In Part One we looked at how to set up Lightworks. We also understood some basic terms and what the workspace looked like.

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In this part we’ll look at how Lightworks imports files and deals with different codecs.

The Lightworks workflow

We left two threads hanging in Part One: how resolution and frame rates are handled in Lightworks. Let’s deal with that first.

Frame rates

Lightworks avoids showing us 23.976, 29.97, 48 and 59.94 fps but it’s still there. Project frame rates are divided into three families:

  • 24 – This includes 23.976 and 48 fps as well.
  • 25 – This includes 50 fps as well.
  • 30 – This includes 29.97, 59.94 and 60 fps as well.

You can only choose the frame rate once. After you ingest or import the first clip, the project frame rate cannot be changed. Every clip you import MUST be the same as the project frame rate. E.g., if you have a 25 fps project, and try to bring in a 29.97 fps clip, it will not work. This is a major limitation. In fact, for those looking at working with slow-motion footage, it might as well be a deal breaker.

50, 59.94 and 60 fps is only available up to 720p. 1080p is limited to 30 fps, which is also somewhat limiting (for lack of a better word) but not really a problem in a broadcast or cinema pipeline.


Lightworks claims it can take up to 5K material if necessary. The timeline is able to work with footage at a high resolution; however, a project can only be one of the following standards:

  • PAL
  • NTSC
  • 720 HDTV
  • 1080 HDTV

Any high-rez footage is scaled down to fit these standards. Which makes Lightworks an offline editor for R3D files. There’s nothing wrong in this, because Avid Media Composer and many other NLEs work the same way.

If you understand and can work with these limitations you’ll be a whole lot happier with Lightworks. It is unclear if and when greater functionality will come to the software, especially since it’s going open source soon.

How to import video into Lightworks

Importing is as simple as it gets. Click on the Import icon in the tool box and you’ll get this (click to enlarge):

All you have to do is browse for the clip in your media drive and select Import. If Lightworks anticipates any problems, it will show text in red. You can’t import a clip if something is in red. If tiles don’t show what’s in the video, then the appropriate codec might not be installed or supported.

By clicking the ‘gears‘ icon on the top right you’ll get the options for Import (shown above in the smaller window).

Next to the Import button you’ll see a drop down with three options:

  • Create Link – Lightworks only links to the file, and no changes are made.
  • Copy Local – Lightworks copies the file to the project folder (called material drive), from whatever source drive it resides in.
  • Transcode – Lightworks transcodes the file into proxies or intermediaries. The only common format you have for HD is DVCPRO 100 (another name for DVCPRO HD, 100 Mbps). Wrappers available are MXF, MOV and AVI.

If you choose Transcode, you can click on Video Processing… to decide the exact codec you want to transcode to.

Some of the other settings are:

  • Detect image-sequences – Leave it on if you’re importing image sequences.
  • Suppress relink of existing material (AAF) – Leave it at ‘No’ unless you don’t want to relink to the material (footage) linked to in the AAF file. You do this if you have new material to replace those clips.
  • Stills duration (seconds) – select the duration of still images (not sequences).

What codecs are supported by Lightworks?

A full list of supported codecs are available in page 262 of the manual. Here are some of the important ones (many of these are not available in the free version, only the Pro version):

Images and image-sequences:

  • BMP
  • TGA
  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • PSD
  • TIFF
  • DPX

You can import 16-bit images, including DPX.


  • Prores
  • XDCAM HD and EX
  • DNxHD (extra purchase)
  • R3D
  • H.264
  • MPEG-2 and variants
  • XAVC (4K)
  • WMV
  • DVD and Blu-ray files
  • Canon XF

Preferred video wrappers are AVI, MXF or MOV (with Quicktime installed) though others are accepted as well.


  • Broadcast Wave (BWF)
  • WAV

You can import audio of up to 16 channels. AC3 support requires a 3rd party plugin and it should be installed on your system.

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to import media into Lightworks:

Dealing with codecs

There are many codecs and container options out there. Just when you think you have a handle on things, a new codec is announced. It’s a way of life, which is unlikely to be ‘corrected’ soon.

You always have to stay ahead of the game. Let’s look at a few codecs and how Lightworks deals with them.


H.264 is the ubiquitous codec, and it looks like it will stay for quite some time. Lightworks Pro supports H.264 via the import method mentioned above.

H.264 – ALL-I

The ‘new’ entrant to the H.264 family is just an interpretation of the codec with interframe turned off. Lightworks Pro supports H.264 All-I via the import method mentioned above.


AVCHD is a ‘version’ of the MPEG-4 AVC specification, or H.264, and Lightworks Pro supports AVCHD via the import method mentioned above.


XDCAM EX and XDCAM HD are supported via the import method mentioned above.

Make sure you copy all the files in the media card folder to your source footage drive, keeping the folder name and structure intact.


XAVC is supported natively in 4K by Lightworks Pro (but squeezed down of course), via the import method mentioned above.


This applies to files from both the XF series cameras as well as the Cinema EOS line (Cxxx). Make sure you copy all the files in the media card folder.

Lightworks Pro supports Canon XF via the import method mentioned above.

HDV and DV

HDV is still supported natively, in both transport stream form as well as wrapped as MOV, etc. Use the import method mentioned above.

Of course, you can also Capture HDV from a camera or tape deck directly. For DV and HDV, this method is preferable.


Lightworks Pro supports R3D via the import method mentioned above.

You are restricted to the settings you have selected in camera, which is embedded in the RMD file. You are also restricted to two aspect ratios:

  • 4:3
  • 16:9

You cannot change the color space, gamma, etc.


Lightworks does not support any RAW format other than R3D.


Strange as it may seem, Lightworks Pr does not support the broadcast standard HDCAM SR.


Lightworks Pro supports MPEG-4 via the import method mentioned above.


X.264 is not supported by Lightworks.


Lightworks Pro supports Prores via the import method mentioned above.


Lightworks Pro supports DNxHD via the import method mentioned above – but only with an additional purchase.


Lightworks does not support CinemaDNG.


Lightworks Pro supports image sequences via the import method mentioned above, up to 16-bit.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. For codecs I’ve left out, refer to the user guide.

How to import projects from third-party software

Lightworks can import the following types of files:

  • AAF (not available in the free version)
  • EDL
  • OMF (audio only)

Read page 180 of the user guide to know how EDLs should be prepared prior to importing in Lightworks. I’ve tried importing a few AAFs created from Avid, but I couldn’t. The user guide curiously neglects to mention how to import AAF into Lightworks, so maybe that’s a hint. There’s also this forum post that tells us the AAF might be audio only, and nobody has confirmed or denied it.

EDLs should work, but why anybody should want to import sequences from other NLEs to Lightworks is beyond me.

That’s it for importing. At its core Lightworks is a simple and straightforward NLE that just does its job without much fanfare.

In Part Three we’ll look at how Lightworks exports sequences, and how you can integrate it with third-party finishing applications.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free cheatsheet (with examples) of tried and tested ways to cover a scene or action that will save your skin when your mind goes blank (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

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