back to article Penguin in the picture: top video editors for Linux fans

When it comes to video editing platforms, Windows and Mac own the field. They run the software from Adobe, Apple, and Avid that's preferred by professionals, and most –including all Windows machines – come with free, basic editing software for everybody else. In my third piece on how media and storage applications for Linux – …


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  1. Ed Vim

    Video manipulation in Linux

    >> They run the software from Adobe, Apple, and Avid that's preferred by professionals

    I'm going to dispute the lead-in sentences.-- I don't think Linux is in any way a back seat driver when it comes to professional usage of Linux in the professional video world. Take Pixar. Their production boxes run Linux, not OS X (Jobs founded Pixar). Any number of Hollywood movies, big and small were cooked up on Linux systems. Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Shrek, The Matrix, Titanic, and plenty more all used a significant amount of Linux horsepower in their creation. As for consumer use, most people use whatever was bundled with their computers or pay for the big proprietary programs that are backed by extensive marketing and promotion.

    My needs are much more modest but I've used Avidemux for years now and it's taken care of just about all my video editing/converting/tweaking needs.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Jobs Halo

      Erm, no

      You can dispute it all you want as a linux fantasist, but it's reality in pro video. In 10 years of working in the environment I've hardly seen any editing, mograph or post pros using linux systems. Sure, linux render farms get a look in for specialist 3d rendering and production pipeline and in IFFFS compositing, but it's a miniscule percentage compared with the amount of desktops using adobe,apple and avid. I'd quite happily use a linux solution for day to day editing and compositing if it had the necessary interoperability, reliability, quality of results and usability, but like most linux creative software it doesn't score well in any criteria (much like gimp v photoshop, audacity v protools) (yes I've tried cinelerra etc)

      1. Anonymous Coward


        I can't believe people are down voting the poster above. I run a video production company and Linux for video editing is unheard of professionally. Every week I receive at least 2 CV's on my desk from editors looking for work, and in over 5 years of being in business I've never once come across someone who edits on Linux.

        Clearly people are confusing FX and 3D render farms with the actual editing of video. But hey, what do I know, I only earn my living in this field.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think you're conflating digital FX rendering and editing there

      and nobody, but nobody is editing movies on Linux. Linux-based renderfarms, yes, but those will be headless boxes whose performance is purely dictated by how fast the silicon can trace rays and nothing to do with "Linux horsepower": by and large they'll be using some flavour of platform-agnostic RenderMan-compliant renderer.

      And Jobs didn't found Pixar: it was part of ILM until Lucas needed some pin-money for cheeseburgers once his toyshop stopped printing dollar bills.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "nobody, but nobody is editing movies on Linux"

        I am !

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I was under the impression that Linux was used for the projects you cite as compute nodes for rendering, rather than for the actual video editing.

      I'm happy to be corrected though.

  2. vidrazor
    Thumb Down

    Why Ubuntu?

    Why on earth are you plugging Ubuntu? That has to be the worst distro anyone could ever venture to explore Linux with. Can you crippleware? Please!

    1. breakfast
      Thumb Up

      Worst. Distro. Ever

      Whenever I read a post like this, I can only hear it in the voice of the Comic Bookstore Guy.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


      Care to expand on this? I admit that Ubuntu is not perfect, and in some respects going the wrong way at the moment IMHO, but it is a much more end-user targeted distribution that Fedora, where you have to run to keep up, or OpenSuSE where it sometime seems that the opposite is true, or the niche hobbyist distros (and I include Debian here, even though it is the basis for Ubuntu).

      The fact that Ubuntu has a large repository that is kept up to date, has a documented lifetime for each of the releases (I tend to keep to LTS releases because my computers are tools, and spending time maintaining the OS is not high on my list of things-I-have-to-do), has a easy to understand patching strategy, and is actually targeted at ordinary users rather than hobbyists, are serious plus points for someone exploring Linux. Not everybody likes to wear hair shirts.

      The other thing that Ubuntu is doing is reaching towards the critical mass where it is taken seriously by computer and software suppliers for mass consumption devices. RedHat or SuSE Enterprise releases will never appear in this segment of the market, merely because of model being followed.

      It is quite true that if you are building a business model around Linux, that you may choose a more business oriented distribution, but Canonical are looking in that direction as well.

      There can never be a one-size-fits-all distro, but what we are looking at here is what is prevalent. You don't have to like it, but if you make statements like you have, I feel that you have to justify them.

