Linux Video Cost Analysis

Commercial video editing software costs thousands of dollars and at the same time limits the user with a fixed choice of features and bugs determined by marketing decisions. Open-source software is not only low cost but allows users the freedom to add new features whenever needed. Currently available open-source software includes sophisticated video editing systems, professional-quality video encoders and full-featured scriptable DVD, VCD and SVCD mastering systems. Except for the tools needed to author IGS menus for blu-ray disks, a high-definition video workflow can be fully realized using open source software.

Many people have recorded a huge amount of video which could tell an interesting story if edited and made available in a convenient format such as DVD, VCD, SVCD or blu-ray video disks. Full-color covers coupled with with on-disk menus allow a viewer to quickly find video that would be difficult or impossible to find in the unedited source recordings. The information in these webpages will demonstrate that video editing can be done and done well using Linux. Moreover, since the cost for the software is nothing and the Linux operating system allows the use of older hardware, the workflow described here allows almost every person the ability to edit and preserve their home video collections.

For complete video production the minimum hardware requirements are

While new computer hardware works better, even high-definition video can be edited on an old computer using proxy editing and batch processing techniques. A minimal computer configuration should include at least 512MB RAM, a 40GB hard disk and a DVD burner. You may also need an analog video capture card or an IEEE1394 firewire card. If you don't own a computer already then $100 should be enough to purchase a used computer meeting the above minimum specifications. If a computer that meets these minimum specifications is not available, limited video editing can be done using a less capable computer. For example, 256MB of RAM is enough for simple cut and paste editing and a CD burner is enough to master a VCD or SVCD. Alternatively, a state-of-the-art multi-core editing workstation can be assembled new from mail-order parts for around $700.

The camcorder should be suitable for the chosen work. For video production services a professional camera with full manual control is better than a small consumer model. A small camcorder is more appropriate for casual videography and point-of-view applications where small size is a necessity. As videographers replace their standard-definition equipment with high-definition, it is possible to obtain professional standard-definition camcorders for under $1000 used. Similarly, as videographers replace tape-based equipment with solid state, it is possible to obtain tape-based high-definition camcorders for around $2000. These tape-based camcorders deliver a picture quality similar to new camcorders costing 3 to 4 times more.

If you must make a choice between spending money on a computer or on a camcorder, spend it on the camcorder. The video you shoot today is irreplaceable tomorrow. The better it is, the more you can do with it later. Moreover, the quality of the video produced using an older computer is the same as a new computer. The only difference is that it takes longer for the old computer to process the input files. If your distribution format is DVD, VCD or SVCD, convert high-definition source to standard definition before editing to speed the editing process. To create a high-definition version of your edit, switch back to the original high-definition files for the final render.

For individuals on a tight budget, it should be possible to obtain an analog consumer-grade camcorder in trade for making a library of high-quality DVDs with menus from the tapes recorded by that camcorder. The commercial price of converting a video tape to a DVD with a color cover that includes snapshots is about $10 per tape, see for example, The Photo Archival Company. For 20 tapes you are providing a service worth $200 in exchange for an old camcorder that's no longer used. Decide what kind of cases to use and whether to print the covers in color or black and white. Make a clear agreement about who pays for what and keep the receipts. Then digitize the tapes, clip a bunch of interesting snapshots, use the snapshots in the menus and covers, master and burn the DVDs, print the covers and package the DVDs into cases. Using Linux and open source software it is possible to start a full-service video production company without almost zero initial investment. With a little effort one can obtain amazing results.

Current wisdom is that tapes have a longer storage life than disks. Never reuse a tape. Always rewind your tapes. Store them in a cool dry place. Video recordings often get more interesting the older they get. Archiving video from hard-disk camcorders and flash camcorders needs to be done with great care. In fact, it is not unreasonable to convert AVCHD video to HDV on tape for archival.

Linux can also be used to produce DivX files, DivX Ultra files with menus, H264 files and VP8 video files for streaming over the network. DivX files and DivX Ultra files with menus can be burned onto a CD for playback on DivX compatible DVD players. H264 files can be written to AVCHD and blu-ray disks for playback on compatible blu-ray players. The most efficient format for distributing video over the web is currently H264 AVC; however, the recent public release of the VP8 codec by Google provides a standard with near equal coding efficiency which is unencumbered by patents. As with the creation of video disks, open source software combined with Linux yields a workflow that produces these internet video delivery standards with quality that is unsurpassed by commerical software.

If you would like to comment on these webpages, feel free to send email to video at renomath dot com.

Last Updated: Thu Mar 31 23:17:36 PDT 2011