Chapter 20: Using REAPER with Video

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20 Using REAPER with Video[edit]

With the introduction of version 5.0, REAPER's video capabilities have been considerably enhanced and expanded. In overview, you can:

Carry out simple editing tasks like deleting, moving or copying parts of a video.

Edit an existing video soundtrack.

Add new sound to a video.

Add various visual effects to a video track, such as fading and lighting.

Edit or blend the contents of several video files into one, optionally using effects such as crossfade.

Use automation envelopes to manage your video effects.

Render the output of your project into a new video file.

Throughout this chapter a basic understanding and knowledge of REAPER's audio, editing and project management features is assumed: only those aspects specific to video will be explained in detail. We'll start by looking at and working thru some practical examples, then towards the end of the chapter deal with the more technical aspects such as settings and preferences.

Later in this chapter we'll look at issues like video workflow, but first we'll look at how REAPER handles video.

20.1 Simple Video Editing[edit]

REAPER can be used to edit the soundtrack of your video files, such as .MOV, .WEBM, .AVI, .MPG, .VLC, .MP4 and .WMV files. These files are imported using the Insert, Media File command, or by simply dragging and dropping into REAPER's Arrange window.

In addition, you can use the Track, Insert Track from Template command to import data from a .EDL file. Use the View, Video Window command, Ctrl Shift V, to show the Video Window. This window is dockable. For Windows users, video playback is handled by Direct Show (but see 20.7): OS X uses Quick Time.

You can edit the original soundtrack, and/or add extra audio tracks and items to the existing soundtrack (as shown above).

The Options menu in the video window (shown right) offers a number of useful features:

Dock: This option enables you to dock the video window. The same command will also undock an existing docked window. Docking is discussed throughout this user guide. In particular, simple docking is explained more fully in Chapter 2, and the use of multiple dockers is explored in Chapter 12.

Full screen: A toggle command used to expand the video window to cover the whole screen. In full screen mode, right click anywhere to display this menu.

Preserve video aspect ratio: When enabled, this ensures that the height:width picture ratio is maintained no matter how the window is resized.

Resize video window to original video size: Needs no explanation!

Video item properties. This opens a window revealing the properties (length, video, audio, decoding format, etc.) of the video item.

Example 1

Download the sample projects from

To open them, you will need to have a utility program such as AlZip or 7 Zip. The archive file contains two folders, Wildlife and Zebras. The video items are in MOV format. If they do not display in REAPER, you may need to install the VLC decoder. An easy way to do this is simply to download and install the free VLC media player (see also Section 20.7). In the sample clips, video quality has been compromised to keep the file and download size to a minimum.

In the first example we will start by performing some basic and simple editing tasks before getting a little more ambitious and adding some effects. You should not attempt these exercises unless you have at least a basic understanding and experience of working within REAPER's arrange view environment.

  1. Open the project Zebras.RPP. You will find a video of about 45 seconds of zebras drinking at a water hole. Let's decide we want to shorten it a little. First, save it as ZebrasDemo.RPP.
  2. Display the Options menu and make sure that Ripple editing is enabled for all tracks.
  3. Click on the media item to select it.
  4. Within the arrange view window, select the time from approx 8 secs to 20 secs. Right click on the media item and choose Cut selected area of item. Press Esc to clear the time selection.
  5. Now let's add a musical soundtrack. Turn the volume fader on the Zebras track all the way down.
  6. Display either Windows Explorer or REAPER's media explorer and drag and from the Zebras folder drag and drop the file morning.mp3 into your project as a new track. Shorten the audio track to make it the same length as the video. Save the file and play it.
  7. If you wish, add a track to this project. On this track record a little spoken commentary, then use volume envelopes so that the voice will sit nicely on top of the music. Your project will look something like this:
  8. Save the file. Do not yet close it.

Now let's get a little more ambitious and add a video effect or two.

REAPER's video effects can be inserted into track or item take FX chains. They are flexible and powerful, but they do take some time and effort to get to grips with and to master. Some of them do include parameter control rotaries, but sometimes to get the best results you will need to be a little more adventurous. We'll dig deeper into explanations later in this chapter, but for now let's just explore some of the simpler options.

