Editing videos with OpenShot

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©Coralsea, sxc

©Coralsea, sxc

Stringing Pearls

Bring your videos into the limelight and turn your recordings into minor works of art with the OpenShot editing tool.

What do you do with short video clips that you've collected over the years on your smartphone, mobile phone, or digital camera? Some are minutes and even just seconds long. No problem. Like other programs for editing videos for semiprofessionals, OpenShot [1] allows you to put videos together from clips, photos, and audio files.

If you want to release an OpenShot edited video on YouTube right away, the tool provides a special feature for selecting the ideal properties for high-quality output. OpenShot even warns you about missing codecs so that you'll know exactly how to install the missing components. (Also see the "Installation" box.)

OpenShot also has a lot to offer in terms of effects. It provides many fancy effects for the transition between clips, and you can use functions to intersperse three-dimensional animated text into the video. For variety's sake, you can, for example, convert a video into a living charcoal drawing.

A Choice of Profiles

You start a new OpenShot project with File | New Project . Use the ensuing Create a Project dialog to enter the project's name and folder location. Particularly interesting is the added choice of a Project Profile .

A "profile" is OpenShot's idea of setting the defaults for playback and export characteristics. Don't set the bar too high here, however. The general rule is the higher the quality, the greater the chance of a jerky output in the preview pane. The profile setting, however, has no bearing on subsequently exporting the video – you can specify these settings later on.

Project profile settings include the frame rate and the width and height of the video. The online help recommends selecting a profile from the outset to match the output size and desired quality of the product. To get the best quality, a more powerful computer works best.

To set the properties of a profile in the profile manager, you can use the Profile tab of the OpenShot preferences. Here you can apply standard or existing profiles or create new ones. Unfortunately, the standard profiles provided by OpenShot cannot be altered.

Drag and Drop

Next, you need to add files for your project. Apart from videos, these can be photos and audio files. OpenShot supports all common formats. Once you use File | Import Files to import a few clips or tracks, you'll see them in the upper left under the Project Files tab.

For better project oversight, you are advised to store these files in folders early on. Use the right-click menu in Project Files to create these folders, then right-click on Move File(s) into Folder to move a selected file into one of them. You can then open and shut the folders to get a better organizational grasp of the project.

The bottom half of the OpenShot window is where the actual work on the project shows up (Figure 1). The timeline initially includes two tracks on which you can organize your files. If you want more tracks, click the plus sign above the timeline to add each one to the top of the stack. To place a file on a track, simply drag and drop it there. You can mix different data types on a single track.

Figure 1: OpenShot includes all the functions a semiprofessional would need.

For a first impression of the project, use the built-in video player. This way you can use icon buttons to hide or mute tracks or their contents. To edit a clip that's already on the track, use the right-click context menu when you select the clip. For example, you can rotate, duplicate, or animate a clip for a zoom effect. You can customize the content of any track further by selecting Properties from the right-click context menu. The Clip Properties dialog that opens has all the functions you need, for example, to shorten the length of the video or its playback speed, or change its size or audio volume (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Clip Properties provides some fundamental editing opportunities.

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