Capturing video with Ubuntu (and a little rant)

My friend Erica was asking me today about video editing in Ubuntu. First she was asking about tools to use for editing.

I’ve toyed with ‘Open Movie Editor’ in the past. If you’re familiar with Adobe Premiere then you’ll be familiar with the general layout here… a timeline of multiple video and audio tracks, a preview window, multiple clips that you mix together with transitions etc. I’ll admit that it isn’t the same as Adobe Premiere but it does cost $799 less!

Open Movie Editor is in the Synaptic package manager. It’s available through the Ubuntu repositories but it’s supported by the community, not directly by Canonical. Erica had spotted Kino which is a much simpler program. It’s more like Windows Movie Editor – a single timeline with one clip transitioning into the next clip. Kino also has the advantage of being supported directly by Canonical.  Actually I was pretty impressed with it – I think it’ll be sufficient for all of my personal video editing tasks.

Great! So now we can edit videos.

But there’s a second problem – getting the video into Erica’s PC in the first place. She had a day’s worth of footage on a DV camcorder and Kino has an entire page dedicated to capture but when she connected the firewire (aka IEEE1394) cable between her PC and camcorder nothing happened… all the buttons remained greyed-out. What to do?

This prompted me to dig out my own camcorder and connect it up… same as her setup – nothing happened. Kino’s preferences panel says the  IEEE1394 subsystem is not responding. It’s actually pretty helpful – it says “you must have read and write access to /dev/raw1394. I checked and found that
a) the /dev/raw1394 device was owned by user root, group root
b) the permissions on it were rw-rw—-
So if you weren’t the root user or a member of the root group then you couldn’t use it!

This is all fixed by a quick
sudo chmod a+rw /dev/raw1394

And then the Kino capture buttons buttons sprang into life and video capture worked fine. Erica did the same and everything was good in the universe.

For a while.

But get this… the next time I turn my PC on, the permissions on /dev/raw1394 have reset to rw-rw—- so I have to chmod it again.

I truly believe that Linux is getting close to ready for ordinary non-technical consumers but this makes me wonder if perhaps I’m wrong. It’s bad enough that I have to go to the command line and change the device permissions once, but to have to do it every time I want to import video? I can’t see the logic in setting it up like that and I can’t see that it’s something a user-friendly operating system should require.

Maybe I’m not setting about this the way that I should be? Maybe there’s an easier way?

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