20.2 Video Effects[edit]

Example 1 (Continued)

  1. Click on the FX button for the video track Zebras. When the Add FX window is displayed, make sure that All Plugins is selected in the left pane. In the right pane click on Video processor then OK. Instead of a window with a standard familiar plug-in interface you will see something quite different. Currently no effect has yet been loaded.
  2. Let's add a title. From the presets drop down list choose Title overlay. This might look a bit strange (see right).
  3. The first black column displays the parameter controls. These determine the size, appearance and position of the text.
  4. The second column contains the actual EEL code used to create the effect. Notice that your video window currently displays the text This is a title. You should be able to see where this is also written in the FX window pane. Click in this pane and edit this line to read Text='Zebras'; (edit only the text between the quote marks, nothing else), then press Ctrl S to save. The text in your video window changes.
  5. Lets create some effects. Click first on this FX's text height parameter control button, then on the Param button (top right), then Show track envelope. Add points and adjust this envelope as shown here.
  6. With your mouse adjust the y position knob to 0.07. Play the video. The text will now be positioned higher up, starting very small and growing larger.
  7. Let's suppose we only want to display the title for 10 seconds or so. This can be achieved by adding a bypass envelope.
  8. Click on the automation button for the Zebras video track (labelled 'trim'). Under the heading text overlay select Bypass. Close the window: a bypass envelope will be displayed just beneath the track.
  9. At or around the 10 second mark, add a point to this envelope and drag that point up, as shown below:
  10. Save the file and play the video.
  11. Now let's add a visual effect. In the FX chain for the Zebras video track, add another instance of the video processor.
  12. Into this effect load the preset Horizontal wipe. This preset includes one parameter control, labelled wipe pos.
  13. Save the file and play it. Notice you can now only see half of the picture in the video window: the other half is blackened out!
  14. We can fix this with an automation envelope. Add and envelope for this track for the parameter wipe pos on the effect horizontal wipe.
  15. Adjust this envelope as shown below: you do not need to be exact in positioning the points.
  16. Save the file and play the video. The picture will now scroll out from the right at the end of the video.

In the next example we will be a little more ambitious with our use of effects.

Note 1: When you modify and the code of a video effect, you are only changing it for that single instance, you are not changing the default. If you make a mistake or get confused, simply remove the plug-in from the FX chain, reinsert it and start again.

Note 2: Pressing F1 from within a preset code window will open a help window which includes a list of parameters used by that preset,.

20.3 Working with Multiple Video Tracks[edit]

There is one important fact that you will need to get your head around before you start working on projects with more than one video track. Unlike pure audio projects, when you are working with multiple video tracks the track order is significant.

REAPER processes video tracks and items differently from the way in which it processes audio tracks and items. By default, REAPER will audibly process all audio tracks and items. With video, however, the situation is different, not least because you may have several video tracks all competing for the one video window. The default position is that where multiple video tracks are present, during playback only the item(s) on one of them will be displayed in the video window. Which one this is will depend on which is assigned the highest priority.

The following summary indicates how priority is allocated. However, it is important to be assured (as you will see in the examples later in this section) that by using transition effects and automation envelopes you can override the default behavior and determine which and/or how many of your items are displayed at any one time during playback.

Video is processed from bottom to top, so that a lower numbered track will override a higher numbered track. For example, if track 1 and track 2 both contain video items, then without the use of envelopes and/or effects only the video contents of track 1 will be displayed in the video window during playback. The master track is processed last.

A similar hierarchy exists on tracks with more than one video item and where free item positioning is used. That is, by default the contents of only the bottommost item will be displayed in the video window.

Where video FX are used, video FX on the track process the output of the video FX on individual items.

There is an option on the Video page of your Project Settings which allows you to reverse the video processing hierarchy if you wish, so that video will be processed instead from top to bottom.

Working with video files can be a resource hungry activity, especially on older computers. If you are encountering performance difficulties during playback and/or editing, you may need to make tweaks to your video preferences options which can improve performance. These are explained at the end of this chapter.