      1. John Sanders

        Ubuntu is not the worst distro ever

        But on the other side it is like playing lottery... now it works now it doesn't. Take the intel graphics fiasco (ARE YOU LISTENING KEITH PACKARD WHAT DID YOU DO TO THE INTEL VIDEO DRIVER!!!) is fcuk up beyond repair right now on intel hardware (majority of business laptops)

        9.04 was the last truly stable release of Ubuntu in terms of for intel hardware.

        Ubuntu instead of sticking to a version of the that work, choose to ship broken intel video drivers in the hope that will get their act together in time for the next release... which was two releases ago, as 9.10 and 10.04 are unusable on intel video, and so is 10.10 currently.

        Oh gosh... those pesky Linux distros...

    3. Cameron Colley

      What else would you suggest?

      While Ubuntu may not be the best distro for everything, it is a widely-known and easy to install and use distro with plenty of questions answered by a quick Google. In other words -- it's a good all-round distro for people new to Linux.

      Contrast that with Debian (my chosen distro) on which it is based -- with Debian things like proprietary drivers and codecs being a little harder to install. Or contrast it with the likes of Linux Mint, which looks to me to be an easier to use distro than Ubuntu, but lacks the user base so finding answers is harder.

      I haven't used Fedora, Suse, Mandriva or anything else recently to comment on their usability -- but you can bet their install base on home PCs is smaller than Debian based distros so, once again, you fall into the less-googleable trap -- I've also found that .deb files seem more commonly offered than RPMs, but that could just be my bias.

      So, yes, in a lot of ways Ubuntu isn't the best example of Linux -- but it's a damn good "my first Linux" to start on.

    4. The BigYin


      If by "worst" you mean "works pretty much OOTB and does not require much CLI, although the user is somewhat abstracted from the guts and there are a few proprietary bits" then you are 100% correct. Or perhaps you expect everyone to use custom Arch builds?

      You may not like Ubuntu (and there are things that annoy me about it too) but, for now, it's my penguin of choice and it still (IMnsHO) years ahead of Win7. And at least you are free to choose any distro you choose and they will quite happily play together to a very large degree (unlike certain other OSs I can think of, that refuse to play ball with anyone and can only deal with two file-systems).

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge


    For a simple editor, ideal for cut'n'pasting short clips together, consider Avidemux. It's a Gnome app so it fits well into the Ubuntu desktop.

    What it can't do is cope with sticking together video with different dimensions, but it's probably ideal for youtube; it has the advantage that it can output without recoding. It also doesn't throw up if you feed it a couple of hours of video...

    I haven't used Cinelerra for a year or more but I agree with your comment about it crashing; I also found recoding had issues with different audio timings between preview and save modes. Perhaps they've improved that...

  4. Tom 7 Silver badge

    "doesn't seem interested in holding your hand "

    Good - one thing MS software has taught me is that once software starts holding your hand it never lets go, or you can never walk without it let alone run.

  5. Greg J Preece


    Been needing to edit some videos for upload. The basic editors were too basic, Cinelerra was too monstrous for a beginner, but I didn't know about Kdenlive. And, conveniently, I'm a KDE user. I'll give it a shot. Thanks!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No love...

    for Openshot, then?

  7. Robert Forsyth

    KDE and Gnome and ...

    You can install several window managers on the same machine, and choose which one you use at login time.

    I would recommend the two big ones (KDE and Gnome) and a lightweight one ( Xfce ).

    1. copsewood

      @Robert Forsyth

      "You can install several window managers on the same machine, and choose which one you use at login time."

      This is true, and I've used all of Xfce, KDE and Gnome like this. But it isn't needed just to use a KDE app on Gnome or a Gnome app on KDE, all of which just seem to intall and work with little noticeable difference other than minor cosmetics. There is slight overhead installing an app on an alien desktop using .deb archives which will result in automatically pulling in the base libraries needed, without the entire desktop option.

      1. Robert Forsyth

        I agree

        and I said as much six months ago or so.

        I was trying to point out to our Windows and Mac OS using cousins that what with Linux you get a range of choices from fast-simple to rich-slow(er). The fact the window decoration doesn't match, doesn't stop you logging in with the matching desktop - all your files are still there, not like dual boot extra hoop to jump through situation.

        I run KDE 4.5 on a netbook and it is only about 20 seconds slower to login than a lighter desktop - I like the potential of the Plasma widget 'app store' , although I'm only running a weather and a calendar widget in addition to the standard ones.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...and only for Linux fans

    The title really sums it up - this is software for people who are Linux fans, not people who primarily want to edit video. Where is the discussion about workflow, comparing the pros and cons of open source vs commercial solutions? Why should we now believe that, "when it comes to video Linux really does hold its own"?

