The quest for sustainable free/libre non-linear video editors

(Pat David) #1

The inimitable @prokoudine writes up another great editorial about the state of Free non-linear video editors, and what we might do to take action.

Libre Graphics World: The quest for a sustainable free/libre non-linear video editors

This coincides nicely with this rather powerful point made by @ryangorley on twitter recently:

Also, Alex links this wonderful image on the history of projects:

(Mica) #2

Glad you decided to post this!

How is the sustainability of photographic software?

(Elle Stone) #3

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself since the day I switched to Linux, back around 2007. Photography software on Linux has made amazing leaps in the last ten years. But the more I learn about how free/libre software development actually happens, and the very small number of developers in so many key projects, and the trend towards more end users and relatively fewer devs, the more worried I get.

(Stefan Schmitz) #4

I started with KINO in 2007 (?), but in 2011 I got one of those helmet-cams and KINO couldn’t do HD, so I swung over to OpenShot. A painful experience in the beginning - you had to save every few seconds, because the program crashed all the time. I also tried Cinelerra; more options, more complications - and not the least bit more stable…

Today OpenShot works - at least for my small action-cam projects. The only thing I miss is an easy subtitle function. It’s a pain in the ass the way it’s done today.

The latest version is 2.4 (2018). I don’t really understand why they show OpenShot fading out in the graphic here above …


As Linux video editors go, I’ve tried most of them. In my opinion, Kdenlive is the most versatile and stable. It’s far from perfect, but it gets the job done quickly and with very good quality.

My favorite FOSS video editor/compositor is Aviutl. Unfortunately it’s a Windows program and I use it in a Win7 VM when I need to make special effects.


Funding of FOSS project is directly related to their enterprise-ness. Linux kernel and server software are too important for the big business to not get adequate funding.

(Elle Stone) #7

Hmm, apparently not always true per this link provided by @ggbutcher:


They found some funding for OpenSSL after the Heartbleed problem, didn’t they?

(Elle Stone) #9

See the last paragraph on the second page of the article.

(Glenn Butcher) #10

Yes, this one leaves me unsettled, because a good majority of the critical infrastructure relies on NTP. There are some initiatives to replace it, but that code gets used in a LOT of interesting places…


The graphic is old; goes up to 2014 only. I recall OpenShot’s status being uncertain at one point.

(Alex Prokoudine) #12

Stop making me google for words I don’t know! :slight_smile:

Like you don’t know! :slight_smile:

digiKam is mostly worked on by Gilles (Marcel Wiesweg, Andi Clemens, and a few others all left before 2015).

darktable has several major contributors, so it’s fine.

RawTherapee is also OK with at least 4 very active contributors and several more people helping out.

Hugin is effed, being a one-man show by Thomas these past several years.

LuminanceHDR is lucky to now have Ingo in the gig, otherwise Franco would be all alone as well.

And other projects are mostly single-person stuff.

As far as I can tell, none of them rely on donations, and darktable, for one, refuses accepting donations.

Hell, Pablo accumulated ca. $3k at some point sent for his work on Hugin and he didn’t know what to do with it :slight_smile: Actually, his last commit in the project was removing donation link from menu.

Yeah, Jonathan disappeared for almost a year after the Kickstarter and initial development news re 2.0 and before releasing 2.0 beta.

(Alex Prokoudine) #13

Mhm, that’s quite arguable, especially when we are talking about digital media production.

Neither Blender Foundation, nor Krita Foundation, nor Ardour are enterprises. They aren’t even LLCs.

LibRaw, Shotcut, and OpenShot are LLCs.

(Examples are just off the top of my head.)

(Boris Hajdukovic) #14

Excellent article @prokoudine !

I would like to refer to the last paragraph:

And the other conversation is whether funding development of any free/libre NLE is realistic at all. Consider this. The most any crowdfunding effort got in terms of the number of supporters is OpenShot and its 1,463 backers. However, at the minute of publishing this article, 6,148 people voted for the Adobe Premiere port to Linux (voted, not paid for, mind you).

