OpenShot Video Editor

Posted on 02/15/2014 in misc

For many years I kept a Windows XP partition on my desktop machine for the singular purpose of using Microsoft Movie Maker a few times a year. I really believe it's one of the most useful, most intuitively designed pieces of software ever produced by Microsoft. That partition died with a hard drive failure a while ago.

Meanwhile, I've had a stack of old 8mm camcorder tapes in my desk for about 10 years. The camcorder died back around 2003 or 2004. I've looked into getting the tapes converted a few times, but it was always \$15-\$20 bucks a tape, so I'd put them back in the desk to deal with later.

This year, I was struggling to think of creative Valentine's Day present for my wife when I thought of those tapes again. Converting them to DVD, then editing them down to some bite size home movies would be a cool gift. I found somebody on EBay to convert them cheaply, so the project was a go.

When the DVDs arrived I was challenged with finding a suitable editing tool that was FOSS. The only editing tool I knew how to use was Microsoft Movie Maker. Some searching led me to Piti and OpenShot. I installed Piti first, and quickly decided the learning curve was more than I wanted to deal with. So then I installed OpenShot. Upon launching I knew it was the right program. It works like Microsoft Movie Maker. Create a project, import source files, drag them to a track on the timeline, and start editing. The editing tools are very limited, which is exactly what I wanted. You can mark a point in the movie, cut the segment into two, or trim it. That's about it for editing, and that is all I need or wanted. I cut up the DVD segments in one track and put them back together into my movie in a second track, then deleted the source track when done and brought the next segment in. It was a pretty easy work flow. It has a bunch of transition effects, and you can make title slides. It's got all the basics you need for lightweight home movie editing. Exporting to the finished product worked flawlessly.

It was a little crashy on my Ubuntu 12.04 box though. I learned quickly to turn on autosave and set it for 1 minute. I noticed that doing stuff too quickly caused it to crash. If I grabbed the zoom slider on the timeline and quickly moved it from 60 seconds to 1 second the program would lock up and shut down. If I moved the slider slowly it was fine. It was a minor annoyance but it didn't lose any work once I had autosave turned on, so not really a big deal. I also had one DVD that OpenShot would not read properly. It thought the tracks were all blank, when they weren't. I solved that issue by using Handbrake to convert the files to mp4, then they worked fine with OpenShot. I don't know if that was an OpenShot issue, or if there was something not right about the files. (I did file a bug report about the crashing.)

So if you are a Linux user looking for an easy to use, lightweight video editor, give OpenShot a chance. I think you'll like it.

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