Screenshot of an early build by goatmilk on reddit.

Some open source software, fairly or unfairly, has acquired a reputation for being “poor man’s” clones of commercial projects, outside the popular acceptance of Linux servers and Firefox browsers. Video software, worse, has typically been labeled unusable, because of the primitive state of some early projects.

But make no mistake: the real appeal of open source video software is to take a bite out of the hassle and often-sluggish performance of bigger, aging commercial apps and frameworks.

That’s a lesson many users of VLC, the stripped-down but high-performance multi-platform video player, have already learned. It’s a server. It’s a player. It’s (as of 1.0) a basic video conversion tool. It runs everywhere (Mac, Windows, Linux). In short, it’s all of the things QuickTime Player once promised to be. The need for an open alternative has become plainer with the release of QuickTime X, which looks slicker but strips out some essential features of the previous QuickTime Pro. (See discussion from frustrated users on the Apple forums.)

One thing QuickTime Pro used to do is quick-and-dirty video editing, for those times when you don’t want to fire up your whole editor. QuickTime X does that, too, but not as efficiently, not with as many export formats, and not on Linux.

Now, the VLC folks are readying a companion to their player called VLMC. It’s in a very early state, but it could be the editor you’re missing. And VLMC is part of an all-out onslaught to finally bring open video to the masses. VLC is based on FFMPEG, which is not the most developer-friendly video framework (though it is very capable and fast). But see also PiTiVi, which I mentioned as one of the things that makes me excited about 2010. If VLMC is a QuickTime Pro replacement, PiTiVi could be a (more lightweight) iMovie. And it should be friendlier to developers, too, with support for the GStreamer framework and Python coding. (At the high end, don’t forget options like Blender, which also makes use of FFMPEG. And since these apps share common plumbing, the rising tide could lift all ships.)

One note to developers — yes, JACK support is a good idea.

In short, it looks like open source developers may volunteer to step up to pick up the slack left by commercial developers – even ones that had traditionally inspired fuzzy, warm glows, like Apple. And with Linux-based tablets on the way, this could be even more important, in case Apple decides to run an iPhone-style OS on its expected tablet instead of MacOS.

See Download Squad’s Brad Linder (always a reliable source of audio and visual news), from just before the holidays:
VLC creators working on a cross-platform video editing app

Also on Lifehacker

And see the official site, which has code available now and a pre-release promised “real soon now”:

  • Joe

    Great news! I was quite shocked at how butchered QTX was… although I guess it could have been seen a mile off with the release of iMovie 8 (if I remember the version correctly).

  • mj

    yeah great news ! just donated 20 euro's before even testing the soft….

  • I've been trying to figure out a way to be able to edit video on my little Atom 1.5Ghz netbook (2GB RAM, 160GB HDD). I'm in the early planning stages for doing a walkabout around the States which would involve me camcording my adventures and editing it on the road. Unfortunately, the netbook is the only portable computer that I have.

    I already know VLC works very well for playback on the Wind, so if this VLMC thing has just enough of the right features, it might be a good option. I won't be able to do HD productions, but my Zi8 can shoot 848×480 WVGA, which would be nice and Youtube-friendly.

  • There's a donation button on http://vlmc.org/

    I just gave 10$ 🙂

  • http://www.pitivi.org/ is also really great editor for editing… check that one!

  • @vdmo: heheh, read carefully. 😉

    Time for a new PiTiVi review, actually, with these new builds…

  • Hope they put the money to good use and hire someone to look at usability. I like VLC because it plays almost anything, i tried the video conversion in VLC and it's a real mess in usability terms. There is need for need some open-source designers.

  • There is a need for a free non-linear editor with some DECENT layer compositing options! At the moment, DebugMode Wax is the only one with such things, and it's somewhat rough around the edges having not been updated in ages.

    Bookmarked PiTiVi and VLMC. But until they get multiply/add/screen/etc compositing, I'll have to stick with Wax. (Forget paying Sony £300+ for Vegas for this one feature…)

  • Peter Kirn

    @Edwin: Yeah, I tend to agree. You tried 1.0, yeah?
    I think they may have actually overthought it in 1.0; they made it dead-simple to use a preset and nearly impossible to customize.<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>

  • Morph

    Looks good, will definately be following this project

  • We really need a basic open source video editor, with layers!
    I' ve been waiting for Jahshaka to grow up, but…
    @ Darren: Pinnacle Studio could work. I've used a lot Ulead Mediastudio, fast and poweful. But maybe their last versions have grown too much. I want small and fast applications, like Reaper.

  • Peter Kirn

    Yeah, I wouldn't mind a proprietary editor, even, if it worked properly. I tried Pinnacle's new thing but couldn't get it operating reliably. Vegas is still my main proprietary pick, and in its cheaper versions, it's still basically the same app (especially if you BYO codecs).
    Anyway, on the open source side, Blender can certainly do layers (well beyond "basic"). And I believe it's on the PiTiVi roadmap. Plus, if they really do what they're intending, it should be easier than before for someone saying ("I wish my editor did this; I'll build my own…) — it's the video plumbing that's the insanely tough part of that equation. We'll see…<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>

  • Great thing, as always, with more options. The open-source NLEs have been thin on the ground and IMO we need the basic as well as the advanced. This is a good start.
    Blender's sequence editor has long been really quirky – I've been using iMovie and QT Pro for the little editing I've needed since Blender's is so weird. Especially sound is a pain.
    I look forward to the time when the current open movie moves to the editing stage, since the talented devs + UI designers will then hopefully give Blender's NLE part some love. (Hopefully they can decide on a sound library that works for everyone as well). The really exciting part of that is that it'll be 100% Python scriptable.
    In the mean time this + PiTiVi look nice additions to things like VirtualDub and AVISynth.