Video effects can be inserted in any of three places ' in the video item itself, in the video track, or in a separate video effects track. Depending on where you place them, the outcome can vary. If necessary, be patient, and be prepared to learn by exploring!

This next example uses a project file with three video tracks. If you have downloaded and unzipped the sample files included in VideoExamples.7z you will find the folder Wildlife which includes two projects, Wildlife1 and Wildlife2. Wildlife1 will be used for the practical exercises. Wildlife2 shows you how the project will look when it has been completed. The Wildlife2 folder also includes a further project with more examples (Wildlife3), but we'll come to that shortly.

Example 2

First, we will look at a project with some simple edits and video effects added. After that, we can discover how this was done. Open the file Wildlife2 and play the video from the beginning. Notice in particular that:

If you check the video page of your project settings (Alt Enter) you should see that Items in lower numbered tracks replace higher.

There is an animated title.

There are three video tracks, which have been edited so that at the beginning and end of the movie these are shown one at a time, in sequence, but in the middle they are faded in and out.

An additional track, Track 1, contains no media items, only various video processing plug-ins.

Further visual effects are used from time to time..

Let's see how this was done, starting with track 1, Video FX.

The Track Edits

Simple slip editing has been performed on the video tracks. Because these are processed with lower track numbers having priority, when this is played you will initially see only the elephants (track 4), then only the zebras (track 3) then only the antelopes (track 2).

The Title

Position the play cursor at the very start of the video. A video processing effect instance has been added to this track's FX chain (track 1), and the preset title overlay selected.

The code has been edited with the text changed to Morning in Africa

Some parameter values have been changed from their defaults, notably text height (0.9), y position (1) and text bright (0.37). This last setting hides the text by making it the same color as its background.

Envelopes have been added (see above) to first fade up the text to make it visible (text bright), then scroll it across the screen to the center (x pos), then fade it out. A bypass envelope ensures that the title is removed altogether at or around the 13 second mark.

Tips: To help you understand the purpose of the various parameters, at any time you can click in the window containing the preset code and press F1 to obtain further information (see right).

If you wish, you can edit these parameter values directly in the code. We will do this with the next example.

The Crossfade Effect

A second video processor instance has been added (above the text overlay) to Track 1,using the Crossfade through inputs' preset.

A bypass envelope is used to ensure that the crossfade is applied only during the period of approximately 20 seconds in the middle of the movie.

The speed of the crossfade is determined by the multiplier used to set value of the parameter project_time. The higher this value, the faster the rate of crossfade. In this example, this has been edited from its default value of 0.5 to 0.2 (see right)

The Zoom Effect

An instance of the video processor plug-in has been added to the Elephant track and the preset track opacity/zoom/pan added. A zoom envelope is used to zoom this track out completely at the very end.

Note: If you develop a serious knowledge and understanding of scripting languages such as Lua or EEL then you have at your disposal an amazing scope for creating and using video effects in REAPER. However, as this example has demonstrated, even a very limited knowledge and understanding such as is required for this example places considerable power in your hands!

Try it yourself! Open the file Wildlife1, save it as Wildlife1a and have a go at reproducing these effects yourself. Any time you make edits to any code, remember to press Ctrl S to save. Don't yet be too ambitious: in the next example we'll explore a slightly more complicated example.

Example 3

This next example, Wildlife3 uses the same source media files but includes some different effects. Shown here is part of the arrange view for this file. Play this video from the beginning, then we can have a look at what has been added.

The main title is now centered on the video window, is larger, and fades up at the beginning before disappearing. It reappears at the end and is faded down.

There are more effects on the antelopes. They return at about the 10 second mark badly pixelated, then gradually ease into a clean image before the lighting effect is applied.

The zebras have their own track title displayed, Time for a drink. This is displayed for a few seconds near the end of the video. Let's see how this was ALL done.

The Main Title: This should not need any further explanation.

The Antelope Stage Lighting Effect: A stage lighting effect has been added to the Antelope video track. Conservative values have been applied to the parameters to ensure that the effect is fairly subtle.

The Zebra Pixel Effect: An instance of the video processor has been added to the Zebra track FX chain, and the preset pixelate a portion of the image has been added. This preset comes with five parameter controls (knobs), any or all of which can be tweaked and/or automated.

