Cinelerra for Grandma
Basic HOWTOs for very beginners
Cinelerra in 30'
Preparing media
Adjusting settings
Loading media
First editing
Second editing
Colour correction
Making animations
Making a DVD
Anamorphic video
Proxy editing
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Table of Contents

How to restart Cinelerra with default settings

Delete ~/.bcast, the (hidden) directory in your home directory that contains configuration files. Cinelerra will recreate it with default settings. If you want to keep your settings, you can rename the directory (e.g. .bcast-old) rather than deleting it. You can always revert to your former settings by deleting the new one and renaming back the old one.

Using the Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Go to Places → Home folder. Go to View and select Show hidden files.

To delete the folder, right click on .bcast and select Move to the trash.
Open Cinelerra: a new .bcast is created and Cinelerra starts with default settings.

To recover the old .bcast, delete the new .bcast. Then open the Trash window by clicking on the Trash icon at the bottom right of the screen. Drag .bcast from the Trash and drop it back into your Home Folder.
Open Cinelerra: Cinelerra starts with your old settings.

To rename the .bcast folder instead, right click on .bcast and select Rename…. Enter the new name (e.g. .bcast-old).

To recover the old .bcast, delete the new .bcast. Right click on .bcast-old, select Rename… and enter the name .bcast.

Using the Command Line (CL)

To delete the directory use the following terminal command:

rm -r .bcast

To rename it:

mv .bcast .bcast-old

To revert to the old one:

mv .bcast-old .bcast

How to close an unresponsive Cinelerra

It can happen that your Cinelerra hangs or is frozen and the File → Quit menu command or the cross button don’t close the program. You have to force quit.

Using the Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Go to System → Administration → System Monitor.
Select the Processes tab.
Look for cinelerra in the processes list.
Right click on Cinelerra line and select End Process from the popup menu.
If the program doesn’t close, select Kill Process instead.

Using the Command Line (CL)

Open a terminal. Type the following command:

ps ax | grep cinelerra

You’ll get an output very similar to this:

13447 ?        Sl     0:00 cinelerra
13492 pts/0    R+     0:00 grep cinelerra

Here you can see cinelerra is the process number 13447.

To kill process #13447 use the following command:

kill 13447

The process number varies. Adapt it to your case.

Using both CL and GUI

Open a terminal and type:

The mouse pointer will turn into a cross.
Click on the Program Window to close it.
You may need to repeat this operation for every window.

How to know the format and codecs of your source file

Using the Command Line (CL)

Make sure you have ffmpeg installed.

Use the following terminal command (replace myfile.ext with the absolute path, filename and extension of your source file):

ffmpeg -i myfile.ext

You’ll get something like:

Input #0, dv, from '/home/raffa/file.dv':
  Duration: 00:00:13.0, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 28800 kb/s
    Stream #0.0: Video: dvvideo, yuv420p, 720x576 [PAR 59:54 DAR 295:216], 28800 kb/s, 25.00 tb(r)
    Stream #0.1: Audio: pcm_s16le, 48000 Hz, stereo, 1536 kb/s
Must supply at least one output file

The codec is the first information in the Video and Audio Streams line (in the example above they are dvvideo for video and pcm for audio).

Using the Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Make sure you have VLC installed.

Right click on your file and select Open with "VLC Media Player" from the popup menu.
During playback go to Tools→Codec information.

If the codec description is not clear enough, try open you file with Movie Player instead. Make sure the Sidebar option selected at the top is Properties.

If you are still not satisfied, use ffmpeg from the command line (see howto above).

Troubles capturing from camera

  1. I can’t capture from my MiniDv camera via Firewire in Cinelerra.

    Unfortunately Cinelerra is very buggy when capturing DV with newer kernels. Use Kino or dvgrab instead.

  2. I can’t capture with dvgrab. I get this error: Error: no camera exists

    Turn your camera on in playback mode.

  3. I can’t capture with Kino. All the controls for capture and transport are greyed out.

    Probably the kernel module has wrong permissions or you don’t belong to the disk group. See the next trouble.

  4. I can’t capture with dvgrab nor with kino. I get an error about raw1394

    /dev/raw1394 is a special file: a kernel module that is created when the camera is plugged in and turned on. It refers to the IEEE1394 connection known also as DV or Firewire.
    For safety reasons (to restrict the raw access to the IEEE1394 stack and prevent execution of arbitrary code on the host system as root), by default DV devices are not accesible by normal users.

Let’s have a look at this kernel module with the command:

ls -l /dev/raw1394
If you get:
ls: cannot access /dev/: No such file or directory

then the file is not loaded. To load the raw1394 kernel module either:

  • Reboot with your camera plugged in and turned on or

  • Load the module with the command:

    sudo modprobe raw1394

Run ls -l /dev/raw1394 again.

