Avoid OpenShot

I spent most evenings of the last two months creating a wedding movie from about 150 single videos recorded with our camcorder. The non-linear video editor I chose was OpenShot, version 1.4.0 with libmlt 0.7.6. I still regret it, even though we finally managed to finish the video.

I'll list allsome of the bugs that we came across in the 2 months, and a better tool.

Frequent crashes

We had more than 350 crashes in the two months. The last days were so bad that you could do about 1 action and save before OpenShot crashed - e.g. add clip, save, crash. Start OpenShot again, move clip, save, preview, crash.

Transition problem

The worst bug of all, even worse than the crashes: Fade in/out glitches

When adding a transition (e.g. fade) between two video clips, now and then the target clip is fully visible at the beginning of the transition.

If that happens, the track is "tainted" and all following clip transitions will have the same problem. All of them. Every single one.

The only workaround is to add a new track and move all remaining clips onto that. For our movie, with a length of not quite an hour, we ended up with 22 tracks. Together with the frequent crashes, this was the total disaster.

Audio problems

On some scenes we added some ambient music with 25% or 30% loudness. When playing the preview (and the final rendered video), the music was missing.

The bug for that is Decreasing audio volume of a clip doesn't work and has been fixed in 2009. Unfortunately, my clock shows 2011 and the bug is there - again.

The problem here is localization (and the OpenShot developers not being aware of it): The English decimal point is a dot ".", while the German one is a comma ",". OpenShot (or MLT) expresses the volume as floating point number from 0.0 (no sound) to 1.0 (100% volume) or higher. When OpenShot generates the MLT project file, a volume lower than 100% generates a number like "0,25" with a German locale. The MLT parser expects a dot as decimal point and throws away everything it does not understand/expects, and this is the comma and everything behind.

To make it work, we had to start OpenShot in english:

$ LC_ALL=C openshot

Update: Jonathan Thomas wrote that they are aware of locales, know about the problems and are sure that the problem does not exist:

OpenShot works fine in every culture we've localized it for, including many that use commas.

I still wonder why I clearly have the problems.

General slowness

The first problem we had when beginning our project was adding many files blocks interface.

That problem is not as bad as the following: Clip/Videos properties window is too slow. To change video and audio transition settings, or the loudness of a clip, you need that window. It takes three seconds(!) to close that window, which interrupts every workflow.

And that one is not as bad as: Video preview keeps going for some time after pausing. Imagine you were running the preview and want to continue working. Pressing the pause button to stop preview only reacts 15 seconds after you pressed it. Unbearable.

On my 4 CPU system, only one CPU was utilized. Yay. Did I already tell you that OpenShot uses 100% CPU when I do nothing?? The devs say "behavior is by design"...

For short movies only

The timeline view in OpenShot is your main work tool to arrange videos, music and transitions. It has a zoom setting which allows you to determine the resolution you want to see: Let 5 seconds of the timeline fill the screen? That's ideal for fine-tuning transitions and clip alignments. Let 30 minutes fill the screen? Good to get an overview and jump quickly to a specific place.

Timeline only shows 320 times the zoom slider setting breaks everything. It means that you have the full detail zoom only for the first 10 minutes, and need to use the 12 seconds setting to be able to access minutes 50-60. With that bug, only coarse clip alignment is possible after the first 10 minutes.

Craftsmanship

So now you have 30 images and want to arrange them on the timeline sequentially, and add a fade between each of them - a classic slideshow. Sounds simple? It is - but not in OpenShot.

You have to do it manually. Add each of them on the timeline. Set the length for each of them (remember the 3 seconds properties window problem). Add a a transition for each of them.

That's why Applying "Effects" to a "Group" of clips should be implemented, but isn't yet.

Update: Jonathan Thomas replied that OpenShot has this feature; I did not read the manual properly: In the file list, select many clips and right-click them. Select "Add to timeline" and a new window will pop up. Here you can add transitions that will be applied to all of them. Unfortunately, the length is fixed to 5 seconds each picture, which is not always what I need.

Binary blobs are in

Having no batch mode would not be that bad if I could modify the project files by hand through writing some XML. Unfortunately, the OpenShot developers decided to make it as hard as possible for the users to use additional tools and use a binary project file format.

I hope that Use a text-based project file format gets implemented some day.

Update: Jonathan Thomas wrote that OpenShot saves its files in a text-based format, but unfortunately the tools I used (less, gedit and file) told me it's binary. Maybe it's because I started the project with OpenShot 1.3 - anyway, I had the problem.

Various other issues

As if the bad bugs I listed up to here are not enough, did I encounter many small usability issues. Listed in no particular order:

It's the lib!

I got a mail from Jonathan Thomas (OpenShot developer) telling me my blog article is unconstructive and that most of the problems I experienced are not OpenShot's fault but that of MLT, the video library that is currently used.

While I can understand that technically, it is a reasoning that does not make OpenShot better or more usable. OpenShot crashes frequently, be it OpenShot itself or an underlying library - I do not care. It just doesn't work.

An alternative

Some days ago I got some feedback from Mark Emerson:

I'm running on Debian and having virtually all of the major problems you describe. I'm deep into a 1-hour, 60-file project now, and getting to the "1 edit, save, crash" stage. I must decide whether to abandon my editing and start over in another video editor. What editor do you recommend?

After finishing this one movie, I ditched OpenShot and have been using Kdenlive for the next two movies without any major problems. If you are looking for a tool that let's you finish your movie, try it.

Other people

The state of video editing on Linux tells you that, two years later, most of the bugs I experienced are still there and OpenShot is alpha-quality at best.

Tomasz Borek has a totally different experience; he had no problems whatsoever in mid 2013.

Another user, this time mid 2014:

Subject: Re: Avoid OpenShot
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2014 20:55:16 -0700
Dear Sir: I just wanted to relate my problems with Openshot. I'm using v. 1.43 and didn't have any problems until I tried to open my project after saving it. Crashes the program every time. I'm using Ubuntu 14.04_64. I also tried to open my project with Mint 16-same result.

Written by Christian Weiske.

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