Lightworks 11.1.1 for Windows and 11.5 beta for Linux, First Take: Cross-platform video editing

EditShare bills Lightworks as a 'Hollywood-strength editor designed by editors for editors', but earlier beta releases of the Linux version have been disappointing. The latest beta sees this cross-platform video editor finally starting to live up to its promises.

EditShare recently announced the availability of Lightworks 11.1.1 for Windows, which includes support for Windows 8.1, improvements to H.264/MP4 handling and offline activations for the ELS licensing. Some long standing issues have also been addressed.

Lightworks is currently only available as a full release for Windows, but EditShare has always planned both Linux and Mac OS X versions. Betas of Lightworks 11.5 have just been made available for Linux and Windows, with Lightworks 12 scheduled for release early next year.

The Lightworks v 11.5 workspace running on Ubuntu 13.10. Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet

Registration, including the creation of a username and password, is required in order to download Lightworks. Once you're registered, Lightworks 11.5 beta for Linux is available as a 64-bit .deb package download for Ubuntu/Lubuntu/Xubuntu 13.10 and Mint 15, and as an .rpm for Fedora 19. A full list of fixes and new features in 11.5 is available on the Lightworks beta web page. A Read Me, Quick Start Guide, Hints & Tips and a v11 User guide are also available as PDFs from the download page.

In use on an Ubuntu Unity desktop, Lightworks is a bit disconcerting because it imposes its own full-screen workspace. This means that the Unity upper menu bar and the launcher are no longer available — the only way to access the Ubuntu desktop is via the minimise or close buttons at the top right of the Lightworks workspace, or to use Alt-Tab.

Marked improvement

Lightworks 11.5 beta shows a marked improvement since the first Linux release: cosmetic tweaks have toned down the  cartoon-like appearance of the original UI and playback of even HD clips is now smooth and clear. The effects palette does seem somewhat limited and although the core effects are there for video, audio capabilities are limited to crossfade and EQ. Audio normalise is available, but only on clip import and there are no enhancement tools such as reverb or noise removal.

The Red Shark icon at the bottom left of the workspace does occasionally offer hints, but Lightworks lacks an on-screen help system. The shark does have a secondary use: it can be used to remove elements from the workspace by right-clicking on it, dragging it over unwanted elements on the workspace and left clicking. The shark then 'swims' back to its original location. Another left click on the shark will restore the element.

EditShare has been criticised by the open-source community for potentially slowing development by not releasing the source code for the free Linux version of Lightworks. In repsonse, the company says it has chosen not to release the source — which it inherited when it purchased the project, along with GeeVS, from Gee Broadcast — as FOSS until it has been fully vetted for proprietary code.

Lightworks Free is available for download with a 30-day renewable licence and Lightworks Pro (currently Windows only) is available at a yearly subscription of £50, or £20 for educational purposes. The subscriptions, in part, pay the licensing fees for various proprietary codecs that extend the capabilities of Lightworks. A comparison of the features of the different versions is available on the Lightworks website.