Interview of Jonathan Thomas : Creator of Openshot Video Editor

For the end of  this year, i publish a interview of Jonathan Thomas that i was having realised the last year in the end of July. We have updated it and i give you the mean to know better who is behind the Video Editor revelation of the year 2009 and who continued his progression this year and for the next year. Good reading and Happy New Year 2011.

OG : Hello Jonathan Thomas and thanks for this interview. Could you tell us who are you ? We want to know you better

I am 31 years old, born and raised in Texas, USA. I am married and have two wonderful daughters (8 yrs/old and 10 yrs/old). I have been involved with programming since I was a young kid. I remember my father teaching me how to use the BASIC programming language. He showed me how to use a simple loop to print out an infinitely growing list of numbers: 1,2,3,4,5… I was hooked! Growing up, the only thing I enjoyed more than programming was making movies with my friends.

Fast forward 20 years, and I am now a professional software developer. In fact, I manage a small team of programmers. I architect enterprise systems, program large-scale web applications, and generally work on business automation and work-flow improvements.

However, all of my computer & programming experience was based on Windows and Microsoft programming languages. I’m not kidding when I say I didn’t know what Ubuntu was 3 years ago.

OG What are yours knowledges data processing because to develop a software isn’t easy for everybody and in more in this domain ?

Even though I’ve been a software developer for years and years, none of that really prepared me for switching OS’s, learning new languages, and attempting to create a video editor, which is arguably one of the more difficult types of programs to create.

However, my best skill has always been my vision (i.e. seeing the big picture). I have quite an imagination, and I can visualize what I want to create. I try not to waste time on things that don’t matter. I try to manage risk, and make smart decisions. This has helped me stay on track, and keep a laser focus on what I want to create.

OG: Have you develop others softwares and if yes which ?

I have developed many websites and many desktop packages based on Microsoft .NET. However, I had never developed a Python-based program. Also, I have never created an open-source application, nor contributed to any existing projects prior to OpenShot. This was all new to me.

OG : What are they your motivations. Plenty people have tried but a few have reached ?

This is really quite simple to answer. I love making movies, and Linux did not have any good (i.e. stable, simple, powerful) video editors at the point I started OpenShot.

OG : Why have you choose to create this type of software in python, normally, it’s not this language which it’s used for that, it’s c or c++ for sample.

I originally was interested in using Mono (which is an open-source implementation of the .NET Framework). However it did not have any bindings for MLT or Gstreamer (which seemed to be the two leading multi-media frameworks). So, I went in search of other languages. I have never been a big fan of C or C++, so I looked into other languages. I’m not sure how I found Python, but once I saw how much people loved it, I was very interested. Then I discovered that Python seemed to have bindings for just about everything, including MLT and Gstreamer.

Choosing Python is the #1 reason that OpenShot has evolved so quickly. Any other language would have taken much more effort, more syntax, more errors, more debugging, and thus more time. Python has enabled me to create a beautiful, clean, and simple API, and it’s been a pleasure to learn and use.

I was initially concerned about the execution speed of Python, which is well documented as being slow. But after some tests, I realized that all of the work is being done by the multi-media framework, not Python. Python isn’t demuxing the video or encoding the audio… it’s a C & C++ multi-media framework that’s doing the work.

OG : In primary (in first) you have began to develop OSVE with the framework (multimedia) Gstreamer then you have taken to MLT, why this choice ?

Gstreamer is a media streaming framework. It’s designed to take streams of video and audio, and send them through a pipeline. It’s great for video playback, video servers, and video clients. Basically anything that deals with a linear set of video / audio streams.

I spent months working with Gstreamer and got nowhere fast. The key difference between a video editor and a video client/server is that a video editor is non-linear. It can have dozens of video streams mixing together at the same time. Gstreamer is not well suited to do this without additional plugins (such as gnonlin), which were very limited at the time I was creating OpenShot.

On the other hand, MLT is an incredible piece of software. It is the #2 reason that OpenShot has progressed so quickly. Think about this… since moving to MLT, I have gone from a program that moves rectangles around the screen (i.e. the program did nothing), to a full video editor in less than 6 months! MLT doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s the Ferrari of video editing libraries on Linux.

OG: How many people are working in this project ?

