The state of (high definition) video editing on Linux

Posted: 2010-02-20

Video Editors

We have extremely promising open source media editing applications for Linux like the Jokosher audio editor and PiTiVi video editor, both built on the powerful GStreamer framework, reaching a point of maturity where the focus can shift from making sure the underlying infrastructure of the application is solid to adding all the cool features that everyone's been waiting for. These apps will make multimedia editing simple and easy yet still fully featured. Projects like the recently announced VideoLAN Movie Creator (you know, from the people behind the VLC media player) and OpenShot are certainly cool projects which show that FOSS video editing is really progressing, but PiTiVi will still be my NLE of choice. VLMC is sure to be a great product, but being cross-platform drives the focus away from our OS of choice, and OpenShot while perhaps adding as many features as quickly as possible, lacks the same focus on proper design that PiTiVi has.

In short, PiTiVi's development has a strong focus on doing everything "the right way" before adding extra features, and using the GStreamer framework is an important choice. The result is better integration with the Ubuntu, GNOME-based desktop, a consistent user interface, and clean, modular code that will help development progress faster as we enter the stage of expanding the feature list. It's an exciting time for open source video editing on Linux, and hopefully more developers can hop on board to bring these advancements sooner.

High Definition Video

A snapshot camera that produces .mts files
While things may be looking up, one shortcoming is an ever increasing problem that deserves some more serious attention. There is a lack of proper MPEG-TS support which is used for HDV and AVCHD camcorders and as such, Linux users need a way to easily play, edit and see thumbnails of these videos. Video editing on Linux can't get very far when the de facto standard for high-definition video isn't well-supported especially as more and more cameras are HD out of the box, and the prices for such camcorders are falling.

PiTiVi is one of many multimedia apps lacking proper .mts support
I have a camcorder that happens to produce these .mts/.m2ts files and in order for me to be able to make use of them, I would have to convert it to another format using ffmpeg. This should not be necessary. New users should not need to look up how to convert their video, and they should not need to re-encode the file and lose the original quality of the video. This bug will hold back video editing on Linux and generate a lot of angry users who cannot reliably play or edit their video files.

Hopefully some developers will address this mostly overlooked bug before it becomes a bigger issue and turn it into something to brag about. In the big picture though, this bug isn't huge, and it's sure to get fixed at some point; the question is whether it'll happen sooner or later. Either way, the more developers working on GStreamer and video editors like PiTiVi, squashing these bugs and adding new features, the better.