Cinelerra Media Import

Republished from March 28, 2010, 6:05pm

I have been working for weeks with a few handfuls of video clips from several sources to create a single video. Being a lover of Ubuntu and all things Open Source (especially valid replacements to commercial solutions), I decided to use Cinelerra instead of iMovie on my wife’s MacBook. I’m certainly no professional video editor, but Cinelerra is a powerful editor and compositor and a bunch of stuff I don’t really understand. However, and this is a HUGE however, it seems to be incredibly sensitive to what media you can use in it. I have spent 50 hours or more trying to find a transcode video to something usable by Cinelerra, only to discover that when the video was acceptable the audio wasn’t and vice versa.

Most of the clips I got were from PhotoBooth because it is so easy to use for recording you and your family singing Happy Birthday. Lots of what I read online said that .MOV would be a good input for Cinelerra. I can’t tell you why, but I got video only and no audio. I tried every tool I could find to transcode the files:

  • Avidemux
  • Cinelerra (of course)
  • ffmpeg
  • Handbrake
  • iMove
  • PiTiVi

Hours and hours and hours. Banging my head against the wall trying to find the magic combination of Container, Video Codec, and Audio Codec. Once I got some usable files, I tried to use Cinelerra to cut the files up and render smaller clips. Cinelerra could not use the OGG/Theora/Vorbis files it rendered; something about missing keyframes.


I read many articles about using Kino as a way to pull stuff off of DV and export it for use in Cinelerra and, in frustration and exhaustion, I finally got Kino. It can import files (something some DVD conversion software doesn’t do) but I still had to mess with the export options to get something usable.

My first success was with VCD. Of course it made tiny videos, which wasn’t ideal as I was trying to make an HD project. Seeing that it worked, I inspected the file from Nautilus and found the audio codec was “MPEG 1 Audio, Layer 2”, but the video codec was unknown. Totem was also unable to identify the video codec though it would play the video. I went back to the MPEG tab on the export view and selected “0 – Generic MPEG1”. Shazaam! I could suddenly use stuff in Cinelerra. Kino seems to work well with what I will call “Microsoft Clips” versus Apple Clips. The clips from PhotoBooth didn’t sync audio and video in Kino.

Specifically, these are the settings in the MPEG tab of the export view:

  • File: someplace valid without the extension
  • File Format: 0 – Generic MPEG1
  • Deinterlaced: None
  • Advanced Options (all defaults I believe)
  • Video Pipe: mpeg2enc -v 0
  • Audio Encoding: mp2enc -v 0
  • Multiplexer: mplex -v 0
  • Scene Split: unchecked
  • Cleanup: checked

Back to PiTiVi

Emboldened by my success with MPEG in Kino and with a need to get those PhotoBooth-based clips in, I went back to the previous list of tools. PiTiVi was able to read the .MOV files and sync the audio and video. I did have to mess with the options again, but I came up with something that seems to work. ffmpeg did not work well for me, but again mpeg2enc did.

PiTiVi Export Settings:

  • Video Output: 720p HD, 29.97 fps (this might effect the outcome as some encoders and formats are sensitive to dimensions)
  • Audio Output: CD
  • Export to:
    • Container: FFmpgeg MPEG-1 System format muxer [ffmux_mpeg]
    • Audio Codec: FFmpeg MP2 (MPEG audio layer 2) encoder [ffenc_mp2]
    • Video Codec: mpeg2enc video encoder [mpeg2enc]

I’m sure this has a lot to do with the configuration of each of the tools possibly even Cinelerra. For instance, I have two Ubuntu machines and one had different options for containers and video and audio codecs within the same tool. I don’t know how to configure PiTiVi to use different encoders; my pain may have been eased there or if I could get Cinelerra to read the audio track from the .MOV files in the first place.

Other stuff may work and I would love to hear what works for you.


Cinelerra Media Import
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