A Review of Free Video Editing Software

Testing Platform: IBM Thinkpad Laptop converted from Windows XP To UBUNTU 10.04. Unfortunately, because the firewire cable input plug is the wrong size on the Thinkpad, I was not able to test the DV capture function of the applications tested. The scope of the experiment is just to examine the range of available free digital video editing packages as presented in the Ubuntu Software Center utility of the operating system. A further restriction was to approach these applications from the perspective of a film editing newbie who does not want to delve into an excessive amounts of documentation. My past experiences have been with 3 editing platforms: Sony Vegas, Mac and Pinnacle. The assumption here being that having some experience with these 3 commercial packages should give the necessary foundation to understand the basics of navigating around video editing applications.

KINO (http://www.kinodv.org/)
When it comes to feature descriptions and digital video editing HOWTOS, Kino has a fairly extensive web site. The application itself however, I found to be quite limited in terms of functionality. The main functions menu is split into Edit,Capture,Timeline,Trim,FX and Export sections. After successfully importing an mpeg video clip which I had made about four years ago using the Pinnacle editing suite and clicking on the "EDIT" tab, I was presented with what looked like a view-only interface with a transport control (play,fast forward, stop etc.) The "TRIM" tab was more useful in that I could select specific sections of the currently-selected video clip and delete them, but what I was really missing from both editing tabs was the familiar "multitrack" interface which separates the audio from the video components of the video. Being a soundtrack composer, I score my own music for my own films and run a website providing royalty free music for film students and home-based video production studios. Without at least some simple audio editing options, any video suite (free or not) is pretty much unusable to me. For this reason, I quit my evaluation of this application to move onto the next one.

PiTiVi (http://www.pitivi.org/)
The PiTiVi Website claims "Anything in, anything out" functionality and an extra friendly to newbies orientation. On the plus side, I had imported a video clip and was in editing mode in seconds after starting the application. The main editing window presented audio and video split into 2 separate tracks, so it looked as if my main mandatory requirement had been met. However, after several minutes of playing around, I could not figure out how to edit the audio track separately from the video track. A quick check of the features list on the website claims that the application can handle "Sound mixing of multiple concurrent audio layers", so I went back to the application and fiddled around some more and after several more minutes was importing separate wav format audio files and blending them into the soundtrack score. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be much in the way of effects or a subtitles functions, but generally speaking, the application is usable for basic editing tasks when the objective is to quickly create a basic video.

Open Shot Video Editor (http://www.openshotvideo.com/)
On first glance, Open Shot looks like it might be the only FREE video editing package which approaches commercial software suites like Pinnacle and Vegas. Included here are title editing, transitions (dissolve, fractals...), effects (blur, pixelate, sepia...) plus editing of multiple simultaneous streams (tracks) of video. The only major disappointment, from my perspective as a soundtrack composer is that the audio portions are not themselves split out into separate tracks. Looking through the manual to see if I had overlooked something, I found the topic "Separate Audio From Video" which I was hoping meant that you could split audio and video into separate tracks: In actuality, what you can do is either blank the video or mute the audio in a single track. Since this is a multitrack editing platform, I was able to import a song in wav format into my test project, drag it onto track 2, then mute the audio of track 1, thus accomplishing my objective of being able to edit the audio separately. I still prefer the way audio is edited in the PiTiVi application, but taken altogether Open Shot offers the most in terms of functionality and flexibility.

Contact Info
Digimatica is a new service offering from The Internet Annex