Blender is famous as a software for the creation of 3D animations. With many years on the road and ever more mature, the number of studios that started using the tool as a basis for their productions has been increasing. A lot of examples exist and, if you want to have a general idea, check the short movies made by Blender Foundation’s Open Projects and the Demo Reels of animations, series and commercials made with the program.
What is not so well known is that Blender is so well developed and open – not only because it’s free and open source software (FOSS), but because it’s accessible via API – that it could be adapted to complex editing of 2D videos. Its functionalities are par with programs like Final Cut and Adobe Premiere. More than that, it’s an app that runs in any operational system without even having to be installed.
Many people and organizations know well that video is a powerful way of communicating. What they may not know is that the free and open source tool to make them already exists. The Blender Velvets series of addons has been created taking into consideration the needs of those who edit video, creating functions that didn’t exist or improving those that were already there. The aim is to help making Blender the tool of choice for videoactivists, independent producers and even educational projects worldwide.
|Multiplataform||Blender runs on Linux, MacOS and Windows operational systems. The same is valid for the program’s addons.|
|Portable||Blender doesn’t have to be installed, as it works as a ‘bundle’. This means everything you need to run it comes in the same folder the program is downloaded with. Added to being free and open source (FOSS), this turns Blender into the perfect portable tool, making it possible to set a video editing environment wherever you are, in any machine, in just a couple of minutes. A typical Blender download has about 75MB, occupying only about 210MB of disk space after unpacked.|
|Reliable||Blender is a stable and reliable software for 2D video editing and has everything you’d expect of such tool. You can mix footage shot with different cameras, images and still pictures, insert 3D animations on the project, use external audio tracks etc. Also, the program has been tested with success as video editor in some complex projects with deadlines  – help expanding those examples!|
|Proxy editing||Blender allows you to create lower resolution versions of your videos (proxies), so that you can edit using less resources and generate intermediary renders more quickly. This is especially useful for longer projects, in which the narrative line passes through many different changes, and documentaries, that tend to have great volume of raw footage for reviewing. Automated proxy generation can be made with the Velvet Revolver addon.|
|Keyboard shortcuts help speeding up considerably the editing process. In Blender, you can set triggers for nearly everything. The Velvet Goldmine addon with its corresponding set of hotkeys, the Velvet Shortcuts, expand the existing functions and shortcuts, bringing the program closer to the most used video editors.|
|Complete suite||Blender is the closest free and open source program (FOSS) that we have to a complete suite for video editing. It edits 2D videos; creates 3D animations; allows for the simple treatment of images on its own 2D interface, or complex, in its Compositing Nodes interface; it can perform advanced tasks such as camera tracking, footage stabilization and animated masks for image manipulation.|
|DAW integration||DAWs, or Digital Audio Workstations, are dedicated programs for audio manipulation, being the most recommended place to edit and mix them. The Blue Velvet addon allows you to export your audio cuts from the Blender Sequencer directly to Ardour (Linux, MacOS), today’s main free and open source tool (FOSS) for audio.|
|Expandable||Blender has an API that is very accessible via Python language, making it incredibly expandable. If the program doesn’t do what you want it to, you can then program it in an independent way, without depending on the central nucleus of development and without having to go as down as the software’s source code. Opening apps via an API has been a tendency between the most successful tools. In Blender’s case, it has been done exceptionally well, allowing for the sprouting of many extra functions developed by its own community. The Blender Velvets are just one example in a variety of different addons.|
|Active and cyclic
|Blender has a history of constant and reliable development. A new version of the program tends to come out every 6 months, following a clear and public development plan, described at the program’s web page. This is possible not only due to how competent and serious the developers are, but also by the existence of a very active community and by the donation of people that use or like the project as a whole. If you are one of those people, consider with care donating some money to Blender Foundation. Why wait? Do it now!|
|Video FPS must
be the same
|Today, Blender’s main limitation is not having support to Motion-Compensated Frame Interpolation. This means you cannot mix videos with different framerate (FPS) in the same project without losing audio/video synchrony in some of them. There are two ways of dealing with this problem. The first one is, being aware of this limitation, establish the framerate for the whole project and warn the people that are going to record the footage to set all cameras to use the same FPS. Since this will not always be possible, and since more complex projects tend to mix different media sources (therefore, with different FPS), you will almost certainly have to resort to a second alternative: transcode the videos that have different FPS to the project’s framerate. Use the Velvet Revolver addon to transcode all media inside the same folder, automating the task.|
|The second main limitation in Blender for video editing is related to audio. Even though its audio tools will suffice to simpler projects, there are few resources available. It’s possible to do panning or to change the volume levels, but there isn’t, for example, an internal way of monitoring the levels of the sound output. This task requires using Jack to connect Blender to external monitoring software, such as jkmeter or jack_mixer (seen on this image). This is not difficult, but adds an extra step. For projects that need dedicate and more sophisticated audio care, use the Blue Velvet addon and export your audio cuts and tracks from Blender directly to Ardour, the appropriate program to do that.|
|Not everything is
|There is a limitation that may arise, especially for those that use different advanced video editors. Not everything in Blender will be as automatic as in other programs. Both Final Cut and After Effects, for example, have years of development in a multimillionaire industry – that’s why they will definitely do one task or another in a simpler or more automated way. To circumvent this limitation, plan yourself and… invest. Know what you want done and try to find someone that can implement what you have in mind. Problems ask for creative answers and when we talk about answers written in open code, the solution for a person can solve the problem of many others. This is exactly how the Blender Velvets came to existence, with the objective of improving Blender as video editor using the program’s own forces.|