Open source video solutions

Today I'm going to do something a bit different. For once, the tables are turned and I'm asking a question, rather than providing an answer.

You may or may not know that since our 2.0 relaunch back in October last year, we've supported video to accompany posts. You might have seen this one I did about Moodle, or Jacob's excellent look at PiTiVi.

One of the things I've learnt is that producing videos on a Linux system is, well, tough. The set-up I personally use at the moment isn't a very good one, and (bad Peter) it involves some non-free software as part of the process too.

Let me explain. First of all, I use Istanbul to record the screen and dump it to an Ogg Theora video file. After that, it is transcoded to MPEG through ffmpeg and moved over to my Mac, where I edit and record the audio separately in iMovie 06. Once the editing and audio is done, I export it out through iMovie to H.264, and then use ffmpeg to transcode it back to the final versions - Ogg Theora and Flash Video for the embedded player.

As you can see, that workflow is seriously flawed in a number of ways. It involves too much needless transcoding, which hurts video quality badly. On top of that, it's a bit ridiculous to have to cart the files around between two different machines and two different platforms to get the process done.

I'd like to replace this way of doing things with a new workflow, based on free and open source software if at all possible, and ideally cutting the Mac out of the picture entirely so everything can be dealt with swiftly and easily on one Linux machine.

So here I throw it out to you. Has anyone out there had experience with FOSS-based Linux screen capture and does anyone have any ideas on how I could rework the way I do things to make this better? Even if it involves radically changing the set of tools I am using, I am open to any ideas that could solve the problem.

For a quick reference, all we need is the ability to:

  • Record 640x480 screen capture at a reasonable frame rate (15 fps or so).
  • Edit the video after production to cut out unnecessary parts etc.
  • Record audio separately and splice in at the post-production stage.
  • Export out to 640x480 Ogg Theora with Vorbis audio and 320x240 FLV/64kbps MP3 audio.

Thanks in advance for any comments and suggestions!

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold -

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: Open source video solutions

  1. Bart (guest)

    # Posted on 21 February 2008 at 07:24 PM

    Hi, For capturing video, from a camera, I use Kino. There also is Cinelerra for editing. I've never tried capturing with it because I've heard it is quite buggy in that aspect. Cinelerra is very capable of editing video, using several tracks, audio- and video files seperatly. I think you can record audio with it too. Kdenlive is another promissing project, but it's still in its earlier stages.

    I strongly suggest to try these out.

  2. Jacob (guest)

    # Posted on 22 February 2008 at 01:06 AM

    Cinelerra is definitely the most feature packed - it just is a bit difficult to get started with. I'm not a videophile, but it does look like it can do some pretty cool stuff.

  3. # Posted on 23 February 2008 at 01:36 AM

    [...] Upfold made a very valid point about the state of Linux video editing: So here I throw it out to you. Has anyone out there had [...]

  4. heathenx (guest)

    # Posted on 23 February 2008 at 02:50 AM


    I can can help you in this area. I make screencasts in Linux (openSUSE and Ubuntu) to produce Inkscape tutorials. Been doing it for over a year now.

    Please email me because I would like to talk with you. You can do everything that you want to do right in Linux, all with free and open-source tools.

    I just produced some screencasts on this very thing over at this week. Just search for heathenx and you'll the first two in my series. We'll be adding an audacity and Avidemux screencast real soon.


  5. John Doe (guest)

    # Posted on 23 February 2008 at 07:55 AM

    You should use the HuffYUV codec as soon as you can in the process because it is losless.

  6. Peter (guest)

    # Posted on 23 February 2008 at 08:22 AM

    Thanks for everyone's feedback on this issue, I'll be looking into the solutions that people have mentioned.

  7. orvils (guest)

    # Posted on 25 February 2008 at 06:54 AM

    For video capture / screencast recording there is one really great program - recordmydesktop. (gtk-recordmydesktop package to get nice user interface.)

    I have used it a bit and it seems fine. It records screen and audio and the resulting ogg file can be ffmpeg'ed to whatever you need.

  8. # Posted on 26 February 2008 at 05:52 PM

    [...] a test of a new video workflow I’m using, which has been put together thanks to feedback on this post and other discussions. Special thanks to Heathenx for his extensive help so far. Like this [...]

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