    PiTiVi shouldn't have appeared at all - it does far less than the free editors bundled with Windows or OS X. The remainder look cluttered, half-baked, and amateurish. I downloaded the manual for Cinelerra and read enough to know that it shouldn't be mentioned in the same article as Final Cut Studio.

    The article typifies a fundamental flaw in the whole Linux ethos - "it has feature x/y/z so it's at least as good as anything else out there". People don't want computers because they like (or want to know anything about) computers or their technicalities - it's because they have a job to do and the computer might be a means to that end. Ideally, a computer should facilitate their workflow with a minimum of additional technical know-how. And they will pay good money for dedicated specialists to devote their professional career to delivering that kind of solution.

    If you can, lay aside all your technical know-how and read the installation guide for Cinelerra through the eyes of the average person - and maybe then you will understand why Linux isn't gaining any ground.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Who has been downvoting?

      I just wonder who has been downvoting all the comments above. This topic was about Linux video editors.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Typical Apple Fanboi garbage.

      Please remember not to spit in the plate you eat from.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fanboi

        Sounds more like the words of somebody who, you know, actually edits video professionally and uses their hardware/software package as a tool to access their creativity and knows whereof they speak, someone for whom the difference between tools that are both reliable and fit for purpose, and those which are neither of those but are compatible with a particular paradigm can be measured in cold, hard cash.

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      You've found the Linux equivalent of Catch 22!

      If an OS has no suitable apps, people will not consider it.

      If nobody uses the OS, applications will not be written.

      Having any apps available to do video manipulation is a step in the right direction, especially in the home market. I've used Avidemux for the last few years to trim and combine video files. It Works For Me.

    4. Mark Greenwood

      Got to agree there

      I'm a "linux fan" and I have to agree with that. Some years ago I managed to make Adobe Premiere (on Windows) do everything I needed without recourse to the manual or online training. I still haven't managed to even get Cinelerra to open my source material. The UI doesn't just *look* horrible, it also doesn't work in any kind of intuitive manner. "Lots of features" does not equate to "Powerful" if the average guy can't figure out how any of it works.

    5. TheFifth


      I have to agree that in their current state these can be nothing more than consumer editors and can't operate in a professional environment. Having been a TV editor for more than 12 years I can say that none of these can hold a candle to Avid (or Final Cut, but my preference is Avid).

      Until they support device control of professional decks, batch digitising, auto conforming, EDL exports, AAF, multiple resolutions on one timeline, etc. they are of no use to me or in most professional environments. I could go on listing the kind of functions that are vital and used everyday in a pro suite that are not even on the roadmaps for these apps.

      Great for home, student and YouTube movies, but in a professional environment, not yet. And yes, I am a Linux user, just not in the edit suite.

    6. copsewood

      @Ralph 5

      While it is true that computers are there to get a job done, if your computer software minimises what you learn in the process because it does this "with a minimum of additional technical know-how" then it will help you put your career into one involving less knowledge than you would have acquired otherwise.

      I'm not just interested in using computers to get a job done. For me knowledge is the business I develop and sell.


      Fixating on the wrong technical details again.

      > The title really sums it up - this is software for people who are Linux fans,

      > not people who primarily want to edit video. Where is the discussion about

      > workflow, comparing the pros and cons of open source vs commercial

      ...because most people simply don't care. This includes even people that use Macs.

      With the exception of a few oddball apps like iMovie or Blender, the "workflow" is pretty much the same across the board.

      Can you pick it up and start being useful with it? Will the tool get in your way? Is it incomplete, buggy or just plain unwilling to meet you half way (like iMovie).

      What "ethos" do you think is better exactly? The "you will service us" approach?

    8. John Sanders


      Pitivi is a shameless application right now, it doesn't even do basic stuff properly it is true that Cinelerra crashes from time to time, but compared to pitivi at least it runs for five minutes.

      Also I want to ask you anyone think pitivi is intuitive at all.

      Video editing on Linux is crap, the only decent tool for a quick edit is Avidemux, and it crashes like mad when cutting sequences, and have a tendency to desync audio.

      Editing video on Linux is perhaps the latest bastion of desktop usability remaining, as any other activity can be done in Linux with reasonable results.

    9. Homard

      Have to take issue here ralphy girl

      I love Linux, and the rich environment it gives.

      I don't give a shit that m$ and propriety lock-in vendors have invented the latest whiz-bang useless toy. I want something that does what **I** want. I have to get work done too, and in my job Open Source tools make my job possible. Take those tools away and I can't do my job.

      OK sometimes I have to develop tools to achieve what I need. But I am free to offer these to others under GPL. They can make my stuff better by contributing/commenting. How is this bad ?

