Video montage with kdenlive: Basic editing


In the previous post about this editor we saw how to install it and the interface; we continue working with version 17.04.3. Now we are going to “get down to business” with the basic assembly of a video.

I want to indicate that this post will be a bit long because it will be a combination of the basic concepts for creating a video and the fundamental learning of the Kdenlive application.


When we get to the editor, in this case kdenlive, the production of a video basically consists of 2 phases. The first, the so-called “basic”, where the story is assembled from beginning to end, without applying effects or transitions and the second, the so-called “advanced”, which is where, once the first is finished, the effects and transitions are applied that we consider necessary to improve the final result.

In this tutorial we will see the first phase, basic assembly, and in a later entry the second, advanced assembly, on this same assembly, in between there will be some tutorials that will explain how the effects and transitions are inserted and work.

The tutorial will consist of the first part of assembling a 20-second video, but if we understand how to mount 20 seconds, we will have the basic knowledge to mount videos of the duration we want.

This will only contain one video and one music track.

The project will consist of a short audiovisual narration accompanied by music from sunrise to sunset, with the sole objective of understanding how to work with a professional video editor and learning how to work with Kdenlive.

The technique that I am going to explain is the one used in professional environments and in this post we will see the first fundamental part to produce our video.

If you wish to carry out this practice, you have the files that I have used at your disposal to download.

Appropriate methodology when editing a video

An audiovisual narration of any type or style has a very defined order of work and if, despite being amateurs, we work with the methods that professionals use, I am convinced that we are doing the right thing and everything will be easier.

Although in an audiovisual production everything begins (after the idea and script) with a pre-production, production and post-production and each step can be a chapter (or several) of a book dedicated to it, I will summarize all this, in such a way that I will only focus on the two most important steps that we must take into account when facing the realization of our video. In these two steps I include the audios, assuming that a single person will do all the assembly. In a production company, each section has its corresponding technicians.

  1. First the story is assembled, whatever the style, from beginning to end, without applying effects or transitions or corrections. The audio is subject to the type of video we are making, for example if it is a film, short film, documentary or similar, the dialogues and narrations will be included in this first step since they are an important part of the project narrative, but the music and sound effects and the mixing of different tracks will be done in the second step. If it is a video clip or ambient video with music, of course the music will be present from the beginning. But everything that has to do with mixing and sound effects will be done in a second step. I want to mention that if in a short film, for example, there is a piece of narration without dialogue supported by music, because this music will be present in this base because it is an important part of the audiovisual narrative in this fragment.
  2. Once we have the video base mounted now we will dedicate ourselves to applying effects, fades, transitions and what we consider necessary to improve the audiovisual experience that we wish to offer to our audience. In this step the texts or titles also enter if our video requires them. And as for the audios, we are completing the video with its sound effects, ambient sounds, music, etc. and its corresponding mix.

Emphasize that it is of the utmost importance, and we will spend much more time, if we follow this technique, which is not in vain, it is the basis used by professional producers.

Initial recommendations

  • When starting an audiovisual project it is advisable to have all the files that we are going to use for the project in the same folder. This facilitates our work and control over the project when archiving it or taking it to another computer without losing any of its files.
  • The order is also important to make our work easier, so it is good to start creating folders for the different types of files that we are going to use and have the project file in the main folder.01 folder

Important first step, “start on the right foot”

The important first step and essential to start on the right foot is create a new project choosing from the beginning the resolution with which we are going to work, which can be conditioned by the resolution of the videos that we are going to use or the camera settings that we have used or simply our preference according to the destination of the video.

For this we go to the menu “File -> New“Or press the key combination”Ctrl + N”And the project properties window opens:

00 pref

In this case I choose a resolution of HD 720p 25 fps which is what I have in the video clips and at the moment a single audio and video track. (It is very easy to add more if I need them during editing). Everything else I leave the same and hit OK.

recommendable right in this moment save the project. As we have not done anything yet but choose the resolution, the save icon or the combination “Ctrl + S“They do nothing so we will use the menu”File -> Save As …“Or we will press”Ctrl + Shift + S”From the wizard that opens.

  1. We will navigate to the folder where we have placed the files for the project.
  2. We will give it a name and
  3. now we are going to start working “on the right foot”.

