First look at Lightworks beta for Linux

First look at Lightworks beta for Linux

If the story of making Lightworks a free application taught us anything, it's patience. After three years it's finally possible to download and run the awards-winning non-linear video editor on Linux, for free.

First of all, let's be honest. If you are a digital filmmaker whose videos proudly wear "Staff pick" badge on Vimeo, the only reason you haven't tried Lightworks yet is either because open beta for Mac is still to be released, or because you were too busy making the human race not such a complete waste. So this quick review is targeted at the minority of us who sit on Linux and wonder if Lightworks would improve our workflow.

Any bugs mentioned below should be understood as weird glitches that will be eradicated between now and the final release, whenever one happens. There's always a possibility of design limitations, of course, but that's between you and the bug tracker.

Basics

The first thing you will notice is that Lightworks creates its own fullscreen desktop, which might bring you back the fond memories of StarOffice, should you have any.

A lot of floating windows can be pinned to their position or collapsed and moved out of the way. Any part of a window's border can be grabbed to move the whole window, no need to go for caption. Right-click menus also work as windows and can be pinned. Within a single project you can switch between rooms to work on different things.

As for the rest, Lightworks operates on pretty common concepts like tracks, keyframes, or effects. Some differences, however, are striking.

In Lightworks you do not save projects. Everything you do is automatically saved to a database. For that very reason I haven't lost a single bit of edits in those few cases Lightworks actually crashed. A lot of desktop applications would benefit from this approach.

The application also has a concept of edits which you can treat as scenes. Inside a single project you can create multiple edits.

Cutting

If you are coming with the background of using simpler non-linear editors like Kdenlive or OpenShot, cutting in Lightworks is going to take some getting used to.

The application uses the so called 4-point editing. Basically, if you need to fill part of footage on timeline with another clip, you choose in and out points in the timeline (I and O shortcuts respectively):

then in and out points in the clip:

then click the Replace button in the timeline window:

Additionally you can press:

  • Delete, to remove the in/out section and move the rest to the left to fill the gap;
  • Remove, to remove the in/out section and keep the gap.

Here's e.g. what Remove does:

The timeline is pretty slick. There are tons of useful things, including little features like the configurable captions for clips (names, reels, descriptions, durations).

Color grading and effects

This part of Lightworks, and the way effects work in general, is among things I enjoyed most. Personally, I'm not into effects as such. Give me 3-way color tool, simple blends and fades, and I'm a happy puppy (admittedly, an overgrown human-shaped one). What I care about is how easily I can manipulate them.

The nice bit about Lightworks is that not only that effects can be stacked and bypassed. You also get internal node compositing, and you can save your composition for further use.

Color adjustment tools are all implemented as effects and are keyframeable. Apart from the usual 3-way grading tools (working in various color spaces) there's also Selective Correction effect which is great for scenarios like affecting just skin tones.

Effects also come in handy when you need to place a PNG file on top of a video track (which is what I do a lot in Blender VSE). Since Lightworks doesn't support alpha channel in PNG, you need to apply Blend effect. The automatically chosen “In Front” method works like a charm, an you can use keyframes for opacity slider to control transparency of your PNG file over time.

Since all the calculations are made in real time, scrolling a complex project would give your workstation tons of hiccups. This is where rendering effects helps a lot. The idea is quite similar to the freezing of tracks in a DAW: you just render all effects into a track non-destructively, which eliminates the need for Lightworks to recalculate all fades and suchlike live.

A simple way to “unfreeze” is to right-click on a clip and choose Reconfigure. This will make the effects stack for the clip editable again.

Keyframing

Lightworks has a rather sane user interface for keyframes. In the effects stack you get just an overview, but if you click the button to the right from the overview widget, you get a new window with curves for all animatable parameters.

The window also has controls for jumping between keyframes and removing excessive ones.

The beta for Linux has a problem with redrawing the curves widget, so you need to resize the window back and forth to get rid of the garbage on screen. It could be an Nvidia-specific issue, though.

Titling

In Lightworks titles are implemented as effects. So if you want the common zoom-pan-dissolve title, all you need is to use keyframes for X, Y, font size, and opacity. Here's a typical setup:

Unfortunately, this is also where Lightworks fails badly right now: font size steps are way too large, so the zooming effect is simply not smooth enough.

Here's one awesome thing though: if you want simple fade in/out for the titles, you don't need to go for keyframing. The effect has its own “Effect” tab where you can enable fade in and fade out and set duration for each of them.

Limitations

Release notes lists a number of limitations for this first public build. Here are some of them:

  • no Firewire or Lightworks USB/Serial console support;
  • no H.264 MOV, Quicktime/MPEG4 or AVI exporting;
  • incorrect DPX image sequence exports.

In my experience, it also doesn't read some combinations of common containers and codecs.