If you get:
crw-rw---- 1 root disk 171, 0 2008-08-21 13:26 /dev/raw1394

or (for Jaunty and Karmic)

crw-rw---- 1 root root 171, 0 2009-06-27 13:32 /dev/raw1394

listen carefully to the crw-rw---- permissions that tells you that only root and group disk (root only for Jaunty) can read and write the file.
Check the list of groups you belong to with the terminal command:


By default you don’t belong to disk group nor to root group.

Possible solutions are:

Option #1:

Run Kino as root with the following command:

 sudo kino

This will work but it is not recommended. 'sudo' is meant for administrative tasks, not for normal users tasks.
Try also the other possible solutions and keep this as your last resort.

Option #2:

Change the file permission allowing read and write for all users with the following command:

 sudo chmod 666 /dev/raw1394

Check the permissions again. Now they should be:


You have now access to the kernel module and can capture with Kino for the time of your working session.
When you reboot the raw1394 kernel module will be created with the original permissions.

Option #3:

Add yourself to the `disk` group with the following command:

 sudo adduser $USER disk

This will give you permanent reading/writing access to the raw1394 kernel module.

You can check the list of groups you belong to with the terminal command:


You can see the disk group is now listed. Reboot to make the changes effective.
Note for Jaunty amd Karmic:

You must first change the group module to _disk_, by editing a file by hand.

Open up a terminal and type:

 sudo gedit /lib/udev/rules.d/50-udev-default.rules

In the #firewire section add the following line:

KERNEL=="raw1394", GROUP="disk"

Troubles opening Cinelerra

  1. When I launch Cinelerra I get an error message about /proc/sys/kernel/shmmax being too low.

    See How to approach the Cinelerra error message you get at start up.

  2. When I run Cinelerra on Hardy, the interface is frozen. I can only close the Tip of the day dialog box. No other window responds. I can’t close Cin, I can only kill her.

    Try to:

    • Run Cinelerra as superuser (this workaround will probably work, but it is not recommended for safety reasons. Try also the following workarounds and keep this as your last resort). Open Cinelerra with the following terminal command:

      sudo cinelerra
    • Install akirad package. It has also a package named optlibx11-noxcb that helps all application that have problem with xcb.

    • Start cinelerra from the Terminal with the following command:

      LIBXCB_ALLOW_SLOPPY_LOCK=true Cinelerra
      LIBXCB_ALLOW_SLOPPY_LOCK=true cinelerra
    • Launch Cinelerra inside gdb, the GNU debugger (This is a classic case of Murphy Law: chase a bug and it will vanish. Or more cinematographically speaking - quoting David McNab - "Turn on the light and the cockroaches scurry off into the cracks").
      Use the following terminal commands:

      gdb cinelerra
    • Upgrade your kernel (if you are using kernel or older versions).

    • Use compiz.

    • Downgrade libx11-6 (e.g. from 1.1.4-2 to 1.0.3-7). Install the package from

    • Keep the frozen Cinelerra open. Run a second instance of Cinelerra.

    • Log out. Press CTRL ALT F2. Enter your username and password. Run sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop first and then sudo startx

    • Install the package xfce4. Run sudo startxfce4. Open a terminal in the new session and type cinelerra

    • Have a look at bug 406: you’ll feel less lonely.

  3. I can’t open my projects anymore. Cinelerra hangs when loading them: the Media folder does not show.

    • Probably a source file was left open in the Viewer at the time of saving (check the title bar of the Viewer window). To solve the problem, make a tweakable copy of your XML project file. Open it in a text editor. Delete all the content included between the tags <VWINDOW_EDL> and </VWINDOW_EDL>. It can be quite a lot of text. This malfunctioning is a known bug (bug 493). To prevent this problem, always close the source in the Viewer before saving: right click in the Viewer canvas to open a popup menu and select Close source.

    • If the Viewer windows bar doesn’t show any filename, just Cinelerra: Viewer, then open your project from a terminal with

      cinelerra projectname.xml
  4. I can’t open my project anymore. Cinelerra crashes when loading it.

    Try to:

    • Check your source files. One of them might be corrupted.

    • Reboot.

    • Make a tweakable copy of your XML project file. Open it in a text editor. Delete all the content included between the tags <VWINDOW_EDL> and </VWINDOW_EDL>. It can be quite a lot of text.

  5. When I launch Cinelerra I get this error message: cinelerra: error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

    Open a terminal and type the following command:

    sudo ldconfig
  6. When I launch Cinelerra I get this error message: cinelerra: error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory.

    Open a terminal and type the following command:

    sudo ln -s /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/

Troubles loading onto the timeline

  1. The still image I’ve just imported doesn’t show on the timeline.

    Very likely it is there but only one frame long. Zoom in time to check (arrow down). You can either trim the frame to lengthen the edit or (better) reload your picture after having set the duration it is going to have on the timeline in Settings → Preferences → Recording - Images. Check the option Import images with a duration of … seconds and enter the desired length.

  2. No assets are visible on the timeline after loading

    If the assets are not visible but they are playable, try checking Show assets in the View menu.

