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Shotcut Tutorial 1: Beginner’s Guide to Shotcut (free VR video editor)

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Looking to create awe-inspiring VR content on a budget? Here is the first in a series of guides to creating virtual reality videos to host on DeoVR. In this guide, we will take a look at the free open-source VR video editing software, Shotcut.  

This is a guest post by VR creator XR Stereo Video - most videos on his DeoVR channel are rendered in Shotcut. Check out his other Shotcut tutorials: 

    1.  Shotcut Tutorial 1: Beginner’s Guide to Shotcut (free VR video editor)
    2. Shotcut Tutorial 2: Adding text to VR videos and more
    3. Shotcut Tutorial 3: Exporting a thumbnail or 2D video from VR (currently reading)
    4. Shotcut Tutorial 4: Using filters
    5. Shotcut Tutorial 5: How to make high-resolution foveated 3D VR180 video
    6. Shotcut Tutorial 6: Motion-tracked tags for people or objects in AR

Introduction to basic video editing in VR

The options that are promoted online for editing 3D VR180 or 3D 360 video are usually paid software and pretty expensive, into the hundreds of dollars overall, such as Adobe Premiere, Davinci Resolve, Mistika Boutique or Mistika VR. These video editors are not affordable or cost-effective for everybody, particularly when there are free alternatives for many of their features.

That is because there are free and open-source video editors that can do basic editing of 2D 360 in particular but also limited editing of 3D VR180 and 3D 360, which can be enough for many users’ realistic needs. The easiest free and open source softwares to use for the most basic video editing are Avidemux and Losslesscut, which can trim videos at what’s called keyframes, merge similar videos losslessly by simply dragging and dropping them in the application window, but these software have fewer features and convenience.

However, there are more advanced video editors such as Shotcut which can help you do pretty good editing for free. For even more advanced users, there is also a command-line free and open-source video editor called “ffmpeg” that is very powerful, very good for workflow efficiency and for automating video editing. On the downside, the learning curve can be a bit steep, as ffmpeg doesn’t use a graphical user interface (GUI), it works in Powershell (a sort of Command Prompt) or the Linux and Mac equivalent, Terminal.

Shotcut

In this tutorial we are going to focus on Shotcut, which does have a graphical user interface.

For 2D 360, Shotcut even has advanced functions such as stabilization (360: Stabilize), recentering the view (360: Transform) and masking yourself out so that you’re not visible in the 360 video (360: Equirectangular Mask). It also has the “360: Rectilinear to Equirectangular” and “360: Hemispherical to Equirectangular” filters that are a must for advanced VR video editing.

For 3D VR180 and 3D 360, for example, text, images, videos, animations can be added that appear to be floating in mid air by using a set of editing tools that are called “filters”. There are also “green screen” or “black screen” options by using the “Chroma Key” and “Alpha Channel” filters.

As it has 2D 360 stabilization already and the source code is available, in the future it could be possible for it to have 3D 360 and 3D VR180 stabilization.

1. Steps to get started

First of all, convert your videos to the standard format with your camera’s included conversion software. This also allows you to stabilize your footage with the camera’s gyroscope, if it has one.

Then download Shotcut from www.shotcut.org where you can download it for free, it is available for Windows, macOS and Linux.

If you click on the “Get it from Microsoft” button, that might generate extra expenses, just download the installers from FossHub or Github for free, there are hyperlinks on the page.

Open Shotcut

In the “New Project” folder you can select your “Projects” folder, that’s where it stores the *.mlt project files. You can choose another folder if you want to.

In the next row, you have “Project name”. Give the project any name that you want, such as “Test 1”.

Click the “Video mode” button to create a video mode with the resolution which you will want your output video to be.

Be careful to not forget this step, otherwise you might get an output of another resolution or framerate than what you want and potentially lose quality. Even after you have started your editing, you can check that you are in the right mode by going to "Settings/ Video Mode/ Custom" and seeing what is selected.

At the bottom of the list, hover the mouse over “Custom”, in the new list that appears select “Add…” and you will get the “Add Custom Video Mode” prompt.

Give it the name that you want, such as 8192x4096@60, depending on what you want your video’s resolution and framerate to be,  such as 8192 x 4096 at 60 frames per second.

The aspect ratio should be 2:1 for 3D VR180 video. For 3D 360 video the aspect ratio would be 1:1.

You can enter the numbers manually or select them from the dropdown lists on the right.

Leave the “Scan mode” at “Progressive” and Colorspace the way it is, at this point.

Click OK to close the prompt.

2. Shotcut’s interface layout

Maximize Shotcut’s window to your screen size.

Shotcut’s interface is modular, you can resize individual sub-windows  by dragging on the 6 in-line dots handles or create a tabbed sidepane view by dragging and dropping them on top of each other.

You can add or remove sub-windows by going to the menu bar, selecting “View” and then enabling or disabling windows. You also have buttons for the sub-windows in the Toolbar.

The sub-windows also have buttons to maximize them or close them, in the top right of each one.

It is important to have the “Timeline”, “Filters”, “Export and “Jobs” sub-windows/ tabs.

