Despite some commentators deploring the state of Linux video editing tools, I continue to believe that somewhere out there is a non-linear editing program that is feature rich, intuitive and stable for the Linux platform. Maybe I’m deluded, but I would settle for a nice tool in its current state, that has an active community, a development road map and doesn’t crash all the time!
Yesterday, I decided to give Open Movie Editor a chance. I thought this project was largely dead, but a new release was made on January 2nd 2008, so it looks to be still very much alive. I was also somewhat put off by the screenshots on the website. The GUI looks poor and clunky. After installation I am pleased to say that this isn’t entirely the case.
Unfortunately, the packages in the Ubuntu repository are only for older versions. Installing Open Movie Editor (OME) from source was reasonably straight forward, but there are some tips and tricks worth following. To maximise the number of video formats that OME can decode, be sure to have a reasonably new version of FFmpeg installed. For rendering (encoding) output, OME uses Libquicktime. I already had FFmpeg installed, with a lot of extra libraries to cater for x264 and FAAC encoding, amongst others. I also decided to install Libquicktime from source, rather than the Ubuntu package, as configuring with –enable-shared will pickup additional libraries, like libmp3lame, libx264 and libfaac if they’re present.
Configuring OME also meant adding some new libraries to the default Ubuntu set, these included Gmerlin, libsndfile and the Alsa dev libraries. I sourced all of these from Ubuntu’s repositories and installed through Synaptic. Building OME went smoothly, although it should be noted that at the end of the process, there will not be a nice icon in the application menus. OME needs to be launched from the command line, which is actually quite handy for viewing error messages.
Once up and running, I was surprised by the GUI. It’s not nearly as bad as I feared from the screenshots, although there is still plenty of room for improvement. There are also two other skins to choose from, but unfortunately these and any other layout changes made are not remembered by OME between sessions, meaning everything needs to be setup again at startup.
My aim with OME was to perform some simple editing tasks and here’s what I found:
- Adding clips to a project is very simple, just navigate to the folder on your local hard drive where the clip is stored, then drag it to the timline. There’s no time consuming re-factoring of clips when adding them to a new project.
- OME supports a wide range of formats. I threw MPEG2 (m2t and vob), MOV (MJPEG and x264) and AVI (xVid and x264) files at it. They were all handled correctly. Although, it should be noted that the range of formats is dictated by your FFmpeg setup.
- Adding new video and audio tracks is easy and straightforward
- Splitting clips is possible using mouse clicks, but could be better with keystrokes for more accuracy. Splitting should be performed at the exact current frame of the marker position.
- Merging two clips together on the timeline creates a nice video crossfade, but this is the only transition available by default. To create a fade out to black, and in for the next clip, a black image must be added to the timeline between existing clips. The two existing clips then crossfade to the black image. The length of the fade is determined by the amount of clip overlap and the length of the black “image”. A little clunky, but it works well.
- If a video clip has original audio, this can either be entirely muted, or the volume adjusted using the “Automator” tool.
- If you just want to edit the audio of an existing video, drag and drop the file to an audio track on the timeline, rather than a video track.
- Various effects are supported by the Frei0r video plugins. I have installed them, but not really used them, although there appears to be a wide range available.
- There is currently no video preview available, unless the clip is already on the timeline. This means that viewing clips not already on the timeline, needs to be done outside of OME. This is a productivity loss.
- Arbitrary clip padding, cropping and rotation is not available.
- HD support currently not available.
- It is not possible to move along the timeline one frame at a time with keystrokes. This can only be achieved by dragging the timeline marker with a mouse, which is not very accurate.
- Rendering a project is straightforward with many options to choose from. This is a major strength of OME. Render options, as mentioned before, are handled through Libquicktime and so far I have no complaints.
However, the one biggest positive of OME for me is stability. I have had only two segfault crashes so far, and this was when zooming in and
out, or moving left/right on the timeline very quickly. Other Linux
NLEs I have tried – say KDEnlive or PiTiVi – crash very regularly. It
is a real plus that OME is so stable.
I’ve also had some interesting conversations with OME’s lead (and currently only) developer Richard Spindler. He’s been very helpful and patient with my inquiries. When asked about a future roadmap for OME, Richard said that it revolved around the following two points:
- Improve the User-Interface and Editing-Feature-Set to cover most of the Basic Use Cases that an Amateur/Indie Movie Artist and Home Video Producer needs. This includes basic Compositing.
- Improve the Technical Backends, to RELIABLE deal with “legacy” Video Technology that is available to the general public. Compatibility to Camcorders, Video-Files and Formats, DVD-Players, etc. There remains a lot of stuff to do in that Field, for Open Movie Editor, as well as for the Linux and the Open Source/Free Software Community as a whole.
When asked if there was a desire for OME to become a Professional level video editing tool, or always aim at the Amateur/Indie/Home User, Richard felt that, “The Lines between Professional/Amateur are blurring, you can do quite amazing stuff with “cheap” HDV Camcorders today.
With Open Movie Editor I will try to do both, provide a level of quality in Image Processing and Format support that is good enough for the “Professional”, while keeping the Interface User friendly enough for Newbie users. Of course, I am not yet finished with those requirements.
As for the Interface: Ideally, the default will be simple and plain, but the more complex tools would live in Plugins and Extensions. So the Goal is definitly having both: iMovie and Final Cut Pro in one Application. I think it is possible, the question is only how long it will take.”
I was surprised by the stability of Open Movie Editor. The interface is easy enough to use, although still with plenty of room for improvement. The addition of some extra productivity features and shortcuts will really enhance the power of Open Movie Editor. Give it a try, you might just be surprised.