Open Movie Editor: Linux Video Editor with Plot Twists

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 22, 2008

A common lament from home videographers is that Linux lacks video editors. It's not exactly true. There's Kino, which edits video and acts as a frontend to dvgrab. Jahshaka edits videos, and uses openGL to add special effects (though many say Jahshaka's strength is its user interface). Cinelerra is a professional grade editor, and while someone working with video regularly might find this is the only option, those needing simple edits and common effects will find it overkill.

There's another alternative for those needing a basic video editor. Open Movie Editor seems plain compared to Kino, but works with more file formats (with fewer hassles). It has a Jahshaka-like interface, without its occasional installation quirks.

Open Movie Editor is available via the repositories for a number of distributions. It's important to note, though, that installing the editor in this manner doesn't pull in all of the filter effects that it supports, nor does it necessarily integrate all of the codecs it can potentially work with. Open Movie Editor uses LAME and ffmpeg for its encoding and decoding tasks. It also uses the Frei0r Video Effect Plugin Standard, and source tarballs and binary packages of these plugins are available from the Frei0r website.

Kino has two advantages over Open Movie Editor -- it effectively puts a GUI on dvgrab, making it a bit easier to get video from a digital camcorder on to a computer. It also has easily implemented transitions, something that seemed to be lacking from the Open Movie Editor. However, the Open Movie Editor allows for finer tuning of some video manipulation aspects, and this effect could be achieved with skilled crossfading. It seems as though Open Movie Editor is aiming for a user base with a keener interest in video editing than Kino's users, but not necessarily the demographic Cinelerra would appeal to.

Open Movie Editor has a lot more "curb appeal" than Kino, however, and using it just felt natural. The timeline and track layouts were presented in a similar way as they are in Jahshaka, and it was visually easy to picture and work with multiple video and audio tracks. The advantage over Jahshaka in this case is simply ease of installation (Jahshaka has gotten easier to install, but it still is temperamental) and the fact it is extremely stable.

Open Movie Editor features a built in file browser, clip viewer, and media browser. The video being edited can be viewed from this area, as edits are made. The "track" style layout is particularly helpful, especially to those unfamiliar with video editing. It's very visual, even when it comes to blanking any sound captured on video and replacing it with a separate audio track. One thing to take note of is that the file and media browser require the desired media be dragged and dropped to the appropriate track and place in the timeline.

Once a clip is dragged to the track, it can be slid to the desired starting point, trimmed, split, or joined with other clips. The tools to do these tasks are located on the far left side of the screen near the tracks.

Adding a title wasn't quite as obvious as it felt like it should have been, but it was at least consistent with how other effects and media are added to the video. The filter (titling, in this case) is dragged and dropped on the appropriate track or selected clip. Arrows appear where the titling is dropped, and then duration and aesthetics can be adjusted.

Here I split a clip and inserted a bit of titling. Using a multiple track layout, splitting, and cross fading, it would have been possible to make a much less abrupt transition. It seems a bit more work, but it is also gives the editor a much greater degree of control over the video's look.

There are only a few filter options included with Open Movie Editor by default (the Frei0r plugins are definitely recommended) but these options are very customizable.

Applied special effects and filters can be viewed and adjusted in real time on the selected clip. Audio tracks can be edited to a reasonable extent with the Open Movie Editor as well, though, again, it would be unrealistic to expect either Audacity's or Cinelerra's audio capabilities in this setting.

In general, Linux video editors, admittedly, aren't where Mac video editors are presently. Kino and Jahshaka, two popular "end user" video editing applications for Linux, seem fairly comparable to some of the common "consumer targeted" proprietary applications available for other platforms in terms of features, function, and ease of use. Cinelerra exceeds that caliber of application, but is also far more than the typical user needs. Open Movie Editor is a strong application that mixes some of the best features of Kino and Jahshaka, and delivers it in a powerful -- but not overpowered -- package.