Video Production 101: Making a Movie with Kdenlive

With an inexpensive camera and a Linux system, you can be producer, director, editor and even the grip of your next blockbuster.
The Shoot

The coffeehouse is a single room with good acoustics and lighting that poses no special problems for a video recording. Coffee Amici also has an excellent in-house sound system manned by co-owner Craig Allen, so I knew the original sound source would be well balanced. I planned to perform with most of the students, so I needed to position the camcorder where I could operate it remotely. I also needed to get a good shot of the performance area and a good audio level. Fortunately, I had no problems with my setup, and the shoot was trouble-free.

Incidentally, I learned that the camera's battery will last just long enough to record a complete 60-minute miniDV tape. The student shows routinely last at least that long and often longer. Wherever possible, I plan to use the camcorder's power supply, but now I know how long I can expect the battery to perform before I need to switch it out for a recharge.

The Transfer

Kdenlive records real-time video over a FireWire connection or from a Video4Linux (V4L)-compliant Webcam. The program also utilizes the RecordMyDesktop software for capturing on-screen actions, such as mouse movements, window placement, program controls and so forth. I used Kdenlive's Record Monitor panel (Figure 3) to transfer the videotape recording to my computer. The panel provides full transport control of my camcorder, and I quickly searched for and found the sections I wanted to transfer to disc. I clicked on the Record control when I wanted to transfer the video, and I clicked it off until the video reached the next interesting point.

Figure 3. Kdenlive's Record Monitor Panel

When I was finished with each transfer, Kdenlive asked if I wanted to import the resulting DV file. I said yes, and my transferred video appeared in the Kdenlive Clip list. When my clip collection was complete, my project was ready for the editing stage.

Into the Editing Room

I dragged and dropped my clips along the timeline in the multitrack display. I wasn't concerned with their accurate placement yet, because I had three main jobs to do first as an editor:

  • Trim excess footage.

  • Add audio and video fades to the start and end of each clip.

  • Create title clips to introduce each performance clip.

Kdenlive's Scissor tool made quick work of the excess footage. The fade-ins and fade-outs are drag-and-drop effects with user-definable lengths and auto-sync between the audio and video fades, a handy default action. The material had no need for color correction or other repair, so I proceeded to create my title clips.

The name and length of the title clip can be redefined at will, and a titling editor is provided for adding text, images and background colors to the clip. The editor has a number of amenities, including some handy positioning tools and animation effects. However, I intended to use the title clips only for introducing each performer's footage, so I kept things simple again with a yellow text against a basic black background.

After editing my title clips, I could then drag and drop them as needed. Thanks to Kdenlive's Snap function, they aligned themselves instantly when I placed them near their respective footage, yet another friendly default action. I added fades to those clips too, and I was effectively done in the edit room.

Configuring the Output

Kdenlive's Render button opens a dialog for preparing your movie for its eventual output format (Figure 4). I selected the DVD option from the Destination list, named the output VOB file, and defined the format as NTSC. I set the encoder for a 2-pass rendering to a widescreen display, ticked the option to open the DVD Wizard after rendering, and clicked the Render To File command. Next I made some coffee (it seemed the appropriate thing to do) while Kdenlive did the rest.

Figure 4. Kdenlive Render Dialog

Making the Disc

The DVD Wizard (Figure 5) stepped me through the process of preparing an ISO image to burn to disc. I selected my files, defined the disc chapters and made a basic menu. The menu builder can set the background to a color, an image or a video file. I selected an image of the coffeeshop at night and added a text overlay of menu items. Each item is linked to a particular target—that is, one of the chapters defined during the Wizard's configuration. The whole process was uncomplicated enough to bring me quickly to the final stage of creating the DVD image. I clicked on the Create ISO Image and again let Kdenlive do the rest while I finished that coffee I brewed earlier.

Figure 5. Kdenlive's DVD Wizard

The ISO image creation dialog includes an option to start a disc-burning program when the image is ready. I selected the K3B option and followed that program's instructions until I had successfully burned the number of discs I needed. Some discs were specially prepared media for use in my laptop's Lightscribe drive. Templates for making detailed CD/DVD labels are available for various Linux graphics programs, and the Lightscribe technology will burn the label graphics directly to the surface of the special discs, giving them a professional appearance.

Simplicity and ease were my prime directives throughout this project, so when I wanted to make inserts for the disc jewel cases, I availed myself of the services of Avinash Chopde's cdlabelgen, an on-line insert creation utility. I selected a background, added titles, songlists and credits, and saved the output as a PDF file to be printed as needed (Figure 6).

Figure 6. A CD Insert Produced by cdlabelgen


Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.


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Dave Phillips's picture

Since this article was published Kdenlive has reached version 0.7.8 and is better than ever. Also, if anyone would like to view some of the performers from the shows, here are a couple of links :

Sam Strathman plays Little Wing :

Paige Trafton sings Big Black Horse :

Best regards,

Dave Phillips

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.