OpenShot - If you have to ... shot, shot, don't talk

Updated: January 20, 2020

As you probably know, my go-to video editor is Kdenlive, which I've used many times before, to great success, creating dozens of unfunny clips, all of them available on my Youtube channel. But then, I've recently had less luck with the program, having tested both 2018's beta and last year's 19.08 stable edition, and neither really impressed me.

I came across bugs and crashes, and overall, it felt like the application has taken a nosedive. While older versions ought to keep working fine for quite a while longer, I wouldn't like to be in a position where my artistic spread of majestic wings is curtailed for any reasons. Hence, alternatives, hence testing. And thus, I came across an old-new title, OpenShot, a free, cross-platform video editor. Funnily, I've seen it many times before, but never really used in properly. This article shall remedy that.

Teaser

Plan B that project, will ya?

I launched the program, changed the theme from dark to light - like duh - and started exploring. At first glance, OpenShot is very similar to Kdenlive. You have the project assets section, the transitions and effects, the live video preview area, and then the list of tracks at the bottom of the interface.

Main interface, dark theme

Settings

The next step is to load assets and then drag 'n' drop them onto the different tracks. The time slider is a bit clunky, as you need to drag it by the blue handle. However, the interface is much simpler than the one you get in Kdenlive, and the different tabs let you filter assets and components more easily, especially on smaller screens.

Working

File filters

Audio and video

I wasn't sure how to mute the audio track on pasted clips, but then I figured, under the right-click button, in addition to various effects and transitions you can apply - just like in Kdenlive - you can also separate the audio track from the video, as a single channel or multiple channels. This is quite handy, because you can make additional tweaks to the audio, or remove it completely and put your own sound track instead.

Audio separate from video

Transitions and effects

OpenShot does not come with too many of these - but then, it also has a less cluttered interface, and what you get does work fairly reliably.One you apply them, the live video preview option lets you see what you're getting in the final render.

Effects list

Effects

Transition in use

Notice the way the video is faded in from black, using the Cross 12 transition effect.

Titles & animated titles

A super-cool feature of OpenShot is the ability to render titles for your videos, usually in the form of short intros that people add before the main content, like the count down, made-for-audiences notice, a quirky splash or alike. You have a whole bunch of templates, and it's pretty straightforward. Very nice.

Title

Animated title

Profiles & render

You have the option to use many different templates for your multimedia creations. Again, simple and straightforward. Similarly, you can use either the simple or advanced (expert) modes for the final exports, and overall, OpenShot feels quite accessible, even to people who have less experience working with video editors.

Profile

Render

Other things

All in all, OpenShot behaved okay - however, the first few times I used it, it crashed on me. This happened during clip drag 'n' drop. So it would seem all video editors like to be unstable and finicky. I've seen this with older versions of Kdenlive, too, so this definitely ain't a new thing. OpenShot certainly isn't exempt. And it shouldn't happen.

properties_model:INFO updating clip properties model.
timeline:INFO Adjusting max size of preview image: PyQt5.QtCore.QRect(239, 0, 456, 257)
Caught signal 11 (SIGSEGV)
---- Unhandled Exception: Stack Trace ----
/usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/_openshot.cpython-36m-x86_64-linux-gnu.so
(+ 0xf9af0) [0x7fec9f96aaf0]

Conclusion

OpenShot is a friendly, versatile video editor, and I warmed up to it during my two-day testing session. I wasn't really keen in the beginning - this is a perilous thing, as people can just give up, but as I continued using it, I slowly discovered its understated elegance. It comes with a simple interface, so it feels less potent at first, but there's a lot of hidden goodies under the hood. All in all, it works fairly well.

Now, there are quite a few things that can be improved. Stability is imperative, the time slider is slow, and some of the flows aren't really intuitive, you need to dig to discover features and use them. For example, the audio separation should be easier to apply. The UI can definitely be refined. However, I'm quite pleased with OpenShot, and it's no longer an obscure but friendly reference. There's a lot of potential here, and I believe I might even end up using it for more complex project. So it's worth testing, for sure. Me like. Will it usurp Kdenlive in my production setup? I don't know just yet, but I like the extra degree of freedom I've just gained. Methinks we're done here. And cut.

Cheers.

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