Can You Edit Videos on Linux?


Is Linux known for its video editing prowess? Um…no, but I have used it for my last couple of videos and I wanted to share my experience and some of my journey as a Linux video editor. So to answer the question in the thumbnail: yes, you can edit videos on Linux, but I wanted to add some more details, a little bit more nuance, and in the end of the video I’ll be sharing my own setup for how I edit videos on Linux. since I don’t want to use a razor on all of my footage what I’ll be talking about today is specifically nonlinear video editing. Basically everything that I’m touching is just operating on copies of files not the original files themselves. This was a huge innovative breakthrough in the history of film editing and it complicates Linux editing just a little bit because a lot of the codecs or digital formats we use for footage are proprietary. My camera, for instance, shoots on h.264 through .MOV format, which is a proprietary format. Now, there’s a lot of support for it. For example, my chip on my computer even has special instruction sets just to encode and decode h.264; however, it’s not what some people would consider free software. There’s licenses to consider and ownership over the format. Fortunately, there are a number of programs on Linux such as ffmpeg which is really good at encoding and decoding different formats and a lot of the programs we’ll look at today use ffmpeg as the basis for that process. Now people have developed a lot of nonlinear editors that specifically work on Linux. Even my text editor of choice, Emacs, has a mode for video editing, which isn’t for me, but of course that’s the thing that exists. Now I’ve tried a few different Linux video editors, so here are a few worth mentioning. And here the nominees I guess. Openshot is designed to be really simple and easy to use, which is great, but unfortunately for me I found it so simple it was lacking features and some of the interface is actually hard to use like when I was trying to edit some of the colors I got it into this weird setting and it was really hard to modify and so I just ended up looking like a vampire for the rest of the video. I ended up having much better luck with kdenlive it’s one of the older programs I looked at but it’s also one of the most robust and I particularly like some aspects of the user interface. When I’m editing things like color curves and color wheels it presents a visualization of those components that make sense to me. Also a really big fan of how it supports proxy clips because my computer certainly can lag when it’s playing full HD clips and the ability to play everything back in preview using downscaled clips can really make the Edit experience so much smoother. And the last one before we get to my new editor is Shotcut. This one had some really interesting ideas that I honestly had never seen before. For example, you’re able to do filters and titles in HTML which I thought was really cool and the interface is good. It reminded me of an old version of iMovie. My biggest complaint with shotcut is it doesn’t support proxy clips directly so my system lagged quite a bit. Might depend on how good your computer is, but that was an issue for me. So what did I end up using? um…drumroll please. DaVinci Resolve. I’ve wanted to use that sound effect for a long time. This video is supposed to be more descriptive than prescriptive. It’s more describing my own journey as an editor and the things that I found a good match for me rather than saying that this is for everyone. Everyone has their own needs and their own philosophies and expectations out of a video editor and for me DaVinci Resolve pretty much met all of them. My history and video editing starts all the way back into Windows XP version of Windows Movie Maker I then used Sony Vegas for a bit and for the last several years I’ve been a Adobe Premiere Pro user. I’m very used to that source monitor, program monitor workflow and I really like getting really nitty gritty into the details of the footage, editing everything from the audio to the colors, doing a lot of grading and color correcting. And so for me what stands out about the DaVinci Resolve is it’s a program literally designed for color and it’s tools are just amazing, they’re well-designed, the color looks great. And maybe just a little bit more important to me is the editing experience and the timeline system on Resolve for me at least is very intuitive. It edits approximately how I think and I’m able to have a very small barrier between what I want my footage to look like and the time it takes to shape it and mold it into what I envision. Keep in mind it’s not all green pastures. There’s been a couple of things I found rather inconvenient in my workflow, namely going back to codecs: my camera does H.264, but the free version doesn’t let you import that so you have to convert it first and then the paid version doesn’t let you export h.264 on Linux right now so you have to export to another format. Not the biggest deal breaker in the world but it is a slight inconvenience to keep in mind. That said, I found my Linux video editing experience really freeing and open and I’m really excited to see what I can do with that into the future.