One of the most common questions I receive is “what are the best video editors for Linux?” Usually this question gives me pause since there’s no perfect answer.
To better address this common question, I’ve put together the following guide to explore which Linux video editor is best – based on your video editing needs.
Simple Linux video editing
Nope, I won’t recommend Pitivi or Shotcut at this time. Both are promising applications, but neither is actually going to allow a newcomer ease of access. The former needs to re-think their user interface, while the latter fails to run at all on Ubuntu 15.10 without chasing down dependencies. Eventually, I think both editors will make fine additions to what’s available. But at this point, I strongly believe both editors need more time in the proverbial oven.
In the meantime, here’s a round up of Linux video editors I’ve used countless times with great success.
avidemux – For the folks looking for simple clip editing, without the need for fancy transitions or effects, I recommend avidemux. What I like most about it is that it does what it promises – simple editing without the extras.
Cutting video is super easy. There is no time-line, simply choose the areas you wish to cut and make the edits. The next thing avidemux does well is filtering. This means you can resize, color correction, and do deinterlacing with your videos.
Encoding video is also a snap. Just import your target video and choose the encoding you wish to covert the video to. This is also useful for compressing large files or ensuring they’re playable among different formats and devices.
Openshot – Despite the amazing delays seen over the past year or so in development updates, it remains one of the easiest video editors to use. Openshot provides its users access to a simple work-flow while also maintaining enough popularity that the community is there for help if needed.
Openshot features include simple to understand time-line editing, plus a ton of transitions and effects. Outside of its decent chroma-key capabilities and key framing, I have found the Blender compatibility for titles to be a lot of fun.
The biggest feature here for newbies is how straight-forward basic editing is. The key tasks of importing a video, dragging it into the time-line so you can move its position and cut out portions of each clip are simply fantastic.
The biggest thing working against the Openshot project is their desire to provide a solution that is uniform cross platform. As its developer has discovered, this has proven to be a headache and is part of why it’s taking forever to see a release of Openshot 2.0. As things stand now, you’re stuck with the current version for the foreseeable future. This is unfortunate in that the current release of Openshot is easily crashed with larger video editing projects. Not a deal breaker if you Ctrl+S often, but it’s enough to keep me from using it for larger edits.
Intermediate video editing
Flowblade – Flowblade may look like a marriage of Openshot and other (older) video editors. In reality, it’s actually quite different. The default workflow, for example, is based on bins. These bins are useful if your project has a lot of clips relating to different parts that need greater categorization than dropping all the clips into one area. Flowblade even goes so far as to provide proper sequence profiles which make movie type projects possible using this software.
In addition to the unique interface, you’ll also find all the great filters and transitions you’d expect from a good video editor. Flowblade also has fantastic compositing options such as Picture in Picture and semi-transparent overlays. There are some color effects and other filters that I have never found in other Linux editors. I was also impressed with their audio filters as well; many of them are of the same type you’d find in Audacity.
The only let down I found with Flowblade was that I didn’t find it sooner. If I were to give it a comparable designation, I’d say it’s on-par with Kdenlive. It’s an excellent video editor.
Kdenlive – Full disclosure, Kdenlive is my goto editor these days. Like Flowblade, this software is also stable to use – at least for me. And for the most part, the feature set is almost exactly what I described above with Flowblade.
It’s worth noting, however, that the work-flow and UI is a bit different. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be quite content with the functionality provided. Features provided by Kdenlive lacking in other editors include the ability to install new wipes and profiles from within the software, and stop motion creation.
Out of all of the projects above, Kdenlive is arguably the most mature project to rely on. For intermediate video editing folks such as myself, it’s served me well. For the professional, however, you might need something a bit more robust.
Professional video editing
Blender – Some of you might be surprised to see me recommending this as a video editor, but in truth Blender is a very solid video editor that also has the ability to create some amazing 3D graphics. It can also save video scrubs, remove flubs with fair detail and general video conversion. Additional functionality found with Blender is the ability to do zooming effects, watermarking and managing adjustment layers.
The actual work-flow is not for the faint of heart. Much like using Blender for 3D creation, the editor has an advanced workflow that will take some practice and a few tutorials to master. Much of the advanced functionality is caused by Blender’s ability to take basic functions and enhance them with greater control.
For someone looking to do advanced video editing on the cheap, Blender is a solid contender. You’ll need to study it a bit as the learning curve is steep without studying related tutorials.
Lightworks – This is an editor that has been used in the past to edit some Hollywood movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, LA Confidential, Pulp Fiction, Heat, Road to Perdition, Hugo, The King’s Speech, among others. Unlike other free editors, the subscription version of Lightworks can provide support for pro-level video formats. The presets provided by Lightworks are top notch. Bundle this with the ability to do multicam editing and Lightworks is a natural fit for editing pros who use Linux.
Lightworks also provides support for the video editing hardware you might find in real editing studios, such as specialized consoles and hardware like Blackmagic, AJA and Matrox. Need effects? There are ample presets to keep you busy. Note: At this time, the partnership with Boris FX doesn’t include Lightworks for Linux yet. This is expected to change in the near future.
Lightworks is powerful, yet its interface is not easy to use. I recommend becoming familiar with the free version and only considering a subscription once you feel comfortable with it.
And the Linux video winner is?
For most people, I think Openshot, Kdenlive or Flowblade makes the most sense. Each of these are free to use and with practice can do more than most people fully comprehend. Each of these applications are usable today and none of them have a huge learning curve.
For those who are looking at creating actual cinema work, Lightworks may be the better bet. Despite lacking in some areas for Linux users, it’s the best option for those looking to create the next documentary or epic zombie movie.
What say you? Clearly, I didn’t hit on every video editor available. Even better, you may disagree with my recommendations. Whichever the case, hit the Comments and share your own recommendations for Linux video editors.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.