Free Linux video editors [4]: Kdenlive

So…I have been creating and editing home video for quite a number of years now. It wasn’t a thing much when I was at school; schools didn’t have much in the way of video equipment, and editing software at a reasonable price for the low spec PCs we had back then was almost non existent. Most of my time editing video goes back about 20 years to a multimedia course I did at CPIT as part of my DipBC qualification. There, we got to use Adobe Premiere Pro on PCs. From that, I went on to work in a school environment and Windows Movie Maker was available around that time on Windows XP. I also purchased a license for Adobe Premiere Elements and used it for a time, as well as a license for Vegas Movie Studio; both of these products are targeted at the lower end of the video editing market and are lite versions of Premiere Pro and Vegas Pro respectively. So I have a bit of experience with various low end movie editing programs. Premiere Elements was, I remember, very difficult to use, tended to crash a lot. VMS was a lot more stable once various patches had been applied, and had the capability to directly author DVDs. I also purchased a software package to write Lightscribe labels onto DVDs and used these packages together to produce official video DVDs for the school for a while.
When it’s come to Linux I naturally expected it would be possible to find some reasonably good video editing software but it has taken a fair while to achieve this, which is reasonable when we consider the resources available to the open source community. In some respects this is a failing of the open source model itself, in that many projects are started and then abandoned or forked. This has happened numerous times in video editing and has been one of my frustrations early on with attempting to locate good software; examples being ShotCut and Pitivi mentioned in earlier articles in this series. Thankfully, as time has gone on and with further investigations, more high quality packages have become known to me. For the moment, Kdenlive has turned out to be the best for the type of stuff I do, and has quite a reasonable range of capabilities, few of which I have actually needed to use in my sample project.
Kdenlive, like some of the other editors such as Avidemux, is basically a GUI front end to the well known FFMpeg libraries, via an intermediary called Melt (MLT). This makes a whole lot of sense to implement the hard work via a well known and resourced existing software library rather than invent a new one in a software application. Kdenlive is thus essentially an application that makes it possible to visually assemble and preview the various source elements that will be combined into a video production. Once this stage has been completed, clicking the Render button calls up MLT/FFMpeg to do the hard work of producing the final video. Of course, this can be quite a slow process, but it can run away in the background; unlike GIMP it doesn’t demand a high level of the system’s resources so that everything else grinds to a halt.
I found the GUI very easy to work with and only needed to make a few references to the online documentation. The timeline worked more or less exactly the same as other editors I have used and this part was very straightforward; Kdenlive also proved to be very stable when working with it, with no crashes experienced. My very basic project consisted of editing together two large clips which each was made up by joining together a number of smaller ones in Avidemux, and as mentioned previously, the second one was rescaled from 1920×1080 to 640×480 to match the resolution of the first one. There were also some smaller clips to add to the end which were in 1920×1080 that I didn’t bother to resize before bringing them into Kdenlive. Since the output resolution of Kdenlive was already set to 640×480, it did the letterboxing and downscaling of these clips itself, which is a useful capability I wasn’t aware of. The rendering was also stable, and the fact it took 5 hours to complete rendering the 3 hour clip at 640×480 has not been a significant concern; what has been much more important is the fact the software has proved to be stable and reliable. So I expect this package can do everything I need and I will be interested to see where I can go with it in future. I didn’t use any transitions in my project and it will be interesting to explore these in whatever type of video I might work with in future.