Last but not least, Lightworks only comes in 64bit version right now. But if you really are into filmmaking, you deal with gigabytes, if not terabytes of data, and there's no way you are cutting that footage on less than 4GB of RAM.

Conclusions

As a primarily screencasting guy I'm not exactly in the target group of users. In this business my job is to keep the videos as short as possible and use very little tracks stacking. Hence a lot of features that any filmmaker would consider to be crucial for getting work done are simply extra fancy stuff to me.

However the sheer amount of possibilities that Lightworks opens, makes me wonder, if doing just a tiny bit of filmmaking would turn out to be as fun as tons of jaw-dropping shorts on Vimeo suggest.

The basics of using Lightworks are very well explained in this set of 10 tutorials published by EditShare:

Finally, as already mentioned above, this is a beta, and various mishaps are only to be expected. Don't treat it as a complete product just yet, and you'll be fine.

Downloading Lightworks beta for Linux requires registration. Source code release is still pending.

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28 Comments

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  1. I was a part of closed alpha and it ran on my crappy laptop like a champ. But since the beta build it is slower than a 100 year old grandma in a 100 meter race vs Usain Bolt…. And for some reason it is a Pro version even though i downloaded the free version…

  2. Looking forward to that the source code sees the light. Until then I will probably keep using the Blender VSE. It sounds like really promising software though! :)

  3. Thanks for yet another informative article, Alexandre!
    Far more compelling and objective than anything I’ve read on redsharknews.

  4. this is great news. i need to edit some footage in a few months for a personal project. perfect timing.

  5. I’m waiting for the novacut project to be released, i think it’s thebest and easy approach to cut your video

  6. > androidman.
    The grass is always greener… and for each his own tool…

    It all dependends on what you want to do, For me Novacut seems to be just what I don’t need. I do inhouse editing with lots of image sequences which Lightworks seems to be just the right tool for. Cloud based collaboration is not something I often do.
    I’ve used Blender VSE for quite a while now for lack of options, I had to abandon Kdenlive for it’s (virtually) non existing image sequence support. Lightworks seems to be a blessing (said before I’ve done any actual production editing, just testing yet. I’ll have to come back in a while for final judgement) for my needs.

  7. lightworks in part was designed to edit film and animation. both of which are stored as sequences of still frames. 24fps or 48fps. so if thats what your looking for this is your lucky day. this is essentially studio grade software with which you could edit any commercial, short film or a full lenght movie. lightworks will probably end up being used all over the place from indie films to features. i don’t think anything like this has been available to the public. its a big deal imo. sort of in a league of its own.

  8. @David

    yeah, you are right, I think You are a Prof video guy, the learning curve for lightworks must be very very long :),
    I just want to cut easily my video, tag them, no special effect of fancy thing for me :)
    yeah lightworks is a very good pro sofware, but I just wanted to say that novacut has a great potential !

  9. This article made me rush to look up cinelerra. And I was happy to find it faring well. Good.

  10. Oh!  Awesome with clear illustration ..

    bookmarked..

  11. I think this information would be much useful to other people who use Linux. I salute you for this Alexandre Prokoudine. I really appreciate this article.

  12. yes I use Linux at home and found this post very useful.

  13. So, you edit your screencasts in Blender VSE right now? How it’s compared to kdenlive?

    Thanks

  14. I want to try this on my linux.

  15. Very nice, so much more satisfying doing my rendering on Linux.

  16. was using OpenShot but I will definettly give Lightworks a try. Thx for review, nice introduction

  17. I’ve just started using lightworks… thanks for the useful post, its given me a couple of good ideas

  18. i really want to try this out on my linux system ASAP.Thanks for posting this

  19. I think this is great software, everyone should must try it. Best video editing tool ever.

  20. I’ve been using lightworks for a while but I feel like a complete n00b having gone through this article. A lot of useful info. Had some serious hardware issues but I guess they’ve been resolved now. Got some [url=“http://renewit.in/
    “]second hand computers[/url]</p> and they work perfectly fine. Best video editing tool but it did not run well on old hardware.

  21. I’m new to Linux and want to make sure I can do the same stuff that I can with my Windows laptop, one of which is to edit my own videos. Lightworks seems to be perfect and this has been a great starting point for me, thank you!!!

    Graham

  22. Great software. Any version for windows?

  23. iam use linux in my notebook,this nice aricle. i want bookmark

  24. would be very thankful if you continue with quality what you are serving right now with your blog…I really enjoyed it…and i really appreciate to you for this….its always pleasure to read so….Thanks for sharing!!

  25. Well I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

  26. I’ve just started using lightworks all i can say is that its one of the Best video editing tool ever.

  27. Lightworks is even better now, especially with supporting resolutions up to 4K.

  28. light works has a slight issue on clip playback on linux. Overall it is great boost for linux environment. Great article

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