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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Fri, 11 Nov 2011

Here's my latest video edited in OpenShot -- I refine my technique in organizing tracks

Just because I'm writing about how I'm editing these videos in OpenShot (including this one a few days ago), don't think that I'm some kind of video-editing expert.

I'm learning. And I'm excited about it. Beats the alternative, don't you think?

In the video I just cut today, from footage provided by L.A. Daily News reporter Susan Abram, I used OpenShot 1.4.0 in Debian Squeeze, I am refining the way I use multiple tracks to organize and edit the video.

First, here's the video itself (delivered by Brightcove):

Here's a screen-grab of my OpenShot window as it looked after the video was edited. Notice that I "name" the clips in the filenames. Once I gather the clips together, I watch all of them and label those I'm going to use.

I try to pick filenames, using numbers, that will naturally order the clips in the way I want them to appear in the final video. It makes it easier to assemble on the timeline in OpenShot (click the image below for a full-size view of my desktop):

(Click the image above for a larger version)

If you click the image and look at the full-size view, you can see both how my clips have descriptive names (which I do in the file manager -- in the case of my GNOME 2 system, Nautilus -- on my Debian desktop). You can also see the three tracks I'm using for this edit.

Since I'm learning as I go along (and you can, too), I renamed each track so we could all know what's going on. The tracks, from top to bottom, are: Main Audio, B-roll video, Main Video.

This time I didn't have a continuous clip for the main audio and video. I had to cobble it together from a few different clips.

So how did I keep the audio and video tracks in sync?

Well, I started with only one set of clips, and I made my cuts in each individual clip and strung them together in the order I wanted. Once I was satisfied with these clips from an audio standpoint, I used OpenShot's "duplicate" function (right-click on a clip to duplicate), to make a copy of each clip. I moved those copies to the top track.

Now I had two video sequences that were exactly alike. I labeled the top track Main Audio and the bottom track Main Video.

And this time I made things easier on myself: I used OpenShot's per-track buttons to a) mute the video on the Audio track and b) mute the audio on the Video track.

I labeled the middle track B Roll Video. This is where I put my titles and b-roll video clips, all of which I decided to run without sound since I was using the Main Audio for the whole video.

The Main Video wasn't terribly exciting, so I let a little bit of it show at the beginning (after the opening credits) and then used its audio along with b-roll clips through the closing credits.

I would have liked to return to the Main Video at the end, but that clip was shot from too far away to look good, so I let the b-roll run through it.

As far as the credits go, one of OpenShot's best programming decisions is to create the titles in .svg (scalable vector graphic) format. You can create and edit titles right in OpenShot, but if you want to do anything "fancy," you can call in the SVG editor Inkscape (which I already have installed) and go deep.

In this case, going deep meant boosting the font size for the main title words, "I'm In." I dropped into Inkscape long enough to do that, then saved and went back into OpenShot.

Incidentally, the way titles are created in OpenShot, they can overlay actual video clips, as opposed to being on a dark background, as I've been using them.

But I really think the type styles need some extensive modification to look good that way.(More white against the usually darker background of video? Or perhaps overlayed on a solid-color background so they will look good in any lighting.) I plan to start looking at other videos with an eye toward how they style their credits, then re-creating that in Inkscape.

No sense in re-inventing the wheel -- just re-creating it in Inkscape, an application I wouldn't at all mind getting to know better.

Distro-related note: I mention that I use the Stable release of Debian GNU/Linux, in this case the Squeeze release. I didn't mention that I am using the 64-bit installation. I'm not terribly conversant in how .deb packages are put together, so I don't know if the package I'm using (from here) is a 64-bit version.

One of the reasons I decided to use the 64-bit version of Debian, as opposed to the 32-bit release, is because things like audio and video rendering are supposed to go faster in 64-bit systems. I have no complaints about render time on my Lenovo G555 laptop (2.1 GHz AMD Athlon dual-core CPU), but I would be happy to figure out whether or not the package I'm downloading from Launchpad is 32-bit, 62-bit (or both). If you know, drop me a line in the comments.