Together, the first four determine the positioning (horizontal and vertical) and size (width and height) of the area covered by, the pixelated part of the screen. Experiment with these if you like. The fifth control determines the size of each pixel: this is what we are going to look at now.

A pixelsize and a bypass envelope have both been added for this plug-in. The bypass envelope ensures that the pixel effect is only displayed for the few seconds that it requires. The pixelsize starts at zero, rises sharply to about 50%, then gradually decreases again to zero.

20.4 Video Processor Parameter Controls[edit]

The video processor plug-in includes the standard features of REAPER's audio plug-ins, explained in Chapter 6 of this User Guide. For example, the + button can be used to save and load your own presets.

From a track's FX chain, click first on any of the plug-in's rotary parameter controls then on the plug-in's Param button (right) to add a parameter control to the TCP, add a track envelope, use parameter modulation or use the learn function to assign the control to a controller. From an item's FX chain, you can add an automation envelope or access the learn function.

20.5 Video Effects Presets (Examples)[edit]

The number and variety of presets available for use with REAPER's video processor plug-in is being constantly improved and updated. At time of writing, the following presets are available:

  • Track opacity/zoom/pan
  • Item fades affect video
  • De-interlace
  • 2 x 2 input matrix
  • Horizontal wipe
  • Faded top
  • Matrix crossfade
  • Crossfade thru inputs
  • Matrix of recent frames
  • Stage lighting
  • Title text overlay
  • Pixelate
  • Show motion (subtract last frame)
  • Simple source chroma-key
  • Vignette
  • Image overlay
  • YUV multiplier/desaturation
  • Cheap brightness/contrast
  • Colorize
  • Equirectangular 360 panner
  • Invert colors
  • Blitter feedback
  • Edge detection (vertical)

Here are some examples of some of these effects in use. More effects might be downloadable from the REAPER stash. It would not be practical to document these in detail here. Play around with some of these effects on your sample project files to learn by doing. Select Reset from the drop-down to restore a preset to its default settings.

Video Preset Examples

Faded Top

2x2 Input Matrix

Matrix Crossfade

Matrix of Recent Frames

Show Motion


20.6 Understanding Video Formats[edit]

Newcomers to video often find the whole topic bewildering. This section aims to guide you thru some basic concepts, so that you can at least confidently get started. It is not comprehensive and by no means covers everything that you should eventually need to know.

Video files hold video and other data that exhibits a number of attributes such as frame rate, pixel dimensions and audio channels. Different formats can be used for capturing, saving, editing and distribution of this data. Different formats are characterised by the whichever video container and codec they use.

Video signal attributes

As with most things audio and video, the higher the numbers the better the quality and the larger the resulting file size! In particular, video characteristics include:

Frame size: the video frame's dimensions, measured in pixels, typically within the range 160 (width) by 120 (height) to 1920 by 1080 (Full HD).

Frame rate: the speed with which each frame is first captured then played back. Each frame holds a still image. The human eye starts to see motion (albeit 'jerky') at 8 frames per second (fps). The motion will start to appear smooth at rates of 24 fps and above. The U.S. standard frame rate for 720 HD (1280 by 720 pixels) is 59.94 fps, often rounded up to 60 fps

Aspect ratio:the ratio of width to height. This can be expressed either as whole numbers, e.g. 16 by 9, or as a decimal ratio, e.g. 1.78:1. 16 by 9 is the ratio used by widescreen TV.

Bit rate: the rate at which data is transferred, for example, from the file to the screen. Bit rate is usually measured in megabits per second (mps). By way of example, HD Blu-ray video typically uses a bit rate of 20 mbps, standard DVD quality is around 6 mbps. HD mobile phone, on the other hand uses rates of 2500 (HD) or 5000 (Full HD) kilobits per second (kbps).

Audio sample rate: the number of samples per second used to digitize recorded sound. This is discussed in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.

Container files

Container files are files that contain video (and other related) data. You are probably at least vaguely familiar with commonly used container extensions such as .MOV, and.AVI. Different containers provide different degrees of support for (for examples) different video and audio compression formats, subtitles, and so on. For example, several container formats support multiple audio streams, others support only one. In fact, you can learn very little about a video file from its container type alone. To do that, right-click over the video item within REAPER and choose Source properties... from the context menu. An example is shown above.

