Video cameras, computers with web cams and screen-capture software, and video-capable mobile phones now make it possible for a vastly wider group than ever before to capture raw video footage -- of political events, computer software demonstrations, a concert, a trip to Iceland, your cats, or anything else under the sun conceivably worth preserving and presenting in video. 20 minutes spent on YouTube, or any other social media platform, should convince you of this explosion in videography in the present digital era.
However, raw video footage is very often less than useful or effective in its immediately-captured form; it typically needs to be (or could benefit from being) edited. Raw segments can be shortened, excerpted or joined together with appropriate transitions; opening titles and captions can be added; often a voiceover narration or a musical track is appropriate for information or atmosphere. When available, shots from different perspectives can be intercut, as in classic film and TV production. Video clips from entirely separate sources can be intercut to help make a point or tell a story. And beyond this there is a galaxy of 'effects' and enhancements that can be applied to video footage, just as we have come to expect in editing digital still photos with tools like Photoshop. Video or motion-picture editing used to be the domain solely of professionals, a highly labor- and skill-intensive craft that typically entailed extensive equipment and training; and in its more sophisticated forms video editing is still a high-skill professional occupation. But the good news is that the basics (and even many advanced aspects) of video editing are now accessible to everyone, thanks to an abundance of digital video editors that are relatively easy to use, and can run on relatively lightweight home computers. Best of all, many of these editing tools are free and a number are open-source.
In this guide, we will learn the basics of video editing using one particular open-source software tool, Shotcut, which is available for free download at Shotcut.org. Originally written (like much open-source software) for Linux, Shotcut now runs equally well on Windows and Mac OS.
If you have read this far, you may already have decided that Shotcut is the best video editor for your own needs, or is at least worth checking out. For our part, we did a fair amount of research into current 'best-free-video-editor' reviews from various established tech-review sites, and concluded that Shotcut well worth the effort to document in this way. Among the chief considerations here were:
With those considerations in mind, this guide will be an introduction to Shotcut in particular as well as the basics of video editing more generally, and all tutorials here will make use of Shotcut software, for the most part running on Windows, in its most recent general release as of this writing (Shotcut 18.01.x, ie the first version released in 2018).
This manual offers a beginner (or perhaps beginner-to-intermediate) guide to using Shotcut for video editing. We have neither the space, time nor expertise to exhaustively examine all of the more advanced features of this software (which are multiplied by the incredibly wide range of video and audio file formats this tool is capable of importing and exporting). Our goal is to get you started. Moreover, while this manual borrows at times from the structure of the Floss Kdenlive manual noted above, where appropriate, we do not intend to offer, even to the extent that they do, a general guide to the wider world of video making as such [Beyond the Kdenlive manual, there is also a separate Floss Manual devoted to videography as such, at en.flossmanuals.net/video-production]. Some of our how-to examples will focus on the specific use case of editing video tutorials, such as tutorials for using other software. We believe that video tutorials, which can now be found extensively at many software developers' own sites as well as 'in the wild' on YouTube, are one of the more important and useful practical applications of the new digital videography. Indeed, this manual itself could as easily have been done as a video tutorial series, but we recognize that many users are still more comfortable with a written text-and-screenshot reference, as a jumping-off point in using a new tool like Shotcut. This guide will also walk through the features of the Shotcut UI in a systematic and referenceable way that is not really possible in video. But the general editing techniques that can make a how-to video more watchable and useful will also apply to most other uses of video, and we will be sure to include Iceland-trip and perhaps cat-video examples as well. We would also add that how-to tutorials themselves need not be restricted to software tools; on YouTube one can find outstanding tutorials on the basics of playing various musical instruments, home and auto repair, making pop-up greeting cards, and really any step-by-step process that can be captured in video and usefully shared with others. And, of course, many of these same basic video-editing techniques would apply as well to the use of video for any other kind of 'story-telling' as well, including documentary and purely fictional stories.
You will notice in the Table of Contents that this guide is divided into several main sections. The present Introductory section will continue with a chapter offering a brief history of video editing, as a basis for understanding the editing operations explored later. The next section, "Getting Started with Shotcut", begins with a guide to installing Shotcut on different operating systems, then offers a systematic tour of the Shotcut user interface, with a walk-through of the principal panels or windows of the UI with their various mouse-based or hot-key controls. It is probably useful to get this basic orientation to the UI layout of Shotcut to start with, particularly as it differs in some respects from layouts that might be more familar, such as Windows Movie Maker or Adobe authoring products. We then offer a series of 'How-To' chapters focusing on specific editing operations, step by step with instructions and screenshots. Some readers may prefer to dive directly into these latter chapters, as a way of figuring out the UI as they need to use it. This section includes only some fairly basic operations. In the next section, "Taking It Further," we will offer how-to chapters on some more advanced operations in video editing. This overall organization of the manual is designed to allow users to move directly to whatever aspect of Shotcut they need or want to learn about.
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