. This feature saves time, especially if you have captured a concert with multiple cameras. Trimming a clip works only in the timeline. You simply move to the end of the clip and compact it; however, no preview is provided, so you may be flying blind at first. You do at least get thumbnails on the timeline for orientation.

You can adjust the brightness and audio volume through rubber band controls. Double-clicking a line creates a control point that you can move independently. In this way you can, for example, fade a clip slowly in and out. Because lines don't have soft curves, you might have to use multiple control points to get a smooth fade. PiTiVi calls these points "keyframes." Unlike keyframes from other editing programs, they affect only brightness and volume, and effects are not part of them.

Effects apply to single clips only. For transitions, you need to assemble effects via the rubber band controls first; however, you can create a "crossfade" transition by simply overlapping two clips on a track. Independent of the effects, the software lets you modify and adapt the clip sizes, scaling and positioning in the completed video, either directly in the preview pane with mouse movements or through corresponding numerical values. You can also assemble clips into groups and move or apply effects to them as a group.

When rendering, the editing program relies on Ffmpeg, thereby creating a format of your choice; however, by default, only three of the formats are suitable for the web. If you want to create videos for other occasions, you have to set the frame rate, resolution, an so on yourself.

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