You can disable the rest for now, if you want to. You can drag and drop the “Filters”, “Sections” and “Jobs” sections on top of eachother to create a tabbed view and gain screen realestate for your video preview section, where you will see the video.

3. Adding your videos to Shotcut.

You can drag and drop your videos to the “Playlist” section or you can drag and drop them directly to the “Timeline” section, where Shotcut will automatically create a video track. But you can create a video track before adding the videos by right clicking in the Timeline sub-window, selecting “Track Operations” and “Add Video Track”

When importing your clips you might get a “Convert to edit-friendly…” prompt if your video is variable framerate.

If you hit OK, it will convert the video internally to fixed framerate with ffmpeg.

At the slider, good/ medium will result in a bit of quality loss because of Shotcut’s settings but you benefit from smaller filesize of the output files. Unfortunately, Shotcut doesn’t provide a way to alter the good/ medium quality setting for H.264.

The “better/ large” setting and the “best/ biggest” setting will result in large files, you will need a lot of hard drive space.

If you don’t do this conversion, in the output it is possible to have unwanted results, such as audio crackling.

Advanced users can avoid this “Convert to edit-friendly…” prompt and get good quality with H.264/ H.265 by converting the video to fixed framerate with ffmpeg themselves, prior to importing the videos into Shotcut.

You can use multiple video tracks by right clicking a track, selecting “Track Operations” and “Add video track”. This is useful when for example overlaying text, images or other videos on your video.

4. Adding or replacing audio

You can add additional background audio by right clicking a track, selecting “Track Operations” and “Add Audio Track”, then dragging and dropping  your audio file there.

Or you can replace audio by right clicking on a video clip, selecting “Detach audio”, then clicking on the audio track to select the audio and pressing “Delete” on the keyboard and then replacing the audio with another one.

Shotcut does support “Spatial Audio” by the fact that it supports 6 channel “5.1” audio, with “Spatial Audio” being 4 track audio.

5. Trimming, splitting video sections

Select your video by clicking on it in the Timeline section, a red rectangle will appear around your video. Hover your mouse to the beginning until a vertical green bar appears or at the end of your clip until a vertical red bar appears, click on it and drag it to resize the clip to your liking.

For example, the Lenovo Mirage camera has an issue where the video may not be properly stabilized for the first approximately 0.3 seconds of video. With Shotcut, you can remove those 0.3 seconds at the beginning of the clips.

You can also split the clips by moving the white cursor on the timeline and then pressing “S” on the keyboard or by clicking on the Timeline icon that looks like “ ][ “

If there is a green gap between the clips, right click on it and select “Ripple delete”. The gap should now disappear and the clips should be brought together.

To remove a split clip, select it, right click and choose "Ripple Delete or select it, press “Delete”, then right click on the empty space that’s left and select “Ripple delete”.

6. Moving video clips

You can drag the videos by clicking on them to select them and dragging them while holding the click button pressed.

7. Fade-ins and fade-outs

You can create fade-ins or fade-outs by hovering the mouse cursor over the top left or top right corner of a clip and dragging the black circle that appears in the corner

8. Transitions

You can create transitions by dragging and dropping the end of video sections on top of each other.

9. Exporting your video

Go to the “Export” tab/ window, press the “Advanced” button and enter your preferred settings of resolution, aspect ratio and framerate. The “Format” can be mp4. At the Codec tab, choose libx264 or libx265 and something like 75% or more in order to preserve quality in VR.

If your GPU encodes simple unoverlayed video faster than your CPU, you might check the “Use hardware encoder” box, if not, leave it unchecked and render the video through your CPU.

When done with these settings, click on the “Export File” button and this will render your video.

10. See the progress of your video being rendered

You can see this in the “Jobs” window/ tab.

Success! This is how to do basic VR video editing in Shotcut.

Additional notes from XR Stereo Video: I particularly use Shotcut for overlays and stuff that definitely requires seeing the video, but I do some batch editing of certain parameters in ffmpeg beforehand, such as sharpening, denoising, adding keyframes at intervals, converting to fixed framerate, conversions between 3D 360 and 3D VR180 etc.

For example, in this video  I have used more advanced filters in Shotcut, such as "360: Rectilinear to Equirectangular" for integrating the arrows videos, positioning filters so that the arrows show where I wanted them, the way I wanted them, "360: Transform" to rotate the perspective 90+ degrees on the vertical axis and to align the perspective between clips, "Chroma Key" to remove the blackscreen and another filter to make it so that it only shows white pixels. I did the denoising and sharpening already beforehand in ffmpeg batch editing but they can be done in Shotcut as well.

In this video, I do a sort of foveation by overlaying two videos shot in 4K with two phones over a video shot with Lenovo Mirage, resulting in a high-resolution foveated 8K 3D VR180 video. I used Shotcut filters for conversion to equirectangular, for scaling and positioning and also available filters for adjusting brightness, contrast and white balance so they all match. I've also used functions to try to get closest to genlock, to try to match the frames in the 3 videos.

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