When rendering video in REAPER (see Chapter 21) available formats are AVI, QT/MOV/MP4, MKV and WEBM.


If the container format provides a container for holding a file's data, then the codec (coder/decoder) is the method by which that data is actually encoded. The very large number of codecs available makes this whole topic something of a minefield. Important characteristics of codecs include their video quality, performance factors (such as compression/decompression speed, supported profiles, options, supported resolution, and so on). Some codecs are available free of charge, others you have to pay for. Because raw video files are so large, file size compression is one of the most important aspects of video codecs. Indeed, most consumer standard recording equipment captures video in the first place in compressed rather than raw video format.

When rendering in REAPER, your choice of codec will largely depend on which container format is selected.

20.7 REAPER Video Processing Tips[edit]

  1. For Windows users, if a video file won't play in REAPER, the chances are that you do not have a codec (coder/decoder) required for that video format. Codecs are freely available on the internet. Download and install the VLC decoder from Choose win32 or win 64 (depending on your system), then download and install the required .exe file. This will also install the codecs required for AVI, MKV, MP4, WMV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DIVX and many other video formats. Moreover, video playback will now be handled by VLC rather than Direct Show.
  2. The Media, Video/Rex/Misc page of your Preferences includes an option for you to specify your own video decoder priorities. If you get into trouble here, there is an option to Reset to defaults.

20.8 REAPER Video Settings and Preferences[edit]

Pressing Alt Enter displays the project settings dialog. Select the Video tab.

You can select a frame rate from the drop down list, or type in your own value.

Optionally, you may enter a preferred video size if you wish. If this is left blank, the video will try to size to the active media being played. If your project has videos all recorded at the same dimensions, setting this is unnecessary. If you have various videos at different resolutions, it can be advantageous to specify a size here. If you provide only a width or a height, it will adjust the other value to put things at a default 16:9 ratio.

Video item visibilty determines the order in which video items are processed. Items in lower numbered tracks replace higher is consistent with the approach taken by most video editing programs, but you can select Items in higher numbered tracks replace lower if you wish.

Your options for video colorspace are auto, 1420/YV12, YUY2 or RGB. Both YUY2 and 1420/YV12 store data more efficiently than RGB and offer an almost lossless form of file compression (but see comments below).

Video colorspace options are Auto, 1420/YV12, YUY2 or RGB. Auto will ensure that whatever colorspace the media natively decodes will be used. Usually this is YV12.

YV12 is the output mode used by most modern codecs (such as h264, or MPEG-4, or MPEG-2, or WEBM), and is usually the fastest because it can avoid colorspace conversions.

YUY2 is similar to YV12 but is less-often used, and offers a little bit better color resolution (due to using less subsampling for luminance and chroma). Converting from YV12 to YUY2 is relatively inexpensive.

RGBA is a completely different mode that matches the pixels on your screen. It is expensive to convert from YV12 or YUY2 to RGBA, and processing video frames in RGBA is also slower. Using RGBA also causes the chromakeyed blit functions (such as the chroma-key preset) to use a different algorithm, so it will look different. In fact, things will generally look slightly different in RGBA mode.

Other settings are toggles for the options Always resize video sources to preferred video size, Always resize output to preferred video size, Use high quality filtering when resizing, and Preserve aspect ratio (letterbox) when resizing.

The option to Always resize video to preferred video size, if selected, will always resize the video if necessary prior to any processing. This can simplify use of certain FX, but also can be less efficient (since other FX can handle the resize natively as part of their own processing).

The option to Always resize output to preferred video size, if selected, forces a resize if necessary at the output stage (meaning processing may happen at some other resolution, but at the end it is resized to the specified size for display). When rendering to a file, this option is is effectively selected, with the preferred width/height set to the rendering width/height output.

Shown left is the video section of the Options, Preferences, Media, Video/Rex/Misc window.

