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Guide to Open Source Video Editing using Kdenlive

Create a Video Mash Up

A mash up is a way of taking multiple video, audio and often stills files and mixing them up. It often takes 'found footage' obtained from the Internet and mixes up the contents to create something altogether new . Mash Ups are usually short and can be a way of giving a quick overview of a subject inviting people to find out more from other sources. 

A mash up videos may also use a lot of special effects to bring normal video footage to life. Guerrilla News Network's, Stephan Marshal says:

We use the “video scratch technique” which comes from the hip-hop style of moving the record back and forth... We also use a lot of compositing effects, we shrink footage (often footage that may be poorly shot, or looks worn out) and we frame it with an animated template around it.


By adapting media to make it unusual, reverent and 'street level' it is possible to target audiences that are traditionally hard to reach.

Gathering Footage and Legal Issues

Getting copyright clearance on all footage used can be time consuming and expensive. You may be able to distribute your film anonymously,  youcan benefit from 'fair use' or 'fair dealing' provisions of copyright law.1 If your organisation would find it difficult to officially produce a mash up video, it may suit a partnership with a smaller media production group.

Also, Creative Commons video and audio encourage this kind of re-use. There is a search engine to allow you search for CC work here - http://search.creativecommons.org

You may also find useful archive footage at http://archive.org.

Structuring a Mash Up

Because of the nature of a mash up, any rules that exist are there to be broken. Playing around with existing conventions and alter them to make your work compelling. You can use this structure as a simple base from which to deviate from.

Choosing your content

Here are some quick tips on choosing your content.

  • Use an instrumental audio track as an audio base with a flavour of track which suits your message.
  • Instrumental Hip Hop, down-tempo jazz or acoustic music can work well if you are using spoken soundbites over the top
  • Choose a series of interviews which illustrate the point you are trying to make and match the tone of your interviews to overall feel of the project
  • Grab popular clips: bloopers, news reports, behind the scenes stuff to act as a contrast to more serious clips.
  • Find attractive background video which could be related in subject or a creative contrast. Remove its audio and intersperse this with other video.

A mash up project will contain many many files. Here is a screen shot of a simplified project that we can use to explain some of the structure of a mash up. 

Assemble your music and  soundbites in order

In the example below we use our main narrative of soundbites on Video 1 and Audio 1, and a musical instrumental track on Audio 2. All other audio and video, will revolve around this main structure.

Get the timing of your main elements in place first and then start adding more mash up techniques.

Add Video Mash Up Techniques

The following techniques are often used in mash-ups to achieve various effects. Try them out with your footage.

Matching audio to visuals

With visuals you may be able to to find audio which matches up to your project. Musical mash ups often use acapella vocals to add to the mix. Use your skills to edit, speed up and slow down footage manipulating it to make people appear to be singing. Remove the audio of the original video by selecting the audio and video clip and clicking Ungroup Clips

You are now able to select just the audio of the clip and press delete to clear it. In the screenshot below we can see a Video track of someone talking in Video 2, an instrumental track in Audio 1 and an accapella track in Audio 2.

Zoom in very closely to your timeline and to go forward and backwards to see when your character is opening and closing their mouth. Match the vocals to that movement. You can see that the accapella vocal here is broken up into two, in order to match it better to when the subject opens and closes his mouth.

We can match up the audio and video more accurately if we alter the speed of the video. In the screen shot below we slow down the video clip to stretch it to match the singing track.


Changing the speed of video clips

Speeding up and slowing down footage can also dramatically effect how the footage is perceived by your audience. Slowing down footage can give a thoughtful quality to footage and speeding up footage can make it seem comical or frantic. 

Frame-in-frame compositing

To revitalize interview footage you can use frame in frame techniques, laying talking head footage over different backgrounds and effects. Use the Pan and Zoom effect to reduce the size of your original footage.

In the example we can see a video track of moving clouds on the Video 2 Track and an interview on Video 1 Track. The key technology in use here is called compositing.

We can make the frame look better by adding a colour border which can be done by adding a colour clip or a video layer as a border. 

This gives a flavour of what is possible when using compositing and many different layers of video, images and other tricks.

Zooming and Moving Footage

Changing the frame size of footage and moving it around the screen is a common technique. It also uses the technique of compositing but adds movement. In Kdenlive you would use the Pan and Zoom effect and keyframes to move video and still around.

Quick Cutting of Soundbites and Jump Cuts

In a mash up you will often have very short sound bites rapidly assembled one after the other. Often this will have some kind of comic effect. Maybe all the people speaking are saying nearly exactly the same thing. Or they could be finishing off each others sentences, giving the illusion of a narrative even if it has been pieced together by the editor. There are some examples here. 2 

Recreating known Media Conventions

You can draw on the associations of your audience by recreating the some of the 'looks' of mainstream media.

Take for example a still from news channel. You can create similar looking titles by importing images that you create in GIMP or similar programmes.

This process can be time consuming, however, you can also achieve a reasonably good effect quite quickly with blocks of colour and titles instead. Add gradients to the blocks to make them look more professional. 

Effects, transitions and more effects

While in documentaries less is more when it comes to effects, in Mash Ups more is more! Effects, effects and more effects! The intention is to keep the viewer interested.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use^
  2. For examples of rapid cuttings and completing other people's sentences - see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HhP23M53Yc^

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