Five tips for creating videos on Linux

You can create high quality video on the Linux platform -- you just need to know a few tricks and use the right tools for the job.

There are many reasons companies need in-house video creation: promotions, advertisement, training, blogs, you name it. If you're using the Linux platform, you don't have to fret that there aren't video tools available for you. With the right knowledge, you can create and edit videos on the Linux platform. To make your video production go as smooth as possible, I wanted to share my favorite video tips for Linux. Some are application-specific; some are more general. The result will be a much richer video experience on the Linux platform.

1: Try OpenShot Video Editor

If you're looking for the video editor with the best ratio of ease-of-use to features, look no further than OpenShot Video Editor. It's one of the fastest tools for creating video optimized for the likes of YouTube. Not only can you import your .avi, .mpeg, and other video formats (based on Ffmpeg), you can also import still images and audio. But it doesn't end there. You can create and add transitions (from within the applications) and add multiple effects to both audio and video. Once the video is complete, just export the final file to various templates (such as YouTube or high definition video).

2: Produce screencasts

For training purposes, there is no better tool than a screencast. And with a well-made screencast, you can build a superb training video with the help of OpenShot Video Editor. But what tools are best for grabbing screencasts in Linux? The best one I have found is gtk-recordmydesktop. This is a Gnome-based front-end for recordmydesktop that lets you record the entire desktop or specific windows and even follow the mouse (and zoom in on the action).

3: Choose the right video card

This should be a no-brainer, but I am often surprised at how many users are shocked at how poorly video editing works with their on-board video chipset. Generally speaking, if you are doing any sort of video editing, an on-board video chipset will not work. Sure, you will be able to create some basic videos. But if you need high quality (or very high resolution) results, make sure you are working with a machine that has a card with plenty of power and solid, supported drivers in Linux. Your best bet is to go with an ATI card, as the ATI Linux support is on par with the ATI Windows support. It is true that during the encoding phase of video creation, the majority of the load will be on the CPU and not the GPU. But for tasks like the creation of screencasts, a subpar video chipset will create subpar results.

4: Find a good encoding tool

There are many ways to encode a video. Some tools, such as OpenShot, have built-in front-ends for the popular video encoders for the Linux platform. If you prefer to encode outside an application, those tools are readily available as well. One of the best video encoders is the command-line tool mencoder. It was built from the same tools that created MPlayer, so it can work with any format MPlayer can play and any filter MPlayer can use. Mencoder is not simple, so new users might want to steer clear and find a good front-end (such as AcidRip for encoding/ripping CDs and DVDs). A typical mencoder command can look like this:

mencoder ./Video/TEST/VTS_1.VOB -o ./Video/test.avi -of avi -oac copy lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4

which would convert a .VOB to an .avi format.

5: Select the right capture card

There is a whole other world to be had with Linux in the form of MythTV and MythBuntu. This is an entire distribution created for the purpose of DVRs. With it, you can replace that crappy DVR from your cable company and use a powerful media-friendly Linux distribution. From those recorded videos, you can then take samples to add to your own videos. Here's the problem. For any video capture software, you must have the right capture card. This isn't always easy in Linux. If you're looking at digital (and who isn't now?), the only form of digital capture that MythTV currently supports is over FireWire from compatible set-top-boxes. Here is a list of the compatible firewire set-top-boxes that are supported in MythTV. If you want to go the analog route, the Hauppauge lineup of cards is well supported in Linux. Here is a list of the supported Hauppauge capture cards.

Worth the effort

Video in Linux does not have to be that challenging. Yes, you are going to come across a few more hurdles than you would in Windows, but the results will certainly be worth the time invested. In the end, you will be creating professional quality videos at nonprofessional prices with software on a very reliable platform.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.


A friend recently sent me a video she took with her phone upright. This means the video plays sideways on my screen. Thought about how to fix this... Using standard UNIX utilities, ended up ripping each frame to a raw image, rotate each image and rebuild the video. Worked well, except the video played as a narrow strip down the center of the screen. To fix the aspect ratio, appended each frame to itself horizontally and created stereo video. By now, was having lots of fun. Next I appended frames so left side played forward and right played backward (very funny result). Did the same with the left and right channel audio. Can now do different things with both video and audio streams. Changing speed, spinning, various transitions, brightening, zooming, cropping, etc, etc.. Can even make the quality of the resulting video the same as the original, at least close enough that I can???t tell the difference Its been a lot of fun! Watching movies now, I pay more attention to what is done and find there is nothing I cannot imitate and program around. Yes, it takes a lot of disk-space and to speed things up I distribute across multiple virtual machines.


Can anyone recommend something that approaches Premiere Pro, or Final Cut Pro? That's part of the problem with Linux as I see it - it's playing around at being good, but never quite reaching the pinacle (no pun intended as that's another video editing software for PC).


I made a mental note long ago to NEVER get another ATI video card because of its incompatability with Linux. All this ATI advancement happened behind my back?????? I'm shocked!


I like kdenlive - very similar to OpenShot - David


@tflynnhk: I wondered which tools you used?


For the video and audio processing I use mplayer, mencoder, sox and lame.

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