Check that the saved file has been given the extension (which must be .kdenlive), if it has not been automatically put, close the application and put it on manually by renaming the file (adding the extension) and now open with a double click to continue.

Load the files that we will use for the project

We can do it in several ways:

  • from the menu “Project -> Add Clip”Navigating to the folder where we have the files to upload.
  • Pressing the icon 02 upload files icon on the project folder toolbar.

In both cases, from the wizard that opens, we navigate to the folder where we have the files we want to upload. Multiple selections can be made and multiple files loaded at once.

  • O well dragging them from the folder where they are

03 load dragging

  • If we have the files classified in folders (recommended), for example, in this case I have placed the videos in a folder called “VIDEOS” and the audio in a folder called “AUDIOS” we can drag these folders to the kdenlive project folder.
    This when it is a simple project with few files is not very important, but when it is a large project with many files it is helpful to have them ordered and well classified, and even the files named sequentially and easy to identify by name.

03.2 loading

03.3 load

Folders are automatically created for us with the files inside that were present at the time of dragging them. These folders are not in any way synchronized with the file browser of our system, So if we want to add more files, it will not be enough to place them in the folder of the folder manager of our system, but we must also add them to the “Project folder” of kdenlive using the mode, of those seen here, that is more comfortable for it.

Save.jpg It is important to save regularly. To avoid scares and losing time from work. No matter how stable an application is, sometimes the power goes out or the computer crashes or the application crashes.

We begin the assembly

In this particular montage what I do is load the audio file first. The file is already edited and with a duration of 20 seconds, which is the duration of the project, so we drag it directly from the project folder to an audio track adjusting it to the left, to avoid leaving an empty gap at the beginning .

04 load audio

Now we will start uploading the videos. In this particular montage I have 4 clips from different times of the day. The video has to be 20 seconds long, so I decide to use 5 seconds of each clip building a symmetrical video in this sense. (Symmetrical in terms of the duration of the clips, this technique is usually usual in video clips, which are subordinated by the symmetry of the rhythm of the music, which in the slang of the musicians are called bars)

Keep A good habit is to save your project regularly.

Using the clip monitor

When we select a file in the “Project Folder” it is automatically loaded into the clip monitor.

05 mon clips
Example with the third clip in the series selected.

The first clip with which we will start the video is a simulation made with the celestia program that simulates the earth seen from a ship in space and this eclipses the sun but when we move and vary the angle little by little it lights up.

We select the aforementioned clip and we have this initial image:06

But since this project only lasts 20 seconds and of this clip I’m only going to use 5, it doesn’t seem like a good 07 starting point, so I go looking with the cursor (on the ruler below the monitor) the starting point of my liking. It is also useful to scroll the mouse anywhere on the monitor to find that starting point or the arrows on the keyboard.

I decide as a starting point the following image:

Now I define this starting point with the following tool, or I press the letter “I“, And we see how from the 09The playhead to the end is marked in blue. This is because I have not yet defined the “end of zone” point and it considers the end of the clip as such. The most common is to find this zone end point, but in this case, as this clip has a duration defined by the decision that each clip is going to last 5 seconds, all I do is add 5 seconds to the start point.

In case we have moved and we need to go to the starting point of the zone, we simply click with the right button of the mouse on the monitor and in the drop-down menu we choose the following option, or press “May + I10Anyway we know that we are at the beginning of the zone because in the lower left corner there is a banner with a red background indicating that we are at the entry point. Only if we move a frame (frame) this banner disappears, the precision is total.

We observe in the counter hh: mm: ss: ff We have defined the starting point in the second 7 photos.elevenbranch 12 (00: 00: 07: 12) and all we have to do is add 5 seconds to it, so the exit point will be in the second 12 frame 11 (00: 00: 12: 11). It is important when we adjust by time to always subtract a frame since, if we do not do it, our clip will last 5sec in this case. + 1 frame and we want it to last 5sec. (this when there are few clips nothing happens but in a project with 25 clips this extra frame would increase the duration by one second)

We select the 0 that is to the left of the 7 12 and we write 12 11 and press Enter. This will place the playhead within five seconds of the start point. Now we press the zone end definer (or we press the letter “OR“) Being delimited and marked with the blue band the fragment of the clip that we will introduce in the timeline.13.jpg

15.jpgWe can display the selected area by clicking on the triangle just to the right of the play button and selecting the corresponding option. Or by pressing the keyboard combination “Ctrl + Space

Tip (aside from saving regularly)

It gives great fluidity and makes work easier to memorize the keyboard combinations to perform the most common or repetitive actions. Key combinations are indicated on the banners that appear when you put the cursor over it or in the menus.

