Screen Capture and Video Editing on elementary OS

My video editing needs are pretty basic these days. I make the odd, very brief tutorial video. I used to make a lot of product videos for my old company back in my OS X days and was very familiar with all the tools of the trade. I was never more than a hobbyist but I got by.

Since being on Linux full time for the last couple of years, I haven’t had much cause to create or edit video beyond simple screen capture and upload to YouTube. Recently, however, my kids and I started talking about doing a little more with my YouTube channel, and for that I’d need to get back into some more advanced editing. The search for a capable, yet easy to use toolset was on.

Screen Recording

Firstly, I looked for screen recording software. Remember, I have used Linux off and on for over 11 years, so I was already familiar with the Kazam and the likes. That’s where I started.


Kazam

As it says on the tin…

Kazam is a simple screen recording program that will capture the content of your screen and record a video file that can be played by any video player that supports VP8/WebM video format.

Kazam is certainly the more user friendly looking application, for those looking for a GUI to guide them.

Kazam was the first screen recording software I tried again, having been one I used many years back. It was solid and very user friendly but I was able to get it to crash a few times (though not repeatedly).

I also found the keyboard shortcuts to be a bit peculiar, in particular, Super + Control + f for finish recording as opposed to Super + Control + s for stop. Overall, the use of the Super seemed counter intuitive:

  • Start Recording: Super+Control+r
  • Pause/Unpause Recording: Super+Control+p
  • Finish Recording: Super+Control+f
  • Show Kazam: Super+Control+s
  • Quit: Super+Control+q

By default, Kazam will output as .mp4 as opposed to .ogv but this doesn’t concern me. Overall Kazam is useful enough for me to keep around, and is generally more feature rich, but I think the screen recording software I’ll rely on more often is recordMyDesktop.


RecordMyDesktop

recordMyDesktop is a desktop session recorder for GNU / linux that attemps to be easy to use, yet also effective at it’s primary
task.

As such, the program is separated in two parts; a simple command line tool that performs the basic tasks of capturing and encoding and an interface that exposes the program functionality in a usable way.

recordMyDesktop, while fairly basic looking, does exactly what it is supposed to do and does it very well.

recordMyDesktop is not going to win any awards for style, but it is a very usable application that does exactly what it is supposed to do and does it very well. I’ve yet to have any complaints about this solid little utility.

Keyboard shortcuts, which make more sense to me, are as follows:

  • Start Recording: Control+r
  • Pause/Unpause Recording: Control+Alt+p
  • Stop Recording: Control+Alt+s
  • Show/Close Preferences Window: Control+p
  • Hide Main Window: Control+h
  • Open Save File dialog: Control+s
  • Quit: Control+q

Video Editing

I am completely new to the world of Linux video editing and was surprized to find out that there are a number of options. Most of them completely ill suited to my own needs so it was a bit of a slog to download several options, launch, test, learn, fail. Ultimately I settled on two applications that were closest to the tools I remembered using on Mac OS.


OpenShot

I have mixed feelings about what I should really say here. At time of writing, the version of OpenShot that comes in the AppCenter (aka the Ubuntu repositories) is version 1.4.3, and it is a steaming pile of turd.

However, after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013, Jonathan Thomas developed and eventually released version 2 of the OpenShot Video Editor. At time of writing, OpenShot 2.2 is available, but in order to get you have to install it via OpenShot’s PPA or download and AppImage.

If we are going to tout elementary OS (or Linux in general) as a replacement to Mac or Windows, then I think adding PPA’s is likely not right. So, OpenShot as you would find it in the AppCenter is completely unusable. OpenShot via PPA’s? I have no idea and never will. Moving on.


KDEnlive

KDEnlive, often pronounced KAY-DEN-LIVE, is a solid video editor that comes with a healthy spread of tools, effects and features to make any enthusiast video editor happy.

Kdenlive is an open source video editor. The project was started around 2003. Kdenlive is built on Qt and the KDE Frameworks libraries. Most of the video processing is done by the MLT Framework, which relies on many other open source projects like FFmpeg, frei0r, movit, ladspa, sox, etc…

Our software was designed to answer most needs, from basic video editing to professionnal [sic] work.

At first blush, KDEnlive looks a bit out of place, being that its UI looks more akin to an old Java application than a native GNOME app. This can be attributed to the fact that it is actually built for KDE and uses the the QT framework. Not that said combination can’t make for completely native looking GNOME apps, it’s simply that the developers haven’t bothered to do so.

KDEnlive is a formidable editor that should easily satisfy the needs of most hobbyists.

The whole look of the application can be modified with themes but that is easier to do on a KDE system than it is Ubuntu or elementary OS, and that isn’t really a sticking point for me. What matters most to me is that KDEnlive edits video, can handle transitions and effects and doesn’t crash. Win!


Summary

The two screen recording applications I will keep in my toolbox for screen recording are Kazam and recordMyDesktop, both of which perform well and serve different needs for me. As for video editors, the only one I can recommend using with very very limited experience thus far is KDEnlive.

The video above was shot on elementary OS, using Kazam for the screen recording, edited in KDEnlive with audio recorded in Audacity.

 

Adam Merrifield

 

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