Can't record your desktop in Kdenlive v19+? You might need to check your configuration paths!


We recently reached the maximum memory/heat/system shutdown bug(s) with OpenShot editor and due to a very tight turnaround deadline, we started to look at the next step up in open-source video editing. The former served us quite well for about 9 months but the complexity of our video renders now require something beefier.

We've used OBS Studio for recording the desktop/applications in the past but having to edit them in Handbrake and then insert into our standard video creator tool as a clip is an annoying multi-step process.

Since Kdenlive has the screen grab feature incorporated directly and has a quasi-simple UI its becoming our perfect graduation present (sorry OpenShot but thanks for all the fish).

Many tutorials at YouTube talk and display the old interface of Kdenlive and even if you look through the official documentation you'll get images of the old interface. To add further frustration the new user will find no images on the page specific to screen grab either (at least as of Dec 2020).

Screen grab is hidden by default. You can pull it up easily under the main menu View column and check the display box and the sub-menu will appear with a nice big red record button. It may appear towards the right side near the preview area if you haven't already customized your layout. We moved ours to the top left to suit our creation flow.

Screen grab by using the red button.

Select the red button and then...nothing happens??? The fix is actually pretty easy. On first install you should run the Settings > Config Wizard as a precaution that your GPU is recognized and all is well.

Kdenlive Configuration Wizard

Then you can check the Settings > Configure... > Environment paths to your ffmpeg and other various sub-programs Kdenlive uses including audio and image editor.

ffmpeg missing MLT environment settings

As you can see in the image above, Kdenlive doesn't know where to look for the critical ffmpeg along with several other dependencies. This is why the screen grab feature does not function.

As mention many times on our blog, we utilize Ubuntu Mate for our desktops. However, your paths to ffmpeg will likely be very similar to the following locations as shown below:

ffmpeg correct paths MLT environment settings

One thing to note is that the screen grab tool requires a version ffmpeg compiled with the x11grab functionality. Per documentation:

In version 0.9.3 [(???)], the screen grab is done by the ffmpeg functionality. For screen capture to work in ver 0.9.3 [(???)], the version of ffmpeg installed needs to have been compiled with the --enable-x11grab option. Ubuntu comes with an ffmpeg version compiled with this option.

Interestingly checking this flag with ffmpeg --version did not reveal the x11 flag in our terminal output. But it works nonetheless on Ubuntu Mate Ubuntu 20.04.1 LTS, kernel 5.4.0-56-generic.

Here's a short video showing the all the steps needed to check the path parameters. The screen has been chopped towards the right side for privacy.

Thinking of expanding your social media presence using video production? Don't have any idea where to start or if you can even perform intense renders? We can help! Email us using our contact page. We are happy to provide up to one free hour of consultation for your business.


About the Writer
Chris Lessley
Author: Chris Lessley
A server admin, dev ops warrior and website designer since 2002, Chris is a lover of all things Linux and open-source! Each blog topic has been tested by fire in the real world and shared with the hope to help others. Need more help? Hire me! Chris' other interests include fine art and the humanities in the classical tradition and can be found writing for our friends over at If you like this content, kindly consider donating to keep this website free to all, without ads.

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