Friday, February 08, 2008

Why Cinelerra?

I received a question from a person unfamiliar with Cinelerra and I thought that my response should be shared. The person has a friend who runs Cinelerra in Ubuntu and he wanted a more experienced users' perspective on how Cinelerra compares to the more established, commercial packages like Premiere or Vegas. Here is how I responded to him.

Cinelerra is very powerful software if you can overcome some of its idiosyncracies. Idiosyncracies like:
1) it is difficult to install for most people
2) it sometimes crashes. There are more crashes on 32-bit systems. However, the consequences of a crash aren't bad, as you can simply restart Cinelerra, load the automatically generated backup file and pick up where you left off.
3) rendering to final formats is challenging

Cinelerra is buggy in a consistent way. In other words, if you have the time and energy to figure out what works and what doesn't work, then you can base a workflow around that. But that effort is a huge time sink.

It doesn't get any better when you upgrade your system, because what once
worked in a previous distro will break in your new distro. So, you spend
oodles of time figuring out how to fix it.

It takes a certain kind of person who relishes the constant challenges of Cinelerra and Linux to power through these difficulties. Cinelerra is not everyone's cup of tea for sure, but you can get usable content out of Cinelerra if you know what works and what doesn't. Otherwise, save your valuable time and effort, buy a dual quad core Mac or PC with Final Cut Pro or Avid or Premiere or Vegas and be happy that everything works out of the box. Which isn't always the case even with those softwares.

Because Cinelerra is free software, it will never be as well supported as those commercial products. That being said, I have Cinelerra installed on Fedora 10 x86, 64-bit and the only time it has crashed is when I've done something stupid like try to write to a filesystem that is full or trigger a known bug, like using the broken DV import-record function.

I have spent the last two years learning the software and documenting specific processes using Cinelerra. You might glean some useful information by subscribing to my blog's RSS feed, because it documents the challenges I face in getting the software to work properly:

I would suggest that a 64-bit machine is most stable for Cinelerra, moreso than a 32-bit machine. That is due to the fact that the 64-bit build will take full advantage of the memory resources on your computer and video editing is very taxing on a computers memory.

From the conversations on, the largest installed base of users seems to be on Ubuntu, Fedora and Debian distros. I would suggest starting with one of those distros, as many people on the CVS will be able to help you if you encounter problems.

There are two versions of Cinelerra. The original version you can get from, but the author does not support the software. The most actively supported version of the software is the Community Version (CV) and can be found on That community of which I am part, has done significant work to fix bugs, accumulate and pass on knowledge to people interested in this great, free software and video editing in general.

The RPMFusion repository is the one main Fedora repository has Cinelerra RPMs for most recent Fedora versions:
Information on installing Cinelerra for all other distributions can be found here:

Here is a list of related articles regarding first-time installations on Fedora:
Getting Started with Cinelerra
Building Cinelerra on 64-bit Fedora 9 from Source
Beginner's Guide to Exporting Video from Cinelerra
Exports and Linux Player Compatibility Chart from the article Render Compatibility on Fedora 10, x86-64
Cinelerra for Grandma

Finally, if you don't want to fuss with your own install, you may download one of two VMware virtual machines that I have created specifically for video editing with Cinelerra and all the tools you need to get started:
Fedora Core 6, 32-bit VMware virtual machine ~1GB
Fedora 10, x86-64 VMware virtual machine ~3GB

The Mule

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