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I would like to combine two videos into one. The first video should cover the entire screen. The second video should cover a smaller area at the upper right the screen (thus overlapping the first video).

Ideally the process should be automated. For example with a script that takes two input videos and outputs one movie file.

Can anyone recommend a video editing tool for Linux that would allow me to do this?

PS: The context is lecture recording. The main screen will be covered with a recording of the whiteboard or the presenter's desktop, while the presenter himself would be visible in he upper right rectangle of the screen.

As a developer I'd be willing to familiarize me with GStreamer and write an application that does just what I need. Would that be a good idea?

Edit 2
Just found this interesting gst-launch script that does almost exactly what I want. Let me try that out.

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What operating system are you planning to use for this? – mac Nov 22 '09 at 22:22
@mac, for Linux, I updated my post. – StackedCrooked Nov 22 '09 at 22:24

This one liner shows you how to do it, just adjust sizes to match your screen resolution.

gst-launch \
    v4l2src device=/dev/video1 \
    	! video/x-raw-yuv,width=352,height=288,framerate=\(fraction\)30/1 \
    	! videoscale \
    	! video/x-raw-yuv,width=640,height=480 \
    	! cairotextoverlay text=1 shaded-background=true deltax=310 deltay=-430 \
    	! videobox left=0  top=0  border-alpha=0 \
    	! videomixer name=mix \
    	! xvimagesink \
    v4l2src device=/dev/video0 \
    	! video/x-raw-yuv,width=640,height=480,framerate=\(fraction\)30/1 \
    	! videoscale \
    	! video/x-raw-yuv,width=1280,height=960 \
    	! cairotextoverlay text=2 shaded-background=true deltax=630 deltay=-910 \
    	! videobox left=0 top=0 border-alpha=0 \
    ! mix.
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Wow, what a code. Now shell looks fine to me. – Thiago F Macedo May 13 '13 at 1:50

I asked a similar question in question 71694. I ended up writing a python script to do what I wanted. This was easier than expected and I have ended up with a completely automated solution, though programming skills are obviously required.

Here is my work-flow;

  1. Export the input videos to image sequences using ffmpeg
  2. Define a configuration file that determines the location of the videos in the output, their frame-rates, start & stop times etc.
  3. The python script combines the images using the Python Imaging Library(PIL) and writes them out as a new image sequence
  4. use ffmpeg to recombine the output into a video

I am happy to share more details & code if you want to go down this route. Otherwise, I have also used Camtasia (not Linux so probably no use to you) to do produce some basic picture-in-picture stuff (they have nice tutorial here)

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That's an interesting approach. I'm gonna check out what the possibilities are, but just a few quick questions: Is there a significant loss in quality? How did you preserve audio? How do you associate timestamps for each image? – StackedCrooked Nov 22 '09 at 22:43
1) no loss in quality as I export to uncompressed bitmaps (it takes a lot of disk space temporarily) 2) it doesn't process audio right now - you could add the original audio track back in at stage 4 as ffmpeg can do this 3) A master frame-rate defined for the output video - for each output frame the script works out which frame is 'current' for each input stream and combines them There are python bindings for ffmpeg and I hope to eventually read & write the video streams directly to avoid saving the temporary images – rupello Nov 22 '09 at 22:58

Fascinating problem. I do not have a out-of-the-box solution but a couple of leads and alternate ways of doing that.


  • See this page they used imagemagick toolkit and some bash scripting (scripts available on the site). They needed to do something more complex than you need, but I suppose the technique is the same.
  • There are also various plugins available for FFmpeg. This watermark plugin uses an animated GIF on the main video. Again... different task, but I assume the code is highly recyclable for your ends.

Alternative ways of doing it

  • Record them simultaneously! You can use for example cheese to keep a shot of the teacher in the corner of the screen, and recordmydesktop to record the screen as a whole.
  • Use a video editor like OpenShot or Cinelerra to do the composite after you recorded separately the two videos.

Hope this helps you a bit in finding your way to solve the problem. Best luck!

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Did you have a look at DVSwitch? It's what the Debian project is using for recording conferences.

It's a bit different from what you are asking for in that it will mix two video streams in real time both for streaming and recording. The downside is that you lose the full quality original video, but on the upside you do not need as much disk storage as only the mixed output is stored.

It's also a GUI application with a live view of the overlayed/mixed video.

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