“Ctrl + S”

Introducing clips to the Timeline

Although there are several ways to perform this operation, for now we will use the simplest, which is drag the selected clip from the clip monitor to the timeline.

In this type of montage in particular (clips already defined and without pretending that when appending others they can be modified) we just have to make sure that in the timeline we have selected the normal mode insertion.16.jpg

Now we just position the mouse cursor in the “Clip Monitor” (make sure it is the active tab) 17.jpg and we drag to the corresponding track in the “Timeline”, adjusting it to the beginning, to the left, since this is the first one.

The following clips will be adjusted to the previous one, forming a track without gaps, since these produce an unwanted black space in between if they are not properly adjusted.

When we use this insertion technique (dragging) it does not matter much where the playhead is located. In other modes that we will see later, the position of the aforementioned cursor is very important.18

With this zoom level that we see in the image above, it seems that the clip is located at the beginning of the project. But having made the insertion at a far zoom level it is important to make sure that this is the case. If we select the clip and press the “Start” key, the cursor will be placed right at the beginning of the selected clip and if we look at the time counter of the “Project Monitor” (as this is the first clip) it must be 00:00: 00:00. If it gives a different value, it is NOT well placed at the beginning.

When I check it, I see that it gives me a value of 00: 00: 00: 0219.jpg

We see that the view at these zoom levels can deceive us and not be well placed at the beginning. 20.jpg

So we zoom in and see that the clip was not really positioned well, leaving an empty space of two frames.twenty-one

Magnification is the best way to visualize these errors. This is the best technique to avoid empty spaces between the different clips, working with an expanded zoom level when making the inserts that allows us to see that the clips are adjusted, without spaces between them.

Zoom It’s in the lower right corner of the “Timeline.” But we can use the combination

  • Ctrl + Mouse wheel“Or”Ctrl ++” Y “Ctrl + –”To get closer and further away
  • May + Mouse wheel”To move horizontally
  • or “Ctrl + home”To go to the beginning of the project
  • Ctrl + End”To go to the end of the project.

These combinations are usually common to almost all applications. Remember that if we have a selected clip, the Start and End keys will take us to the beginning or end of the selected clip.

It is important to keep saving “Ctrl + S” regularly.

Let’s continue with the next clip

With the second clip and the rest we repeat the same steps from “Using the clip monitor” to “Introducing the clips to the Timeline“.

The editing process from here will be exactly the same for each clip, whether the project lasts 20 seconds or 20 minutes, has 4 clips, or has 400.

The only precaution is to check that there are no empty spaces between the clips in the same way as we have done with the first one.

For example, from the first to the second clip:

This check must be done right after inserting each clip and make sure each clip is in its correct position before inserting the next one.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the correct thing is to assemble the story before starting to apply, if necessary, fades, effects, color corrections, transitions, etc.

This is what we have done in this tutorial, put together a 20sec visual story.


When we finish assembling the story of the script is when we will decide if we should apply effects, transitions, corrections, etc. with the clear objective of improving the visual experience of the video. This process will be the content of the next post.


Well, we have finished the first step of editing, which is the simple ordering of the clips in the timeline to tell the story, the short film, the movie, the video clip … etc … in which we are working and of course we want to see the result that, at the moment, is a draft, since the second phase is still missing, which is the aforementioned application of fades, effects, color corrections, transitions, etc.

Well let’s focus on our project: we have a video track that, in theory, the sound from this track will not be used, so we have to mute it. In the following image we see highlighted in a red circle that in the track header there is a speaker that in this case is crossed out, which indicates that the audio of this track is silent.24.jpgTo the right of the speaker we see a film icon. What this does is mute the video and the padlock locks the track to avoid accidental edits.

