Video Editing the Easy Way, With Kdenlive


Let us explore an easy way to make awesome videos, using open source editing software called Kdenlive.

Some time back, I had an urgent task at hand. I had to shoot a video and then edit it to make it appeal to viewers. The problem was that I did not know anything about video editing; so, I began the search for the perfect software to help me edit my video. I found a number of proprietary software for the job, but being a FOSS advocate, I wanted to use open source software. Also, since this was my first attempt at editing a video, I wanted the software to be easy to use, yet loaded with a lot of functionality. My search came to an end when I came across Kdenlive.

An introduction
Kdenlive is a non-linear video editor. This means that to edit a particular frame in, say, the 30th minute of a video, you don’t have to go through the entire video sequentially till you reach that part/frame—you can directly jump there.
It supports a wide range of codecs and formats, so you can mix different types of media such as audio, video or images. It has a time-line supporting unlimited video and audio tracks, which can be organised in layers. You can also configure the keyboard short-cuts and interface layouts. Video clips on DV or HDV (high definition video) camera can also be viewed directly on Kdenlive using a Firewire cable. Other salient features include tools to crop, move, delete and edit video, audio and images. When you are done editing the video, you can export it to a variety of standard formats. Kdenlive is currently supported on a variety of operating systems such as FreeBSD, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Mac OS X, etc.

Kdenlive can be installed easily from the Ubuntu Software Centre, or pre-compiled packages for other operating systems can be downloaded from
When you start out for the first time, follow the simple instructions in the configuration wizard. If you are not sure about which profile suits you, just select one. Once you add a clip, Kdenlive will suggest the appropriate profile.

The layout is pretty neat. You can drag, drop, maximise or resize different blocks/panes easily, like I have done (see Figure 1). When you are done, you can save that layout via View > Save Layout As. Now let us understand the different blocks/panes. On the top, you have your menu and below that are the buttons for frequent tasks.
The first pane I will cover is the Project Tree. Using this pane, you can add new images, audio or video clips to your project. You can also add a title clip, or organise your media in folders. The next is the Transition pane. When you try to merge two different videos together, you need to add an effect, so that shifting from one video to another looks appealing to the user. All those effects are under this pane.
The next pane is Effect Stack, which contains a lot of audio and video effects that you can add to your existing media. Next are the three monitor panes —Clip Monitor, Project Monitor and Record Monitor. The first shows or plays the currently selected clip from the time-line or project tree. The Project Monitor pane plays the entire project video made so far. The Record Monitor pane comes into the picture only when you hook up your HDV/DV camera and want to see the clips stored on it.

The time-line
The time-line shows the content of your project on a time scale, so you can add or remove different media at a particular instant, during the project. Once you import all your audio/video clips or images to the project tree, you then have to drag them to the relevant point in the time-line. The time-line has pre-defined audio and video tracks; hence, your media has to be put into the appropriate track. You can add more audio/video tracks using Project > Tracks > Insert Track.

Cutting a clip
For a clip on the time-line, you can preview it in the Clip Monitor pane, and cut it (to remove or relocate part of it in the time-line, perhaps). Select the clip in the time-line. You will see a position tracker arrow above it. Drag that arrow to the point from where you want to start cutting the clip, then press Shift + R on your keyboard. Now move the position tracker to the point where you want to end cutting the clip, and again press Shift + R. Now you will see that the selected portion of the clip is separated from the rest of the clip. Remove it, or drag it to a new location. In Figure  2, you can see that I have cut a video tutorial that I made on Ubuntu into different parts in the time-line.

Adding effects
Now this is very interesting. Once you have added media clips to the time-line, you can add some effects. Right-click your media clip on the time-line and choose Options. You will see a lot of different effects, in categories. I won’t explain each—apply an effect to check its result, or visit for a list of effects with the resultant images. You can see in Figure 3 that I have converted my Ubuntu video tutorial to black and white, using the grey-scale effect.

Splitting audio from video
There may be a time when you want to remove the audio from a video clip, or maybe add your own audio to it. This is easily done. Right-click the video clip in the time-line and choose the Split Audio option. You will see that your video clip has been split into two parts—one in the video section, with the video only; and a new clip in the audio section below, containing only the audio. Now, again right-click that group, and select Ungroup Clips to separate the audio and video portions of the clip. Delete the audio portion if you don’t want it. You can now add your own custom audio track if you wish—but align it properly with the video portion in the time-line. You can see that in Figure 4, I have split the audio and video components of the original clip.

Merging two videos
If you want to merge two different videos seamlessly, first drag the two videos onto the time-line, but in different video tracks—so that one clip is above the other. Then bring the starting part of the second clip (the order doesn’t matter much) below the ending part of the first clip (refer to Figure 5). Now, when you click the junction where the two clips meet, you will see a blinking green dot. Click it to add a Transition effect (which you can choose from the Transition pane). You have just merged your two clips!

Adding a title clip
Often, at the starting, middle or ending of a clip, you may want to add some graphics or text. To do that, go to Project > Add Title Clip. This will open up an image editor with many different features you can explore. If you want a specific background, enable the Show Background option at the bottom (see Figure 6). Now, once you click OK, your title clip will be saved in the project tree, from where you can import it to the desired point in the time-line.

Rendering a project
Finally, when you are done editing, you need to render the project to generate an output video/audio file. Go to Project > Render to start this process. You can choose the output format, and you will need to wait for some time for the rendering to finish.

When I started Kdenlive on Ubuntu for the first time, I got an error message about an MLT SDL module not being found. The solution to this problem is to run the following code in the terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:sunab/kdenlive-release
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Also, to get support for other restricted codecs in Kdenlive on Ubuntu, run the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras
Contributing back to the community
If after reading this article, you feel like putting your new found skills to work, there is a way. Help others learn open source technologies by making video tutorials on this link: This is an initiative led by Prof Kannan Moudgalya at IIT Bombay. The aim of this project is to propagate the use of open source technologies in our education system by making video tutorials which anyone in the nation can view for free. So, please do spare some time and, if possible, contribute to this project.



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