Installing Cinelerra on Ubuntu Studio


Author: Rui Lopes

Cinelerra, one of the only serious video editing and compositing tools available for Linux, can cause frustration for users trying to install it on Ubuntu Studio. Fortunately, after several attempts, I found a way to install it easily.

Ubuntu Studio is a relatively new distribution based on Ubuntu (the version I’m using is 7.04 Feisty Fawn), whose specific aim is multimedia production, so it may be surprising that trying to install Cinelerra on Ubuntu Studio is like a nightmare come true. Nathan Willis reported this problem in his review of Ubuntu Studio, and the same complaints can be heard in forum threads on the Internet.

Cinelerra comes in two versions — one with the original codebase, released by a mysterious person/entity called Heroine Virtual, and the community version (CV), which makes revisions and improvements to that code. Although it is released as GPL, there is a controversy surrounding the legality of the original codebase, and that has kept Cinelerra from being included in the official repositories of most Linux distributions. In Debian and Ubuntu, you have to use third-party repositories in order to install the community version, which is the most stable and widely used.

The hard way

I first installed Cinelerra by adding the repositories listed on the community version Web site to the /etc/apt/sources.list file and then issuing sudo apt-get install cinelerra. You could also use Christian Marillat’s debian-multimedia repositories.

After installing Cinelerra, trying to run the application by clicking on the icon seemed to do nothing. I tried running it from the command line, which produced the following error: cinelerra cinelerra: symbol lookup error: /usr/lib/ undefined symbol: faacDecDecode. I searched the Internet for information regarding this issue, but found little useful data.

I then tried to compile the application from source, which required me to install Subversion. In the end, after installing numerous dependencies, the list of missing requirements offered by ./configure was so big that I just gave up.

By this time, I began to consider installing dyne:bolic, which brings Cinelerra correctly preinstalled, just to get it over with. But a certain kind of stubbornness and a growing attachment to the Ubuntu Studio look and feel made me persist. I finally tracked the problem down to the libfaad library, which had to be downgraded. I tried to run Package -> Force Version (Ctrl-E) on Synaptic, but to no avail. I had to download the package manually and install it by issuing sudo dpkg -i filename on the command line. After this, Cinelerra finally started working properly.

An easier way

I was recently forced to reinstall Ubuntu Studio, and figured there must be a better way to install Cinelerra. After some experimenting, I found an easier solution.

I started by installing Trevino’s Ubuntu repository for Feisty Fawn, which contains a list of up-to-date multimedia software, including Cinelerra. You can install it in one of two ways — you can either search for “trevino” on Synaptic and install the package (it will override sources.list on /etc/apt/ but make a backup copy of the original first), or you can download a sources.list file directly from Trevino’s Web site and replace the original by hand.

Next, I chose Cinelerra (version 2.1.0-2svn2007424ubuntu3) in Synaptic and tried to install it. Synaptic warned me that Cinelerra depends on libquicktimehv. I tried to install that first, but Synaptic gave me another error message: Depends: libfaad0 (>=2.5-2.1cafuego0) but it is not installable. Searching for libfaad0 in Synaptic gave me no results, but searching for faad showed me both libfaad0 and libfaad2-0. I installed libfaad0 (version 2.5-2.1), but libfaad2-0 refused to install, asking for libfaad0 2.5-2.1cafuego0.

However, I didn’t lose hope. I tried to force a different version of libfaad2-0 (in this case, 2.0.0+cvs20040908+mp4+bmp-0ubuntu3), and it worked, though it removed the version of libfaad0 I had already installed. This left me concerned, but installing all the other dependencies and Cinelerra itself went without a glitch.

After this, seeing Cinelerra’s splash screen appear was a relief, until Cinelerra showed a warning about memory issues. I tried running sudo echo "0x7fffffff" > /proc/sys/kernel/shmmax, as it advised, but I got a permission-denied error. You can work this out in one of two ways. First, you can issue sudo gedit /etc/sysctl.conf and add kernel.shmmax = 0x7fffffff at the end. You then save the file and run sysctl -p on the command line. Alternatively, you can do a permanent root login by issuing sudo su and then echo "0x7fffffff" > /proc/sys/kernel/shmmax. After this, Cinelerra should stop giving a warning message at startup.

In the end, it all comes down to opening Synaptic, installing Trevino’s Ubuntu Feisty Fawn repositories, forcing libfaad2-0 version 2.0.0+cvs20040908+mp4+bmp-0ubuntu3, installing all the remaining dependencies and Cinelerra itself, and resolving the memory issue. I’ve since installed Ubuntu Studio on a secondary machine, and this procedure worked without problems.

Advice for new users

Once you get the program working, don’t be put off by first impressions. Cinelerra has one of the ugliest interfaces I’ve ever seen, but luckily the application is themeable. In the main window, go to Settings -> Preferences (or press Shift-P) and then Interface -> Theme. Currently there aren’t many themes to choose from; a broader selection would certainly benefit Cinelerra.

Eye-candy issues aside, new users will soon learn why Cinelerra is the undisputed king of video-editing applications for Linux. Fortunately, it’s also the one with the most comprehensive documentation. The maintainers of the CV version gathered most of the disperse guides and wikis on the Internet in one place, in addition to assembling their own manual.

Some Cinelerra users report frequent crashes out of the blue. With my current configuration, I do experience crashes, but they happen rarely. Save your projects frequently, and if Cinelerra crashes before a save, load it again, and choose File -> Load backup.

The final release of Ubuntu Studio 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) is just around the corner. I’m tempted to upgrade, but I hope either that Cinelerra comes preinstalled this time, or that installing it is easier for a first-time user of the distribution. I hope the Ubuntu Studio developers will put more focus on video editing tools in future releases.


  • Graphics & Multimedia