      Maybe Linux video editors don't meet your m$-centric requirements, but they are evolving, and meet many peoples needs. As it's on Linux, or cross-platform everyone benefits.

      Beat that ! I'll drink a couple of large barrels while I wait for a sensible reply :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: issues with ralphy girl

        @Homard: "I don't give a shit... Beat that ! I'll drink a couple of large barrels while I wait for a sensible reply"

        I think some of these replies also illustrate why Linux is having a hard time reaching the marketplace - its supporters seem to have almost no ability to listen. The slightest criticism seems to spark off a torrent of vitriol and abuse. For my comment, "ralphy girl" is a "Typical Apple Fanboi" for whom Linux video editors doesn't "meet your m$-centric requirements".

        Please - calm down and wipe the froth off your chin. Many people just want to excel at their chosen field. Anything that robs them of their time and creative energy - software in particular - can be a double-edged sword. Frankly, I don't care if the best software is available on "Barbie's First Computer". If it enables me to devote more of my creative effort to my chosen field, it's a winner. Let others be the best at what they do, and they will pay good money for you to be the best developer you can be. Don't try to make everyone a programmer.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Problems with KDEnlive

    I love the interface on KDEnlive, but is still a bit buggy on 64 bit Gnome so I stick with Cinelerra and also sometimes use Cinecutie. I've had KDEnlive just die for small reasons and on a dual screen, the playback window doesn't follow the stream so it is difficult to find out where I need to edit ... I've got to restart X in single screen mode for the preview to work.

    Also, I've been suffering output problems with Cinelerra/Cinecutue. It seems that the only reliable output engines are OGG Vorbis and RAW DV. The Microsoft AVI format just comes out in green and I can't find a way around this.

    Still, Cinelerra is a great editor once a relatively small lerning curve is gone through and there's always ffmpeg once I've got the output.

    On Windows I went through who knows how many free video editors (some of which were bundled with the various video cameras i've bought over the years) and they would just bomb out. Not graceful at all.

    Can't beat Linux for free stuff that ... just ... works.

  10. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Another vote for avidemux

    I use it to snip commercials out of things I want to burn to DVD. It's simple, fast, doesn't recode, and didn't need 12GB of GNOME crap to install. It just gets the job done. If I wanted overcomplex crap that crashed a lot, I'd use Windows.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    On photography

    "Unlike on photography, when it comes to video Linux really does hold its own."

    Ah yes, the review which didn't mention Digikam but did spend a page talking about the timestamp-trashing, Mono-riding F-Spot.

  12. Pinkerton

    Cinelerra fanboi speaks!

    If you can get over the learning curve (it's worth trying) and are able cope with a user interface that can be as friendly as a cornered rat, Cinelerra is very powerful indeed. I managed to get some pretty decent results out of it and I'm just some bloke, not a god or video-editing guru. Just because it has lots of features that you don't understand how to use, don't dismiss it. That exposes more of your flaws than the product's.

    Hopefully the sequel to Cinelerra, known as Lumiera, addresses some of the UI and reliability issues without taking away any of its functionality and flexibility.

  13. Skymonrie


    Another vote here for asking, why'd you leave Openshot out?!

    It's pretty good today and has many great features on the cards. In my eyes, it has focused on doing the important things right.

    For fancy effects - Blender

    For incredible control over the audio - Ardour

    This combination of 3 tools can be considered a full suite and the great part many of these people nagging about here miss out. They are F R E E, if you really want something not included and consider yourself pro, send a feature request or better yet, help out yourself for the greater good of all users.

  14. Outcast


    I wish I could get MSP to work in WINE or be able to buy a native Linux version. It's what I "grew up with" and am comfortable using. Either that or Main Actor !!



      If you are really intent on using it then why not run it in Vmware or Virtualbox?

  15. vincent himpe

    the problem

    is the lack of hardware support... afaik none of those linux tools have deck control, control surface interfaces (like a shuttlepro or even more advanced tools) let alone interface with hardware accelerators such as Matrox RTx , Avid Mojo or any of the Canopus / grass Valley hardware.

    Other problems are codecs and the integration.

    If you install CS5 or Final Cut Pro it comes with all codecs out of the box. Codecs that are optimised to work with the software. Linux software tends to rely on codecs that are installed in a video server, writtne by whomever. The editing software interacts with that. The problem is that the codecs don't come from the same provider and are not optimized.

