Making Movies with Kino

Today's inexpensive camcorders can shoot great video. All you need to do a real video project is the right editing tools and, of course, practice.

Every camcorder owner would like to turn raw video into something real through editing. It does not matter how much the camcorder box brags of special effects and so forth, you still need proper editing tools. Fortunately, with today's powerful PCs, Linux and an application called Kino, you can put together your own little Hollywood studio.

Kino is nonlinear editor software. It can capture raw video, edit and re-organise it, and export the final results. With additional free, extra-cool plugins, Kino gives you all the necessary tools to make good movies.

Producing a movie usually includes making a recording with a camcorder. We don't cover this, but start with explaining how to copy a recorded raw video onto a PC with Kino. Modern camcorders communicate with PCs through the IEEE1394 interface that Apple calls FireWire; Sony prefers the name i.Link. After capturing, you can edit your raw video, adding titles and creating effects. You also may want to improve your movie by adding, mixing and replacing sounds. Kino supports all of these functions. When your movie is finished, you may want to make a DVD, so you can play it on a standalone DVD player, or even make an MPEG4. The quality of compressed movies is lower than the original raw files, so if you really want high quality and to use all the advantages of your digital camcorder, you also can copy the movie back to the DV tape with Kino and your camcorder.

Hardware Required

To send the video stream from a camcorder to a PC and back, you need an IEEE1394 interface on both sides, the PC and camcorder. Check your PC; many modern computers, including laptops, have this interface already built-in. If not, you can buy an IEEE1394 card separately from many vendors. You certainly need a digital video camcorder. Your camcorder probably is either Digital 8 (D8 for short) or MiniDV.

To connect the camcorder to the PC, you need a cable. Camcorders usually have four-pin female connectors, and PCs have six-pin connectors. Take a look at your computer (or IEEE1394 card) and buy a 4-4 or 4-6 cable if you do not have the correct cable.

Obviously, you need a PC equipped with a large capacity hard disk. You must have a lot of free space. For instance, to copy a 60-minute MiniDV tape to your computer, about 12Gb is necessary. Further work might need about 15Gb for edited frames and sounds, so 27Gb of free space is the absolute minimum for making a movie from one hour of raw video. Depending on what you want to do, you may need an extra 14Gb to export your results to a new .dv file. While capturing, the computer has to record about 3.5MB per second, so the hard disk should work as quickly as possible. Any modern Ultra-DMA drive works if configured properly.

A 1GHz processor and 128MB of memory is the absolute minimum suitable configuration for working with video. To work comfortably, you could use more memory and possibly a more powerful CPU.

Software Required

As far as software, you need Kino and the libraries it uses, but this is not everything. Kino provides only basic tools for editing and has few effects. Tim Shead and Dan Dennedy have been developing timfx, a set of Kino plugins that adds extra effects. Another plugin, called dvtitle, by Alejandro Sierra is needed for adding titles.

Because Kino requires additional programs and libraries, installing from source is not a simple task (see the on-line Resources section for Kino's home page). Kino is available as a package for several distributions, including Debian, SuSE and Fedora. Installing a package is much easier than building from source.

Kino development is progressing quickly. While writing this article, the latest version was 0.7.3. In Debian 3.0 (stable), the Kino version is 0.5.0, and Debian 3.1 (the developing branch) suggests the latest version is 0.7.3. SuSE 9.1 suggests using Kino 0.7.0. To help you keep the programs up to date we created all necessary packages. See Resources for links.

Moving Raw Video to a PC

Once the software is installed, connect your camcorder to the PC by IEEE1394, and run the command kino from any X terminal or, under KDE or GNOME, from the Alt-F2 dialog. The Kino opening window is similar to the one shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Kino's main window as seen when starting a new session.

The GUI is easy to understand. To capture video, choose the Capture tab on the right. Before starting to capture, however, it is best to check your preferences. Click on Edit→Preferences to see the default settings. Set Normalisation, Audio and Aspect Ratio according to your camcorder. Parameters depend on the camcorder you are using and the country where you bought it. The NTSC standard is used in the USA, Canada and Japan, and the PAL standard is used everywhere else. Camcorders usually have two audio modes, 16 bits and 14 bits, and the latter often is set by default. Change this to 16 bits before recording for better quality.

Captured frames can be stored in three formats, .dv and two kinds of .avi files. Generally, it does not matter which kind of format you use; we prefer to use raw DV.

After setting your preferences, press Capture, and enter a filename for the captured video without using an extension. You also can choose the Auto Split Files option so Kino saves each automatically recognised change of scene in a separate file, adding a number to the core filename. You can accept the default settings for all the rest.

Now, set your camcorder so it understands control signals. Usually this is in the Play mode, but check the manual if you are uncertain. Try controlling the camcorder with Kino by moving the tape back and forward. Try pressing the Play button in Kino. The video should start playing, and its output should be displayed in the main Kino window as well as on the camcorder screen. Notice the dropped frames field. Theoretically, this should be zero, but in practice, it's not bad if the first one or two frames are lost. If, however, the number of dropped frames keeps increasing, your hardware is too slow or misconfigured. If you cannot control the camcorder with Kino, try loading the raw1394 driver manually. As root, type modprobe raw1394.

If you have slow hardware, you also can try using dvgrab, a command-line tool for grabbing DV. This program is available from the Kino home page (see Resources). Before using it, exit your X session. Follow the directions from its man page. After grabbing the raw video, you can start Kino and load the captured files for editing as described below.

If the Play option operates correctly, you can start capturing. Go to 1–2 seconds before the position where you want to start, and click Capture. Kino starts the camcorder and captures. Pressing Stop at any time stops the capturing. Video transferred in this way appears in the scene list on the left part of the Kino screen. AutoSplit sometimes works incorrectly, but you can correct that later. Kino's window right after capture is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Kino's Window after Capturing

As soon as you finish capturing, select Save from the File menu, and save the project as a Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) file. An SMIL example is shown in Listing 1. Between the <seq> and </seq> tags, clip descriptions appear. Each one defines a simple or a complex scene. A simple scene is described by a <video...> command that points to the first and the last frames of the clip file that will be used in the movie; a complex scene is a set of simple scenes. The first frame of each scene is shown in the left panel of the Kino Storyboard.



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Kino export

fatpaw175's picture

Thanks for the article! I was finally able to get my DV exported properly with your help.

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Otto E. Tutzauer's picture

I am a Linux Journal subscriber for many years.
As I am located in Germany, I do not receive the Journal with a label
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I am certain that you will help, as this situation concerns many
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