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Kdenlive Review: Best Open Source Video Editor

By Cecilia Hwung | Last Update:

Summary: Kdenlive, one of the best showcases of the open-source video editor, offers us countless features. The rewrite version released last August brought a couple of new tools to our arsenal. So is it right for you? Here comes the point of this Kdenlive review. The unstable performance on Windows, and absent of hardware acceleration are still biggies.

Kdenlive, perhaps the most robust free video editor on Linux, is a non-linear and cross-platform program that enables us to create compelling video content without paying a dime. It processes all video operations using the MLT framework. No wonder why Kdenlive is so widely supported. MLT uses many other libraries like FFmpeg, Fri0R, therefor it can edit almost all types of media that go compatible with FFmpeg including MOV, AVI, MP4, WEBM, HD, HDV, UHD videos. Benefit from those open-source projects, Kdenlive is capable of offering us many stunning video effects and transitions like blur, twist, rotate, color adjustment, and useful audio effects including normalizing, volume, balance, audio filters, etc.

Kdenlive Overview

General information

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac, FreeBSD, Linux, Ubuntu
  • Price tag: free
  • Installed package size: 77MB
  • The latest release: 20.08 install version
Interface of Kdenlive
Interface of Kdenlive
  • Features:
    • Multiple video and audio tracks
    • Enable multicam editing
    • Full functional editing toolsets with many transitions and effects
    • Enable animated keyframe for most effect
    • Versatile audio mixer
    • Screen and audio capture
    • Rich online resources of fonts, transition templates, and more
    • Themeable interface
    • Plenty of customizable shortcut keys
    • Automatically backup
    • Semi-auto 2D motion tracking

    History of Kdenlive

    Kdenlive was started by Jason Wood in 2002 and now is maintained and optimized by a small team of developers. Take a look of three of its most remarkable released:

    • Kdenlive 0.7 – Rewrite version from the K Desktop Environment 3 version to KDE Platform 4.
    • Kdenlive 15.04.0 – It becomes part of the KDE official project.
    • Kdenlive 19.04.0 – A big refactored version with 60% of its internals re-written and many new additions.

    The refactored version of Kdenlive 19.04 was released in April of 2019 with plenty of new features. One year later, Kdenlive 20.04 rolled out with many improvements in stability and processing speed, and the latest Kdenlive 20.08 rolled out on Aug further see nice optimization in the interface layout. Those updates tail with the philosophy of Kdenlive team: keep this freeware being optimized continuously for being more efficient and powerful to processing video as well as audio.

    Kdenlive Pros: What's in It for You?

    Kdenlive will require a bit of exploration first, but with a list of edit tools almost as big as many paid and pro video editors, it's worth giving it a once-over. Here what I'm gonna to do is exploring the superior features that the Kdenlive offers and then sharing my personal take.

    1. Efficient to Make Video Montage

    Kdenlive gives you everything you need for editing your videos: trim, cut, rotate, split, screen split, merge… Hence, I will focus on how efficient Kdenlive could be making montage videos rather than giving you a full list of Kdenlive features.

    In all seriousness, easy or hard is a very objective feeling, but many of my friends and I agree Kdenlive is easy to understand and adapt to right off the bat, especially considering of the bunch of editing features. First, it has a well-distributed interface that won't get you lost. It supports multi-track video editing which means we can add unlimited video and audio tracks on the timeline. This important feature surpasses many free editors like iMovie that supports only two video tracks.

    3 point edition system used to be the sole preserve of advanced trimming tools, now is implemented to Kdenlive which saves us from labor-intensive editing work. Not ever heard about 3-point editing? Well, long story short, we can use the keyboard shortcut to mark the in and out point of the original material, and then switch the section in-between to the timeline. To speak of the shortcut key, there are many available by Kdenlive. To name a few:

    • Play: Space
    • Render: Ctrl + Return
    • Mark in: I
    • Mark out: O

    Those efforts made by the Kdenlive team are making Kdenlive perfectly suited for professional video production while keeping things incredibly simple.

    2. Add Any Format of Subtitle Everywhere

    We can utilize Kdenlive to create 2D subtitles for our recordings. And, we are free to choose where we want the subtitles shown up, in what formats by tweaking the properties of align, distribute, letter/line spacing, and durations. We can add design features including color, outlines, and gradients, rotate, zoom, and other basic text editing toolkits. Sometimes we need to make the subtitle or captions be alive. To get that effect, we can take advantage of the animation and subtitle keyframe feature of Kdenlive. Moreover, Kdenlive gives us plenty of choices on the font. It allows us to use the system fonts as well as Kdenlive font templates. That is, somehow, making up the absence of 3D subtitles.

    3. Advanced Effects, Transitions

    The most alluring part for me is its support to rotoscoping a certain range of my footage so that I can apply color correction including RGB adjustment, white balance, curves, and many others for the selection without changing the rest of pictures. There should be many more occasions that you need to use rotoscoping. For example, you want to remove background from video without the green screen, highlight a certain range of your pictures, and blur someone's face, etc.

    There are a plethora of other effects that we can access on Kdenlive to polish our videos, audio, and still pictures. The majority of those effects support keyframe for keeping our footage away from abrupt or confusing shifts. And, the process is super easy with only a few clicks and drags with mouse on the timeline. As for transition, we get many built-in options as well as online templates. It's, on my personal view, is not as straightforward as other features, still good to go.

    Kdenlive Cons

    There are still chances to get improved. Let's have a look at the new drawbacks of the latest Kdenlive in the first place.