    I run CS5 on a 6 core combined with a Cuda based videocard. Adobe has spent a lot of time to optimize the code to run on multicore machines and uses the cuda programming environment to accelerate a lot of tasks. This to the point that anything i do happens realtime. There is no rendering involved.

    if all you do is make youtube movies sure the linux software is a good enough thing. if you are doing some more serious hobby work you are better off with Adobe elements or Final cut and if you are really serious you need to look in a different direction altogether.

  16. mikebartnz


    Jesus I wonder how Wetea studios ever survives listening to so much tripe here.

  17. serviceWithASmile
    Thumb Up


    for a well balanced and informative article.

    recently we've been looking for something to edit vids and also record screencasts natively on Ubuntu, now we have our app :)

    sudo apt-get install kdenlive


  18. dssf

    CBT (Computer-Based Training Videos)?

    I want to create CBTs with voice-overs, screen panes or separations of video and textual elements, video control panels/buttons.

    Is it possible to decompile/deconstruct existing CBTs to study them and rebuild? I don't want to merely clone the process of someone else, but use it as a guide so i can make my own workflow.

    Adobe Premiers & Elements might be on hand, but what Linux-native apps can i turn to? I want something that has a crisp, clean, organized interface that isn't using jumbo frames or that isn't resizable.


  19. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Video reviews

    First, nice review -- time for me to look at KDEnlive!

    @vidrazor, Ubuntu's not perfect, but it's popular, and I haven't found it to be too bad. I also run gentoo, but Ubuntu does make things easy. And if i want to dig into the guts, it's debian based, and I've never gotten into debian but love the design ethos of it (infrequent "stable" releases but they make sure they are ACTUALLY stable, and keeping it as multiplatform as possible.) @John Sanders, you are right, they did screw up the Intel driver pretty well. I find it still useable but they should have probably stuck with the older driver, at least in the 10.04 "LTS" release.

    @a bunch of people, this is not a review of video editors, period. It's a review of video editors FOR LINUX. Some people want an overview of the best available for their OS, and are not going to change OSes just to do some particular task. I mean, hell, there was a recent 2 articles about handling 60million+ files on a Windows box, despite NTFS and Windows being a bad joke for doing this --- but so what, they were using Windows so that's what they used. Just like almost every video editor on the market, these are missing some features, TheFifth has a good list.. but they are nice for the use most people have for them, cutting some junk out of vidoes and maybe putting in a wipe or two. Obviously, if this is your profession, you should buy whatever custom setup you need to edit video -- this is not what this review is about.

    @vincent himpe, one correction I must make, "The problem is that the codecs don't come from the same provider and are not optimized." is incorrect. I mean, it's a problem they aren't optimized to use multicore and CUDA, but they don't have to come from the same provider or be tied to any particular software at all to support this. Fluendo does in fact make codecs that are somewhat faster than stock (DVD, MPEG2, and MPEG4 at least) and they just plug into the regular ffmpeg/gstreamer system. There's really nothing stopping anyone from shipping multicore and CUDA-enabled codecs*, with the beauty being that every app on the system could take advantage of them. Same goes for the Canopus, Avid Mojo, and Matrox hardware.

    *Well, there is -- video editing suites cost $1000s, and some of that pays for codec development -- I doubt someone wants to make a multicore & CUDA set of codecs for free.


    Who is really out of touch here?

    Not everyone fancies themselves the next Coppola. Many of us don't have any pretense and just have stuff that we want to get done. We don't need to pretend that we're an auteur regardless of what platform we happen to be using.

    All of the people whining about the approach of Linux users need to stand in front of a mirror and repeat all of their misplaced criticisms.

  21. Wortel


    I think some of you, the "never ever" comments, especially those of you claiming to do professional editing for a living, are forgetting that most if not all of your tools are fiercely guarded, closed source solutions. Right up to those fancy decks, controls, microphones, cameras, and the cables you are using.

    In order to create an equivalent, a decent amount of developers and a decent amount of creativity must be put into an Open Source equivalent of Premiere/Avid/Whatever. It can't have the same name or tout the same-name functions, it can't use the same codecs (in whole or part, most of the time), and it can't interface with decks because the specifications aren't known or are far beyond the financial options of the developing team. This includes the inevitable licensing involved with closed source solutions.

    Since none of the proprietary software/equipment manufacturers are willing to facilitate broader use of their tools due to an archaic unfounded fear of 'losing out' - in other words, fearing that they won't make their target profit for the year if they open themselves up to the non-Hollywood crowd - you will not see cross-platform equivalents being developed to their full potential any time soon.

    If you want to criticise Open Source for being unfit for purpose, or lagging behind on (your) reality - walk in their shoes for a day. Talk with them, perhaps work with them - they are human just like you.

    Once you've done at least one of the above, come back with constructive criticism.

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