Editing Videos With Kdenlive

For many years, editing digital video in Linux was not an easy task. Linux users have long sought a nonlinear video editing solution that was both powerful and easy to use. Kdenlive is the first video editor for KDE to combine both of these critical aspects into one package. Its easy drag and drop functionality combined with powerful features make Kdenlive the number one video editor for KDE and arguably the most complete, user-friendly video editor for Linux.

Getting Started

Getting started with Kdenlive depends on your distribution. Precompiled packages are available for Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, Mandriva, OpenSUSE, FreeBSD, Fedora, and possibly others. Their web site also includes a builder wizard that builds the dependencies and main packages automatically for you. Once it is installed, you should be able to start editing videos right away, but you will want to go through the “Config Wizard” to make sure you have all of the components you will need.

The Config Wizard will show you which video codecs are supported. If, for example, you intend to make portable web videos in an mpeg4 format, you must have the right encoder. Ubuntu includes a guide for installing most of the standard codecs, and other distributions provide similar methods.

Importing Videos

If your recorded video is on a DV camera, you must import it using a firewire cable. Click “View” in the menu and check the “Record Monitor” button. If it is already checked, click on the appropriate tab to bring up the window. It will ask you to plug in your camcorder and press the connect button. Ideally, this should work automatically. My experience, however, has never been ideal.


If it does not immediately detect your camera, you may need to adjust the permissions for your device. Run this simple command:

sudo chmod 777 /dev/raw1394

The default setting in Ubuntu is for “/dev/raw1394” to be read-only, so you will most likely need to execute the above command with it and similar distributions. You should now be able to view both recorded and live video from your camera in the “Record Monitor” window. Kdenlive relies on dvgrab to capture video. You should have it installed if you made it through the Config Wizard successfully.

At this point, you can begin recording. Kdenlive can be configured to detect clips. Whenever it thinks a scene has been stopped, it will start a new clip. If this will not work for your video, you can setup time intervals for your clips or manually start and stop recording for each one.

In addition to importing from a DV camcorder, you can also record from a webcam or record your desktop with “Screen grab”. Additionally, you can import all supported video formats as clips.

Adding Photos

There are two ways to add photos to Kdenlive: individually or as a slideshow. To add a single image, click on “Project -> Add clip”. If you want to create an entire timed slideshow in a single clip, click “Add Slideshow Clip” and follow the onscreen instructions. Because of the KDE integration, you can also drag a photo from your file manager directly into the “Project Tree.” By default, each photo will display for 5 seconds. You can change this and the picture size in “clip properties”.


Editing your video

At this stage, you are ready to create a timeline. Once all of your clips are in the Project Tree, begin dragging them to the timeline in whichever order you prefer. It is really that easy. Clips can even be shortened simply by dragging the end of the clip to the left, just like resizing a window.

You can also add effects by simply dragging items from the “Effect List” onto your video clips. The “Effect Stack” will show you which effects are enabled on your clips. At any time, you can use the “Project Monitor” to see how your finished video will look. Kdenlive also has an “Undo History” so that you can see every step that you have made if you need to go back and undo something.

To add a title, click on “Project -> Add Title Clip”. You can add background images and shapes in addition to just text, or you can have the text overlay video.

To add audio clips, click “Add Clip” and then insert your Mp3 or other file as you would a video clip. There are special tracks on the default timeline just for video. You can also add audio effects.

The Finished Product


When you have your video edited exactly the way you want it, all that remains is creating the finished product. Kdenlive has a DVD wizard built into it, but it requires DVDAuthor, an external program. Simply click on “File” and “DVD Wizard” to begin making a DVD.

If you intend to make any other type of file format, click the “Render” button. There are numerous file formats to choose from, as long as you have those codecs installed. For this example, we will choose Theora and then choose 720×480 format. Select “Full project” to export the entire timeline that you created.

When you have all of the settings you want, click “Render to File”. It will start creating your video and show you the progress. Depending on the size of your video and the speed of your computer, rendering can take minutes to hours.

This is only a brief introduction to a powerful video editing tool. While it is still under heavy development and far from perfect, it looks like a very promising video editing application. I have found that nothing beats hands-on experience. Make a few test videos and learn all of the features, and after you have mastered them, you can begin creating your future award-winning productions.

Tavis J. Hampton

Tavis J. Hampton is a freelance writer from Indianapolis. He is an avid user of free and open source software and strongly believes that software and knowledge should be free and accessible to all people. He enjoys reading, writing, teaching, spending time with his family, and playing with gadgets.

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