Open Source Challenge part 8: Video editing

Mysterious missing space is a good example of the type of issues that only show up after using a system for a while. Windows has plenty of these types of quirks not the least of which is a more ‘sluggish’ system that seems to occur over time as applications come and go.

Linux is not exempt from these sort of glitches and one of them I came across happened to do with my ever decreasing amount of free space.

The Ratings

In this project we’re making the assumption that Windows does all that we need and we’re seeing if Linux and open source software measures up. Perhaps that’s not an entirely fair place to sit however as the de-facto in operating systems for which everyone is familiar it’s our best basis for comparison. So here’s how we’ll rate the experience of going Windows-free:

Optimal — Passes with flying colours. The task could not only be completed but better or easier than under Windows.

Pass — No problems. The task can be completed exactly as under Windows.

Iffy — When a task could only be partially completed or completed but not without issue.

Flop — Not possible to complete at all. Probably not a good thing.

Managing Space

Now naturally as more software is installed and I create more files in my everday work I’m going to be using more disk space. Howevever even as I deleted files I didn’t seem to be reclaiming the disk space. A stint of video editing (see below) certainly helped this space to be used but I didn’t realise just how little space I had left until Ubuntu told me it couldn’t save a file because there wasn’t ‘enough free space’. This on a on a 10GB partition of which Ubuntu and Open Office initially used around 2.5GB. How could this be?

Now being familiar with Linux this cause wasn’t hard to find — like Windows Ubuntu defaults to ‘backing up’ all deleted files into a ‘Trash’ folder so that they can be undeleted. Checking my ‘.Trash’ directory hidden under the home folder I had 7GB of data over the past seven months that could be deleted. As a whole the ‘Trash’ folder idea is a nice one except for the following: When Ubuntu told me I had run out of space it didn’t tell me I happen to have almost 7GB of data in Trash that could be deleted to free up space and didn’t offer me the option to empty it.

This is for want of a better phrase bad form. Even Windows will prompt in advance as disk space runs out to run a disk clean up and in the process empty the Trash.

For me knowing the problem it was easily fixed by changing to the ‘.Trash’ directory at the command line and running an ‘rm -rf *’ to clear it. Instant 7GB of free space.

For the average Windows user new to Linux trying to use it as a replacement for Windows with little knoweldge of the Linux directory structure (which the GUI is supposed to make irrelevant for you) they’d be left scratching their head and searching forums for how to recover their disk space. Come on Ubuntu this isn’t rocket science.

Overall not the least bit impressed.

Managing disk space: Flop — Not possible to complete at all. Probably not a good thing.

The ‘df’ or disk free command shows the remaining space on a drive. Note the highlighted and normally hidden ‘.Trash’ folder.


Video editing

With the prevalence of cheap digital cameras most of which can record moives as well home video editing is on the rise. So much so that Microsoft put a huge emphasis on this functionality for Vista and say what you will about Microsoft when it comes to the home user it has its finger on the pulse.

Linux is no stranger to video editing and quite literally its encoding tools are top notch and used regularly in the commercial sphere for professional work such as movie studios and frequently in conjuction with proprietary Linux based tools.

Hoolywood aside basic and free editing tools for stringing together movies with a sound track and effects are quite well developed under Linux but the better ones are still the commercial products. The options for freely downloadable tools include:

And to a lesser degree Avidemux a superb format conversion tool which can also do basic cut and paste for video segments.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get either Cinerella or Pitivi to run as they required Debian based packages outside the Ubuntu repository that even while I had most of the essential files still needed dependency libraries I couldn’t source for Ubuntu. This left Kdenlive which did install and work fine.

In fact Kdenlive is a remarkable tool. Taking a little experimenting to get the hang of once setup it’s as featured as any commercial equivalent — as a non-linear editor you can drag video segements anywhere along a timeline with multiple tracks and apply against a musical track to quite easily create a flowing video within a few minutes.

Naturally it also sports a range of special effects such as transitions modes but the most important facet that interested me was the quality and range of encoding options — no point making the master movie of a lifetime to be limited to poor quality and limited encoding features.

And Kdenlive delivered here too actually taking the guesswork out of the plethora of encoding options — here you simply select your target format from the ‘Render’ menu: High Quality DVD or DV for digital video or a range of medium quality encodings using Quicktime Real Video Flash Mpeg and of course Mpeg4. Alternatively you can export the movie direct to DVD.

Even though the version of Kdenlive I used is at a tentative 0.4 version it was extremely stable and every feature worked as described. Eminiently useable. In fact I’ve become a video editing convert because of this tool finding any reason I can to build my own movies!

Overall it’s good to see such a powerful and free video editing suite for Linux but it’s a little disappointing the other options of Cinerella and Pitivi both of which have in their own right earned high acclaim couldn’t install in Ubuntu due to lack of required support packages. Hopefully Ubuntu will latch onto this and place importance on providing these in the Ubuntu software archives — as Microsoft has shown this is an important facet of the future desktop system as users increasingly play with their digital media for the home and family and for Ubuntu to demonstrate and be a viable desktop alternative it needs to do this too.

If you haven’t played with Kdenlive yet I highly recommend giving it a go!

Video production: Optimal — Passes with flying colours. The task could not only be completed but better or easier than under Windows.

Though still in development KDEnlive does most everything you need for video editing.

Exporting the video requires no knowledge of arcane encoding commands.

Avidemux is the master format conversion tool with basic cut and paste for video too.


In the next part: Gaming >>>

Open Source Challenge