Well, now it’s as simple as going to the project monitor, playhead at the beginning and press play, 25.jpgThe shortcut to do this with the keyboard in one go is by pressing “CTRL + Space”As long as we have the entry and exit points (playback area) that cover the entire project.

If we have been faithful to the way of working of this base and we have not applied effects and transitions this reproduction, in most cases and computers, will be in real time without much difficulty. But if we have applied effects or transitions, if we have been unfaithful to the way of working of the base, It is normal that the playback starts to give problems and does not go in real time and even stops intermittently. (Precisely in the next post we will see what tool kdenlive puts at our disposal to be able to visualize the effects in real time).

It is true that despite not having inserted effects or transitions, if our computer has few resources or the graphics is not very powerful, we cannot see the video montage in real time, which may even stop at the clip changes. If this happens to us, we can use the preview tool by delimiting a playback area and pressing the following icon on the timeline:
preview.png Preview icon.
In the next entry on the effects we will see this tool in depth, for now we only know that when making a preview, if we make changes and want to make another preview, we must open the options and choose the option “Remove All Preview Zones”02

What is the breeding area? The playback area is the line that is in the upper ruler of the timeline and indicates the area that will be reproduced if we press the aforementioned combination “Ctrl + Space“. This area is marked in light blue here and on the project monitor.
26.jpg Its handling is very simple.

  • From the ends we can stretch or shrink it
  • From the square in the center of it we can move it.

In the image above we see that this does not cover the entire montage, it only goes from the beginning of the second clip to the end of the third, so if we press “Ctrl + Space”Only this zone will be played. Adjusting it to the entire project is as simple as stretching the left end at the beginning and the right end at the end of the montage.28.jpg

This bar can also be dimensioned from the “Project Monitor” in exactly the same way that we dimensioned the clips in the “Clip Monitor”. 29.jpgThis delimits the playback area when we play in “Play area” mode (using “Ctrl + Space“) And it will be very useful in the second phase of the project, when we start to apply effects and others, for the correct visualization of these.

Full base mount backup

At this point it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to save this first step of the edition, this draft, to have it as a backup in case something happens in the 2nd part of the assembly and we spoil the project. In professional environments it is not a recommendation, it is something that must be complied with.

We simply go to file and “Save as” and give it a name that helps us easily identify this backup. For example in my case, I named this project as “Basic project.kdenlive” and when making this copy I have simply called it “Basic project BK Base.kdenlive” (backup BK, backup copy in English).

Even now, once this backup is done,

  1. I close kdenlive
  2. I go to the folder where I have saved this project
  3. I already make this file read-only, opening its properties and choosing the “Read-only” option as we see in the following image:read only.jpg In order that it cannot be accidentally edited. In this way, if we open this copy and edit it as a starting point for the second part, when saving the changes it will not leave us and we will have to save as and assign it a different name.

First export of the project, the first draft

In the previous section we have seen how to make a backup. As now what we want is to export only a copy of this draft, we can even do it from this file at any time, since we do not intend to edit (only export) the video made in this first phase.

After the export, when closing this file, which is now read-only, if it asks to save, simply say that you do not want to save.

To export the base video, without effects, we simply have to go to the “Project” menu and look for the “Process” option (or simply press the icon on the taskbar.30.jpg)

The export wizard will open31.jpgIn “Output file” we look for the folder where we want to export the video (in my case the same as the project) and we give it a name (in my case “Base”).

Now we choose the format (in my case .mp4) and click “Process to file” at the bottom left.

And now we just have to wait … we can see the process in the “Task queue” tab.32.jpg

Final Recommendations

  • Save frequently, even after each step. It is a very healthy habit to press the keyboard combination “Ctrl + S” Frequently.
  • I know we are eager to apply effects, fades, transitions, etc … but everything will be more fluid and we will waste less time if we follow the recommendations of how professional producers work: first we mount the video and once it is done we dedicate ourselves to applying the effects and the rest.
  • You can make use of the comments to express doubts, opinions or whatever you want.

So far we have seen the basic edition, in the next post we will see the advanced one, which consists of applying effects and others.

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Thanks for your reading.

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