Open source video editing? Yes, there is such a thing!

April 11, 2013 by

Editorial -- For many broadcasters, complex nonlinear editors like Avid, Audition, Premiere, Edius and ProTools are a breeze.  But for most, these are toys we only get to play with at work -- they're too expensive to buy a copy for occasional "hobbyist" use at home.  For years, Audacity has been a popular open-source multitrack audio editor, but what about video?  There is a solution, but it's complicated -- for now.  That'll change later this year, and you can help make it happen.

An open-source video editor called OpenShot has been around since 2008, but so far, it has only been available for Linux -- and at that, only specific distributions of Linux.  When your editor attempted to add dual-boot capability to a Windows machine to try out OpenShot a few years ago, there was plenty of confusion and cursing before finally giving up altogether.  But OpenShot has continued to improve and things are looking better.

Like all open-source software, OpenShot is freely available for anyone to use.  While that's a wonderful thing, programmers like OpenShot creator Jonathan Thomas and his team have "real jobs" to pay their bills.  Programming for OpenShot is performed in their spare time, on a volunteer basis.  Any donations they receive go towards website hosting fees, legal fees and other basic expenses to keep the project running.

Now, Thomas and his team want to bring OpenShot to everyone -- not just Linux users, but Windows and Mac users, too.  (Yay, no more need to dual-boot or run the entire thing off a "Live DVD!")

Last month, Thomas announced he's been working on a new cross-platform video editing "engine" which will serve as the core of the next major version of OpenShot.  And he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 so he can devote more time to finishing up the work, with the goal of releasing the new version on all major platforms at the same time.

The main goal -- $20,000 -- has already been reached.  But with just a little less than a week left in the campaign, Thomas is still accepting more backers, as higher amounts will allow him to reach various "stretch goals" which will result in added features being made available in the finished product.

The first stretch goal -- $25,000 -- has also been reached.  When the new version of OpenShot releases later this year, it'll offer an expanded set of render formats and codecs.  As of this writing, late Wednesday night, the campaign was within $100 of the second stretch goal -- $30,000 -- which adds a resizeable and key-frameable video clip cropping tool.

Thomas promises additional features will be included as additional stretch goals are reached.  They're all detailed on the Kickstarter campaign page.  In addition to these "overall" rewards, individual backers can get personal rewards as well.  For $15, you get your name in the credits.  For $25, you can get early access to beta versions and the final release.  Higher amounts result in progressively better perks, ranging from t-shirts all the way up to asking programmers to incorporate ANY feature you want, as long as it can be accomplished within 3 weeks of programming time.

Considering the watered-down "Elements" version of Premiere runs closer to $100, a $15 Kickstarter campaign contribution is practically a steal.  I've lived with Premiere Elements for a few years because I simply can't justify the cost of the full version for myself at home.  It's just my opinion, but OpenShot looks like it has the potential to give the commercial editors a run for their money... and I'm looking forward to trying it out on my Windows machine later this year.

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