The question why so many Linux users vote for porting Adobe Premiere to linux instead of getting involved in supporting a free alternative is an interesting one.

I belong to one of the countless “ordinary” users who at a certain point was forced to free himself from the constraints of proprietary enslavement.

When I switched to linux years ago, there was no substitute for video editing in the world of free software, not because I had very high expectations of having an equivalent product to Adobe Premiere, but because free software alternatives lacked fundamental functionality and stability.

I remember when I worked on a school project and convinced school principals to install Kdnlive and Openshot on their school computers, and had to permanently force students to save their montages on a regular basis while working, because the data loss was unavoidable after frequent crashes.

You can imagine how difficult it was to convince the school management about the advantages of free software and to draw attention to the difficulty that free software is confronted with, if the tasks could only be done by detours and with the greatest effort.

So, from the perspective of the school management, there is no option to ask about the alternative. They have neither the expertise or manpower nor the time to develop free alternatives. However, they have a budget to pay for annual licenses for software that is ready for the task.

Now the question is, what would be necessary that these funds somehow flow into the development of free software?

To be honest - and the article by Alex shows this very clearly - I don’t know what I could recommend to the school management if they were willing to invest in free video editing software.

In my opinion, next to a very broad ecosystem (which can be seen very well from the above graphic), there is still a big discrepancy between the views of developers and users on what should happen to the project when it has reached critical mass to become a possible competitor for established proprietary products and be perceived accordingly by the wider public.

On one side many developers are afraid of losing their “playground” and being forced to take on an additional responsibility, which requires appropriate effort, knowledge and time that they don’t have at their disposal.

On the other hand, we have many potential users who have similar difficulties, not too much knowledge, time and willingness to get involved in software projects, but are willing to invest money in software with which they can perform their tasks with expectations of how the software should work.

What free software needs are people like Ton Roosendaal for Blender, who have authority, competence and enthusiasm to connect these two sides.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a person, it can also be an instance that is switched between the developers and the users.

(Stefan Schmitz) #15

You got that to the point, Boris.

I am no programmer, I am a user. I understand that free software is still made by humans who invest time and energy. Therefore I decided a few years ago that I will define a “software budget”, even if I could get away without it.

My wife, daughter and me use Linux and free software on three laptops here, so we decided that we will contribute 300.- Euro per year +/- 100.-€ per person). On my side that’s two forums (each +/-25.-€), the GIMP and some small stuff. OpenShot was high on my daughter’s list, because she uses it a lot more than I do.

I do NOT wish to see any Adobe program ported to Linux, I am happy with the alternative solutions we have, and I rather wish that we support the ecosystem as it is.

(darix) #16

I think he meant “how relevant are those tools for other people’s businesses”

e.g. blender might get some investments (money or own dev resources) from some of the commercial users of it, because they need things for their work.

(darix) #17

this might be relevant to the discussion

(darix) #18

last but not least … you are not limited to contributing money to opensource projects if you are not a developer.

  1. Do tutorials or help with the documentation. Many of the things provided by devs might be biased by internal knowledge and get too technical for many users. Help to get the user perspective into the documentation. Or translate it to your native language. Not all potential users might speak English.
  2. provide show cases.

So we could extend Ryan’s message about $1 per month to … invest lets say 4h per month to provide something from your expertise for the opensource community.

(Alex Prokoudine) #19

One thing I noticed while working on that NLE post is that it’s extremely difficult to find short clips presenting the software. The Shotcut video I ended up using was probably the closest to what I had in mind: an actual user going through basic operations and showing the result, and not using 30-40 minutes of video time to do that.

Just sitting down and doing a quick feature-by-feature review for a new version would be a lot of help to promote a video editor of your choice. Nathan Lovato (Blender Power Sequencer) is good at that, but he’s all about presentation, he makes videos hand over fist for his Godot courses, it’s part of his DNA by now.

I’m actually thinking of doing a post that explains the basics of making a good video on a project, with good/ugly references and whatnot. Would it be of any actual help?

(darix) #20

of course!