Using OpenShot for making video

OpenShot video editor

OpenShot is a software used in making videos, and I use them for making YouTube videos which extend my existing math lessons. It is likely to be the most intuitive software out there right now, and it is open source, running under Linux. Rendering video was one of the reasons I put up extra money for a fairly high-powered computer.

OpenShot is very stable, although if used for a long time, I noticed that it tends to freeze at strange times, or crash completely. I own copies of Lightworks, Pinnacle Studio HD 16 Ultimate, and Adobe Premier Elements 11 and have experience using all three video editing software. While OpenShot is quite useable in the league of these top-selling softwares, and is quite user-friendly, it has some drawbacks that might make it prohibitive to serious video editors.

First, the PROS: OpenShot is free and open source, and there is little to beat that. While Lightworks is also free, OpenShot can decode nonfree codecs such as MP3 and MP4 formats. The free version of Lightworks usually took several workarounds to get even the most mildly proprietary video and audio formats to play together. For the record, if you are willing to spend the money, Lightworks does support nearly all existing video and audio formats.

It goes without saying that OpenShot supports also the open-source codecs OGG Vorbis (audio) and OGG Theora (video), enabling you to live out your open-source puritanism to the fullest.

Video rendering seems to be well-done in OpenShot. I found that it took about 10 minutes to render a 15-minute video, although that could be because of the machine I am using to render it in, which has 32 gigs of RAM, 1 gig of video ram, and sporting an Intel Quad Core Haskell processor. I guess I have to factor that in. I have been previously accustomed to this operation taking hours on an older computer that I used to have, and is now sitting in a corner of the living room, partially disassembled.

The operations of the parts of the OpenShot interface are smooth and editing and deleting clips is intuitive. I hardly needed to consult the manual after editing and processing 5 videos so far. This was not true of the other software mentioned in this article. I found LightWorks to be the most unwieldy. To be fair, LightWorks is a professional-grade software. To use LightWorks to any degree of effectiveness required me to consult their manual, and several videos regarding rendering and editing.

Audacity, an open-source audio editor, which I use in tandem with OpenShot.

Other blogs have complained about Linux’s arcane audio system. I am aware that audio/video issues are as old as Linux, and has been a weak point in the operating system for a long time. Over the past two decades, Linux audio and video has improved in leaps and bounds compared with Windows and Apple. Linux’s mildly dysfunctional A/V has been a key reason why most people still use Windows and have not moved over to Linux in any large numbers. The system I am using is Ubuntu Linux Studio 13.10, which is optimized for all manner of audio and video. However, I have avoided using the sound editor in OpenShot by recording my voice tracks separately using Audacity, which detects my microphone and headset, and offers me to use them as options in a dropdown menu. Audacity, another open-source software for audio recordings, can render my voice in many common formats, including MP3 and OGG Vorbis. I then include the MP3 file into my OpenShot project then add it to my timeline as a separate track. Audacity is a great audio editor, allowing me to edit out my “uh’s” and other awkward pauses with a great deal of precision, while adding silence to help synchronize my voice to the video. By using the two software together, I have had few problems with audio drivers.

Now, the CONS: One drawback to OpenShot that is immediately apparent is in my lack of ability to edit on the level of frames. This was a big advantage of LightWorks, Pinnacle, and Adobe software I own. The free version of LightWorks was especially adept at “marking and parking” the video pointer on an exact frame and allowing for precise cutting of video. OpenShot tries to compensate for this by using a sliding scale on its interface which allows the timeline to expand up to a point, but never to the point where the places between one frame and the next become distinct. By the way, this is never a problem for marking editing points, that seems to be precise, it is rather a problem for cutting at those points, which appears to involve eye-hand-mouse coordination to get the cuts exactly where you marked the video for cutting. Somtimes video gets cut a fraction of a second too early or too late, and this is noticeable when viewing the video.

Once you have your series of cuts all placed together on the timeline, OpenShot does not seem to have a way of making these cuts into a unit. So that if you make another cut somewhere in the middle, you need to move the individual edits back in place, one at a time.

Another problem which makes things a bit annoying in OpenShot became apparent when it became necessary to film a video upside-down. While OpenShot easily has a way of turning the footage rightside-up, it seems to “forget” my settings the moment I perform an edit. That is, the footage before the edit is still in proper orientation, but the footage after the cut is upside-down again. So, each time I made a cut I found I had to repeatedly re-set the orientation each time.

Finally, while the documentation is fine and pretty extensive, it appears as though the discussion forums are rather modest. Of course, with a software whose project budgets are supported by donations, one cannot expect the forums to be run by paid employees and other participants who like to give free advice as is often the case for large commercial operations like Adobe and Pinnacle. However, this is more than made up for by the easy-to-use interface, which allows you to learn by using the software.

Conclusion: The use of OpenShot and Audacity together allow me to edit audio and video using entirely open-source software, allowing me, if I want, to record, edit, and save entirely using open-source formats. Like Adobe Premier and Studio 11 Ultimate, it allows me to upload to video sites like Vimeo and YouTube directly from the software if I choose. If you are on a tight budget, then you can’t beat OpenShot.

Published by


I am Paul King, a math and science teacher. I help maintain the MIT FAQ Archive along with Nick Bolach. I am also the maintainer of a FAQ the archive.