Kodak digicam HD editing with PiTiVi

One thing that bugs me with the 720/30p MPEG4-SP format found on Kodak digicams (not on their digirecorders, as these use h.264), is that it’s very slow to edit on Windows. Most Windows video editors use the Quicktime engine to decode that MOV format, and Quicktime on Windows just plain sucks ostrich balls. I mean, sure, if you have a very modern, very fast PC, you’ll get some acceptable performance out of it, but on a modest PC, you won’t get more than a few fps on the editor’s preview screen. And besides, Sony Vegas is super-crashy when using the Quicktime engine. Every time I had to edit footage from these Kodak digicams, I had to use proxy files. The MPEG4-SP format is NOT a heavy format (it’s even lighter than XViD, which in turn is much lighter than h.264), it’s just that PC’s Quicktime somehow sucks with it.

These days, I am preparing a laptop to give to my mom. She’s 54, she’s never used a computer before, but she wants to learn. So I’m thinking of giving her my HP 1120NR netbook (1.6 Ghz Atom, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB flash storage, 1024×576 res, latest well-configured Ubuntu). I have already left with her the last time I was in Greece my Kodak Z1275 too. It’s a digicam with 720/30p recording capabilities at 12 mbps (no manual controls in video mode, not even exposure compensation). I think she would really enjoy shooting pictures and videos with it — something she didn’t do so far since she had no computer to enjoy them (she just has a 14″ TV with no A/V inputs, but she might buy a 32″ HDTV soon).

So while I was preparing that netbook, I also installed PiTiVi, the only easy-to-use GTK+ video editor that can do HD. KDEnLive is a bit overkill for her I think. So while I was testing PiTiVi with Kodak’s MPEG4-SP format, I found that at least ffmpeg/gstreamer were able to playback the format easily, even via a video editor (which usually adds performance constraints to the decoder), and even with the usage of an Atom CPU. And when removing the toolbars and making its UI “fullscreen”, even at a 1024×576 resolution, video editing was very acceptable! Only one screen needs to be trimmed down to fit in that resolution (the Project Properties dialog).

Of course, PiTiVi, has no support for transitions, effects, or titles. It’s just a straight-cutter right now. But for someone like my mom, I think that would be good enough. It’s fast for the specific video format, somewhat stable (not amazingly though), and it can export back in a 720/30p format (XViD) that the Atom CPU can handle in real time either via VLC or Totem (720/30p h.264 is too close of a call with that CPU, plus, the latest Ubuntu “unrestricted” ffmpeg package has removed AAC support once again). So I envision a scenario of my mom shooting some video, editing it with PiTiVi, exporting as XViD to a 16 GB SDHC card, deleting the working files to save space in the measly internal storage, and playing back the XViD file from the SDHC card on a (new) HDTV via the HP-2-HDMI dongle (if I ever find to buy it, since it’s a rare hardware addon for that netbook model).

As for still pictures, I’m excited about the new F-Spot that features basic image manipulation tools.

Not sure if she will ever manage to learn all that stuff, since she can hardly use her Nokia S40 cellphone, but hey, why not? JBQ’s grandmother learned how to use a PC with Vista at her mid-70s, so it’s never too late.


Jeff wrote on November 27th, 2009 at 6:32 PM PST:

Glad to see you’re still keeping an eye on PiTiVi once in a while 🙂 seems I don’t really need to keep you updated on its progress, you seem to be quite savvy already.

I’m surprised though, I read this “rant” over and over again, and I have trouble identifying the spots where you are criticising/pointing out UI issues… unless you meant to provide a use case/scenario?

P.s.: since you are (were?) a Vegas fan, you might be happy to hear that modeless splitting/”move playhead on click” has been merged to the master git branch yesterday (gnome bug #594389). You may also be interested in #593682, 432723.

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Eugenia wrote on November 27th, 2009 at 6:44 PM PST:

The UI is ok for my mom, for the most part. My biggest complaint is the VBR bug (which I filed), and the fact that the Project Properties dialog does not fit on a 1024×576 or 600px screen, meaning that no netbook can use that dialog properly. If these two things are fixed, I’m cool with PiTiVi. Saving templates for the project properties and export settings would be nice too, since I don’t trust my mom to remember to fill up these screens correctly each time she wants to edit.

As for me, I need way too advanced features, especially regarding color grading, so PiTiVi is not for me personally. Even Vegas doesn’t have all the tools or features I need. 😉

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Eugenia wrote on November 27th, 2009 at 11:50 PM PST:

I found what I consider a blocking bug for my mom’s usage: I created a condition — reproducibly — where PiTiVi won’t be able to read its own project file back. Meaning that if you save under a specific condition (that my mom would hit each time), and try to re-open the project file, Pitivi won’t read it and it will crash. I made a bug report about that, and explain how to reproduce it. It seems to be an XML-reading bug.

kiwi wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 12:35 AM PST:

Have you looked at OpenShot lately. It’s moving forward very fast. I personally haven’t tried it, but technically it looks solid (MTL/ffmpeg used as with Kdenlive). It’s not for you of course, but possibly for your mom…
It doesn’t look so good by default, but I guess you can change the theme to something with less offending gradients.

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Eugenia wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 12:56 AM PST:

I might give OpenShot a go if it’s stable-ish, and if they fix their ffmpeg problem.

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Eugenia wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 2:48 AM PST:

Thank you Edward for committing a change to fix the project file loading problem.

Vítor Manuel wrote on November 29th, 2009 at 3:30 PM PST:

I’m a Sony Vegas used and fan boy… but they have a little problem, it’s only for Windows, doesn’t work in Linux…

I think this mount leave the “Windows Land” and go to “Mandriva World… but I need a good Video Non-Linear Editor…

I try Cinelerra, PiTiVi, Avidemux and my favourite, KDEnlive…

What program do you recommend …???

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Eugenia wrote on November 29th, 2009 at 4:36 PM PST:

There is no editor at the level of Vegas for Linux. KDEnLive is the most similar/advanced for modern ideas/formats etc, but it’s very buggy. I would never trust any of these editors for serious work I am afraid. Wish things were different.

Steve wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 1:16 PM PST:

About the AAC support:
This time it’s really not the Ubuntu developers monkeying around with the software. Someone examined the FAAC code (which provides AAC encoding), and found that despite it claiming to be under LGPL, it had a number of conditions that run counter to that.
As a result of this, the homepage for it now states the following:
FAAC is based on the original ISO MPEG reference code. The changes to this code are licensed under the LGPL license. The original license is not compatible with the LGPL, please be aware of this when using FAAC. The original license text can be found in the README file included in the download package.
Since it is not available under an appropriate license, it can’t actually be included anywhere, because the license doesn’t let you.

Dan Dennedy wrote on December 2nd, 2009 at 10:49 AM PST:

More on this AAC issue. Yes, libflaac can no longer be enabled in a redistributable build as Steve described. However, since early July, FFmpeg now contains a native AAC encoder without the code license issue, and it is enabled by default. So, Debian and Ubuntu might just need to update, and apps might need an update to specify the ‘aac’ codec instead of libfaac (Kdenlive does and has legacy support by checking to see what you have.)

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