OpenShot has 4 to 6 developers working at any given time. Everyone involved is a volunteer, and works part time. Andy Finch and myself have been working on the project the longest and have contributed the most lines of code. But it’s always a pleasure to get a contribution… of any size.

OG : What are the features of OSVE ?

The feature list continues to grow everyday it seems.

However, here is a current list of features:

  • Support for many video, audio, and image formats (based on Ffmpeg)
  • Gnome integration (drag and drop support)
  • Multiple tracks
  • Clip resizing, trimming, snapping, and cutting
  • Video transitions with real-time previews
  • Compositing, image overlays, watermarks
  • Title templates, title creation
  • 3D Animated Titles
  • Solid color clips (including alpha compositing)
  • Support for Rotoscoping / Image sequences
  • Drag and drop timeline
  • Frame stepping, key-mappings: J,K, and L keys
  • Video encoding (based on FFmpeg)

OG: What are the strong points and the weakness points of OSVE ?

Strong Points:

  • Stability
  • Usability

Week Points:

  • Key-framing
  • Audio waveforms (or the lack thereof)

OG: one of a recurrent problem under Linux is the acquisition camera’s flux DV and HDV. Except Kdenlive et Kino, which are based on Dvgrab none others softwares have this possibility. How do you want to process for OSVE is it based too on Dvgrab, nothing or perhaps do you utse Gstreamer which can do that.

I have no current plans to add in dvgrab functionality. This is a great idea though, but it’s not on the list right now.

OG : What are the future features to planed at short term and at long term ?

A couple of our upcoming features include:

  • Audio waveforms
  • Improved 3D animation support
  • Faster and easier ways to add many clips to the timeline
  • Performance improvements

OG : How are they choose ?

All of our features are either suggestion driven or they are features I feel are needed. I try my best to stay focused, work on the important features, and deliver usable features.

OG :What are the principals problem that you meet ?

Stability is the single biggest problem for any video editor. With so much underlying code written in C, it is still quite common for a segmentation fault or crash.

OG: What sort of help have you need now ?

We can always use help from a motivated user or developer. We are always in need to user feedback, suggestions, translations, testing, programming, and promotion.

OG : How report a bug or why not simply participate ?

We use to manage our bugs, questions, and our team:

To file a bug use this link:

To ask a question use this link:

OG: What ‘s the vision have you about OSVE in the Linux video land ?

My vision is for OpenShot to become the most popular video editor for Linux. Of course, I would love to see OpenShot pre-packaged with Ubuntu, and other distributions. I want OpenShot to be great at the simple things, such as arranging clips, trimming, transitions, and exporting various video formats. To the average user, OpenShot would appear to be a simple, easy to use video editor. But for the advanced user, they could take advantage of all the other features, such as masking, rotoscoping, key-framing, and so on.

OG: What are you waiting about the communality in general and French in particular ?

I would love the community in general as well as the French community to get excited about OpenShot. Get involved on the blog. Post suggestions. Create videos with OpenShot and post them for others to see.

OG: The project is well structured and have now a blog, an beautiful official website, an active forum in the website OpenshotUsers (and a important communality too who participate at the life of the project here and on Launchpad), is translated in 61 languages, have an manual in 8 languages, some articles are published in the press and is packaged in the main Linux Distributions. What do you wish to have now more ? Have you think to come at this result when you have began this project ?

I would love to see OpenShot become fully translated into those 61 languages. There are still many missing translations. I would also like to see more distributions pre-package OpenShot into their repositories. Ubuntu and Debian are packaged by me, which is why they are always up-to-date.

OG: What do you think about the success of Openshot ? Can you explain it ?

I am very proud of OpenShot and what it has become. I am humbled by all the smart people that help me and support OpenShot. However, I feel that OpenShot has not reached it’s potential yet. It’s not quite easy enough. It’s not quite fast enough. It’s not quite good enough… yet. But we are rapidly approaching these goals, and I can’t wait to get there. It is very exciting to read reviews, articles, and comments from people who love OpenShot. Very exciting!

In all cases, thanks a lot to have done this interview whose the main purpose was to discover better you and your work. And Good luck.

Thanks for taking such an interest in OpenShot! I really feel like OpenShot has a chance to be the video editor that everyone wants on Linux.

And the traditionnal picture :


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