  3. I can’t import my video file.

    Make sure you have enough tracks armed.
    It is possible also that the format of your source file is not supported and you ned to transcode it. See How to convert your source file to MJPEG.

  4. I can’t import my video. Only the audio is loaded.

    Make sure you have the video track armed.
    If you can’t load video on an armed video track, then very likely the codec of your video is not supported and you ned to transcode it. See How to convert your source file to MJPEG.

  5. I can import the video but the sound of my source files is all garbled.

    Very likely the codec of your audio is not supported and you ned to transcode it. See How to convert your source file to MJPEG.

Troubles during playback

  1. I can’t stop the the playback of the audio track

    If playback of audio tracks doesn’t stop on the timeline and the insertion point keeps going after the end of the video, go to Settings → Preferences → Playback and click on the Stop playback locks up checkbox. This checkbox is shown only if you set ALSA as audio driver.

  2. The playback of the video is too slow, the video falls behind audio

    Very likely Cinelerra is struggling to play every frame but can’t playback the video as quickly as the audio. A solution is to let her drop few frames. This will make the preview of the video in the Compositor less fluid but will preserve synchrony and won’t affect the quality of the final rendered file. To enable this option go to Settings → Preferences → Playback - Video Out and disable the Play every frame option (enabled by default).

  3. The playback is weird: I get no audio, the video in the Compositor is excessively slow, in the Tineline the cursor is sweeping the same area again and again

    Cinelerra might be having problems reading audio. Try to:

    • Go to Settings → Preferences → Playback - Audio Out. Change Audio Driver to ALSA and select the "Stop playback locks up" checkbox.

    • Close any other program using audio (e.g. you browser or Kino)

  4. Audio is not in synch with Video; audio waveforms don’t match the sound I hear.

    Very likely the waveforms are accurately placed but the sound is late because of latency. The delay of audio varies with the audio driver you choose. You can correct this delay going to Settings → Preferences → Playback - Audio Out and entering a value in the Audio offset (sec) field. The manual suggests a procedure to discover what is the right value for you. On my average computer, using ALSA as audio driver, it is 0.3.

  5. The the sound of my source files is all garbled.

    Very likely the codec of your audio is not supported and you ned to transcode it. See How to convert your source file to MJPEG.

  6. The playback of my .mp3 audio file is very weird. The playback is correct for the first seconds (regardless of where I start) and then gradually becomes unrelated to time. Seeking is unreliable.

    Cinelerra can’t read properly .mp3 files with variable bitrate. You need to create a table of contents (TOC) file. Then load on the timeline the .toc file instead of the .mp3 file. To create the TOC file use the following command (adapt it to your case, giving the full path to the .mp3 file first myfile.mp3 and then the full path to the TOC file to be created myfile.toc):

mpeg3toc -v myfile.mp3 myfile.toc

Troubles rendering

  1. Cinelerra crashes half way during rendering to MPEG Video

    Try an alternative method of rendering to MPEG. See How to render your project to dvd compliant format.

  2. I can’t render using YUV4MPEG Stream as format, with ffmpeg DVD pipeline. I get a message: Error rendering data

    Remove the options -ilme -ildct -hq from the preset ffmpeg pipeline.

Troubles with the interface

  1. The Preferences window is so big I can’t hit OK.

    On screens less than 800 pixels in heigth (e.g. 1024x768 resolution) the Preferences window is not displayed completely. The bottom part is missing and you can’t click the OK, Apply or Cancel buttons. To move the window upward, hold the Alt key and drag the central part of the window. Dragging the top bar won’t work.
    If you can’t drag the window this way, open a terminal and type gconf-editor to open the Configuration Editor window. Navigate to apps/compiz/plugins/move/allscreens/options and uncheck constrain_y. You should now be able to Alt-drag and move the Preferences window.

If you still have no luck you can make it work with a couple of workarounds. This is what you miss from the window


Instead of clicking OK you can press the ENTER key.

To enable the possibility of setting a duration for the imported images you need to edit the Cinelerra_rc text file contained in the .bcast folder. It’s easy and painless.

  • Open a terminal and type:

    gedit .bcast/Cinelerra_rc
  • Search for the text:

    SI_DURATION 5.000000e+00
  • In the first line replace 0 (= function disabled) with 1 (= function enabled).

  • The number 5 in the second line is the duration (in seconds) the images will have when loaded on the timeline. Type a different value if needed.

Troubles compiling Cinelerra

  1. When installing dependencies on Hardy, I get an error about a conflict between libasound2-dev and libasound2 libraries, libasound2 version being too old.

    Download and install a new libasound2 package for Debian (compatible with Ubuntu) from the Debian packages site

  2. When running make on Intrepid, I get this error: make[1]: /usr/bin/ld: cannot find -lGLU collect2: ld returned 1 exit status

    Make sure you have libglu1-mesa-dev installed.