Video editing with Shotcut

Colorful Daisy Chain

Shotcut is not just designed for editing a single clip; you can also use it to compile several clips into a longer movie. To begin, you create a list, which you add to by clicking on the Playlist icon in the toolbar. (Alternatively, you can select View | Playlist.) The list displaces the Properties pane on the left side of the window (Figure 6). From now on, you can toggle between the two via the tabs at the bottom left.

Figure 6: Combine video clips in the Playlist pane.

The playlist initially only shows help text. To apply previously edited videos, including any effects you have added, to the list, click the button with the plus button below the playlist. The columns show the video's file name and run time.

Now select File | Open to open another video, edit it, then add it to the Playlist by again pressing the plus button. The complete movie now comprises two clips (Figure 7). Shotcut plays the clips from the top down.

Figure 7: The complete film now consists of two video clips in the Playlist. Also note the marks on the timeline.

In the timeline below the preview, Shotcut shows numbers that tell you when the video starts in the overall composition. If you double-click on a video in the preview, Shotcut jumps to its beginning. To change the order of the videos, just drag and drop them to a new position in Playlist.

If it turns out that a movie needs some color grading later on, or you want to edit it in some other way, you need to select it first by clicking the entry in the Playlist. Click the menu button (with the three horizontal lines) at the bottom of the Playlist, and select Open as Clip from the context menu.

In the preview, you again only see the video, and you can edit it as necessary. When you are finished editing, click the menu button again and choose Update. The entire movie appears again in the Preview after double-clicking one of the videos in the Playlist.

Once you have compiled the complete movie, at the latest, you will want to save your work. To do this, press the Save icon in the toolbar (or File | Save in the menubar). Shotcut only saves the Playlist and all the settings; in other words, make sure you do not simply delete your video files. In the version I used, however, the save feature was not fully functional: The software steadfastly refused to save the settings.


To output the finished movie, choose View | Encode. On the right side of the window, you will now see the Encode section (Figure 8). Under Presets, select the desired video format. If you want to share the movie on the web, choose the H.264 Main Profile. If you want to burn it onto a DVD, select an entry that starts with DVD. The correct choice depends on the screen size of the material. If you recorded the movie in widescreen format, select DVD (dv_ntsc_wide) or DVD (dv_pal_wide); for the 4:3 format, select DVD (dv_ntsc) or DVD (dv_pal). For experts, the tabs in the bottom half of the sidebar provide more options; however, the presets are usually fine.

Figure 8: After editing, the window is now more cluttered: On the right side are all the settings to output the movie.

Finally, to generate the movie, click Encode File. Once you have entered a file name, Shotcut puts the Jobs pane in the sidebar on the right with an entry for your movie. If, after a few seconds, no percentages appear to the right of the entry (i.e., the program has not started to encode), right-click the entry and select Start.

How long the software takes to create the file depends on the speed of your computer, the size of the file, and the selected effects. It might be necessary to leave the computer running overnight to complete the task. Shotcut does not offer any options for burning the finished file onto a DVD, but you can use a program like Bombono DVD [3] for this.


When you work with Shotcut, you quickly notice that the development work is not yet complete, so it's a good idea to save your projects frequently. That said, the program is fine for editing smaller videos, adding effects, and exporting movies.

The interface might not be quite as intuitive and clear as the venerable Kino. Tabs with many settings and options are likely to put off newcomers, and Shotcut does not offer enough features for advanced users.

If you find the timeline in OpenShot too complicated and just want to edit a short video quickly, or if you still hark back to the legacy Kino, you might want to keep an eye on how Shotcut develops. In future versions, the developer will be looking to add more filters, a multitrack editor, and transitions. Shotcut just might become the multitool for movie fans.

The Author

Tim Schürmann is a freelance computer scientist and author of many books and articles on practical IT topics.

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