    1. Speed Effect

    I use the speed effect a lot, for keeping the pace of the audio rhythm or highlight my footage. Therefore, it is the first tool I test on this new version of Kdenlive. However, the result is a bit of disappointed. I didn't see any improvements in Kdenlive 20.x besides the addition of pitch shift option. Just like its last version, Kdenlive 20.08 gives us two methods to adjust the speed.

    a. Regular way as many other editors:

  • Right-click on the video on the timeline, click change speed and then increase or decrease by clicking the up or down arrow key. However, we are not allowed to enter the needed speed value directly like what we can do with other video editors, and the change of 1% for each click is too much less.
  • b. Another supposed to be more efficient way:

  • We can press Control on our keyboard and then drag the mouse right/left to slow down or speed up the clip. A keyboard shortcut, to some extent, does improve the efficiency. However, many of us may find this problematic, as there is no way to have a precise adjustment on speed. A slight move of our mouse may bring a big change in speed. On aside from that, when I try to add the duration, many times I failed to drag the speed to negative value. This is a buggy that a lot of users have reported.
  • 2. Auto Split Audio and Video

    In the previous versions of Kdenlive 19.x, the video and audio tracks are combined in one single track by default. The new default of Kdenlive automatically split the audio and video into two linked tracks. I actually love this update as it gives me a more flexible editing workflow, and many serious editors like Premiere Pro do it so. However, it's not friendly for beginners who are new to NLE editing apps. The workflow is easily messed up when adding effects or transitions with other tracks. In addition, we can't set disable "auto separate audio and video" as before which is the trade-off a stable performance.

    3. Effect Menu

    Most modifications on audio and video properties in Kdenlive are made with Effects. And overall, it is an optimistic update. In the older version, we have to search the target effect on the related category. Now, we can put the name of any effects on the search bar of the effect menu to get the target option from all groups. However, some effects are not activated by default, for instance, LUT and curve. Apparently, this is not friendly for many of us who are new to Kdenlive and have heard little about those hidden options.

    Some well known drawbacks of Kdenlive.

    1. Slow Response

    Kdenlive, based on the MLT framework, doesn't enable GPU acceleration or multi-core parallel image processing. What would that mean? If you happen to have a poor computer, crash, lag or chop will be the unavoidable the issue.

    Below is the CPU and RAM usage information of Premiere, Shotcut and Kdenlive when add 4 short 4K H.264 videos on them.

    CPU and Memory Usage of Kdenlive
    CPU and Memory Usage of Kdenlive

    Kdenlive needs an immense amount of Memory, and blast my CPU at 96%. In the same case, Premiere and Shotcut take much lower Memory usage thanks to the support of GPU acceleration.

    2. Unstable on Windows

    Though found in 2002, it is relatively a new app to Windows and macOS environment, which may explain why it frequently goes crashed even on a powerful PC. There are many bugs and crashes issue needs to be fixed up for getting better compatibility. This morning, it crashes 4 times when I

    • Adjust the properties of lift/gamma/gain effect to make color correction. Though it recovers my files after restart, it then again goes crashes when I simply click the target clip on the timeline. I have to start everything from the scratch.
    • Add a 21-minute MPEG-4 MP4 clip. I successfully load it to Kdenlive after retry. Be that as may, even basic editor like Windows Movie Maker never has no problem to import these types of clips correctly.

    3. Extremely limited output options.

    This is a pain as many popular formats like MKV, MOV, AVI are not supported. And it doesn't offer us any ready-made video formats for viewing on different devices or access to instantly share our outcomes on social media. The output file has to be:
    • Audio in WAV, MP3, OGG, AC3 formats
    • Video in WebM (VP8/Vorbis), MP4 (H.264/HEVC), MPEG-2, VOB, FLASH, MPEG-4, FFV1, HuffYUV, Ut Video
    • BMP, DPX, JEPG, PNG, PPM file

    Any Alternatives of Kdenlive?

    Kdenlive does offer lots of great features for both beginners and pro editors, there are still a bit of shortcomings. In case you need, I also list up some nice alternatives of Kdenlive.

    1. Easier Alternative of Kdenlive

    Firstly, you should know that easier often means fewer editing options. You can use Openshot, Shotcut, or Olive Editor. They are all simple to use and still get much of the editing work done, like cut, trim, subtitles, picture-in-picture, and, etc.

    2. Stable and Fast Alternative of Kdenlive

    If there is no plan to break your piggy bank to optimize your computer, then a fast alternative of Kdenlive should always come to programs that enable GPU acceleration and multi-core CPU image processing. Free video editors like VideoProc Vlogger, VSDC, HitFilm Express, and DaVinci Resolve are good to go. If paid software is also your option, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Studio and Cyberlink all can respond fast and stable as you need.

    Kdenlive FAQ

    1. Is Kdenlive safe?

    Kdenlive is safe, but be sure you download it from the Kdenlive official site.

    2. Is Kdenlive free?

    As an open-source program, Kdenlive is completely free.

    3. Does Kdenlive have watermark?

    No, it won't add any annoying watermark to the output media.

    4. Is Kdenlive professional?

    It is professional enough for most people. You can utilize Kdenlive to make many serious editing works, for instance, keyframe color corrections and 2D animated titles. The latest Kdnelive 20.08 even add the support of multicam editing.

    5. Does Kdenlive use GPU?

    No. The latest version of Kdenlive doesn't support GPU acceleration. Some of its earlier version enables hardware acceleration, however, come with extremely unstable performance.

    About The Author

    Cecilia Hwung is the editor-in-chief of Digiarty VideoProc. With over a decade of experience, she specializes in delivering insightful content on AI trends, video/audio editing, conversion, troubleshooting, and software reviews. Her expertise makes her a trusted ally in enhancing users' digital experiences.

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