Video editing with Blender VSE: "It's complicated"

Coming from Kino, Blender's "Video Sequence Editor" is a huge step up. Most people don't think of Blender when considering video editing tools, but in fact, Blender contains a very good one. This is not a separate application but an editing mode within the Blender application. It can work directly with animated scenes created within Blender or with video footage from other sources. Evaluating it is a little tricky because of this unique niche.

The Blender available in Debian "stable" (i.e. "Squeeze") is 2.49, and that's the version of the VSE that I used in my previous columns on creating an storyreel animatic and a moving storyboard shot. Blender 2.5 is now available in Ubuntu Studio's "Oneric Ocelot" version and Debian's "Wheezy" (the current "testing") distributions, but I haven't had a chance to see if there are significant changes in the video editor.

The greatest benefit and greatest liability of the Blender VSE are the same: it is tightly-integrated with Blender, and follows the same (very unique) user-interface design. If you are a Blender user and comfortable with the interface already, then the VSE will seem fairly natural without much of a learning curve. If you are a newcomer to Blender, though, you'll have the notorious learning curve of Blender's interface to overcome first.

Even as someone familiar with the interface, I found that the highly flexible user interface design can be distracting -- I spent a lot of time fiddling with the window layout trying to get a better fit to my needs. I also found that the 2D compositing features in Blender were a little weaker than what I wanted (hence the need for a tutorial).

On the other hand, once you pay the cost of setting up an animated scene to create an effect, you can pretty much do anything you can imagine. So, although the "comfort zone" for Blender has a rather low ceiling, the ultimate capabilities are almost unlimited.

On a production like Lunatics, where Blender is already an important part of our toolchain, it's obvious that we will make some use of Blender's VSE. It may not be the right tool for the final edit, though, as there are some things that (though possible) are still frustratingly difficult to do in the VSE: spatial montage, more elaborate transitions, and a range of pan, zoom, and rotate effects in 2D. More research is called for.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.