Enabling 1420/YV12 and YUY2 colorspace output allows for better video performance but can be disabled if you are encountering problems with playback. Using EVT can improve video display quality on Vista and Windows 7 systems.

Output options are Direct Show EVR, Direct Show, BitBit() nearest neighbour and BitBit() linear. Direct Show EVR is the default, but BitBit() might be preferred with some multi monitor HiDPI modes. There is an option to open a window within Preferences to Show available decoder information.

You can if you wish edit the Video decoder priority list to change the order in which priority is allocated. By default, VLC format is assigned the highest priority.

The options to specify Video output delay can be used if necessary to improve playback synchronization. This can be a small positive or negative amount. There is also an option to disable high-resolution peaks. Enabling the option Video window follows edits ensures that the video window will synch to the seek point when audio items are moved or resized.

You can further choose your preferred behavior when audio items are moved, so that the video window displays content at the mouse cursor position, the start of the audio item, or a snap offset of the audio item.

The Video file item properties dialog (accessed by choosing Source properties from the item context menu) includes options to Ignore audio and for handling Hi-res peaks. There is also an option to Copy audio settings to all video sources.

In addition, the File, Render command can be used to export video from REAPER - see Chapter 21.

20.9 Video Workflow Tips[edit]

If you are new to video editing, you might find the following tips helpful. They make reference to many of REAPER's tools and features (such as media explorer, screensets, track manager, markers and regions) that are explained elsewhere in this user guide.

Of course, these tips are general. Whilst they are intended to help you, you will most likely also have considerations specific to your own needs and workflow that might not be mentioned here, or that might make aspects of this model less suitable for you.

  1. Video files require large amounts of disk space. However, even if you are intending to distribute your work over the internet, perhaps via YouTube, you should record and edit your material (video and audio) in high quality, then use lossless codecs to convert your files for distribution. A number of freeware programs are available for this, such as MediaCoder, Quick Media Converter and Super Video Converter.
  2. Before you start editing, organize all your material. This might be scattered across various SD cards, hard disks, USB sticks, or whatever.

Copy all your source materials into one place on the hard disk of the computer on which you use REAPER. Create a folder for the project, and various sub-folders for your media, such as videos, audio music, audio spoken, and so on. If necessary rename your various source files to make them more easily identifiable and so as to present them in a logical order. Make sure that after every editing session you back this folder up to at least two different destinations.

  1. Create your project file in REAPER. Check your project settings, especially the video settings. Specify your required timeline format: remember that available formats include Hours:minutes:Seconds:Frames and Absolute Frames. Set up a windows screenset suitable for video editing, remembering, for example, that the video window is dockable, that media explorer is available to you for managing and accessing your source materials, and that track manager is available for managing your tracks.
  2. Import your video files into your project. Any video takes that run in parallel to each other (i.e. at the same time) will need to be placed on separate tracks. Items that are sequential may be placed on a single track.
  3. Use markers and regions to help manage the media items in your project. Make such edits as you need to your video items.
  4. If you need to replace the soundtrack of a video item with a separate audio item, display the video item's Item Properties, then click on the Properties button and enable the checkbox Ignore audio. The replacement audio item should be placed on a separate track.
  5. Add transition effects and text titles.
  6. Edit existing audio and/or add any new audio material that may be required.
  7. When you are ready, render your project to a single file.

A simple example of such a project is shown above. This is included as Wildlife2a with your sample files.

20.10 Making a Home Music Video on a Budget[edit]

Here is an overview of one way that this process could be applied to making your own music video on a budget.

  1. Work out your exact musical arrangement.
  2. Video record the band playing the song to this arrangement. Make sure you include the sound in the recording. Using more than one camera will potentially make for a more interesting final product, because of the opportunities it offers to cut, crossfade, etc.
  3. Create a new project file and import your video items, each to a separate track. Import also any additional video items (e.g. not of the band playing) that you wish to use. If you have more than one item, turn the volume on all but one track all the way down.
  4. Using the video sound track as a guide track, overdub record every part (vocals and instruments) in the studio, as you would for a non-video project. Add any other audio material that you need.
  5. Edit and mix the audio material in your usual way. Edit your video tracks as required.
  6. That's it! Save and render.