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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 08 Nov 2011

Tapping deeper into the OpenShot video editor

Here's a video I put together today with OpenShot 1.4.0 in Debian Squeeze (I've been using the OpenShot .deb package from the OpenShot Launchpad page to make sure I had the latest version):

It's of the new Muse School in Calabasas that Suzy Amis Cameron and husband James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron) created, and it contains a mix of video, audio and still images shot by Los Angeles Daily News staff photographer Dean Musgrove.

Once he brought me the raw footage and I saw that it featured children from the school singing a song, I knew I wanted to mix stills and video over the audio track.

I asked Dean to send me the stills he shot along with the video, and I went to work:

(Click the image above for a larger version)

You can sort of see in my OpenShot screen (in the screen-grab above) the way I structured the edit. I brought the entirety of the video in twice. The version on the top track is the main video with audio muted. The version on the bottom track is the main video with video muted (and audio open).

The middle track includes all of my titles and still images. All of the audio comes from the bottom track, and the video output is shared between the top video track and the middle titles/stills track. In the places where I dropped titles or stills into the middle track, I made a cut in the top video track at the beginning and end of those sequences.

Once I made the cuts in the top video track (before and after the stills are placed in the middle track), I didn't remove those pieces. Instead I "muted" the video along with the audio for the "cut" pieces. For those portions of the timeline I had "video" from the middle stills track and audio from the bottom video track. And nothing from the top video track.

So why did I leave the "cut" portions in the top track? If you're following along (and I wouldn't blame you if you weren't), you know I used neither the audio nor video from those "cut" clips.

Here's why: I left the totally muted, "cut" pieces in the timeline so the audio from the bottom track would always be in sync with the video on the top track during those portions of the timeline when I am not showing stills or titles on the middle track and am instead showing actual video from the top video track and audio from the bottom video track.

The only "trick" here is cutting the top video track and "muting" the video where I wanted the stills to show.

I bet this isn't rocket science if you're a video professional. But for the web developer/designer who's trying to add video editing to his or her list of skills, it's the little tricks like this that can help us get things done. (And if you have any editing secrets that mortals can benefit from, I encourage you to blog them so the rest of us can get that much better at video.)

Getting back to the video I'm writing abou today, I exported the finished edit out of OpenShot with the YouTube HD preset (HD 720p 25 frames per second, medium quality), which I've found more than adequate for Web-delivered videos. The "source" video file from Dean's Nikon SLR digital camera was a 715 MB .mov file, and the resulting .mov out of OpenShot was 187.7 MB in size.