Free Software for Video

Video Editing
Video editors are usually described as 'Non-Linear Editors' = 'NLEs' (read the story). My own choice of NLE is Sony's paid-for 'Platinum Studio 12' editing suite, costing less than a ton. It includes a Video Editor, audio Wave Editor and DVD/BluRay burner. It handles a wide range of video formats up to HD and has templates to render for Youtube, Facebook, etc. I prefer version 12 to the later dumbed-down version 13 aimed at touch screens, but which can edit 4k. Take a look at the Free NLE Guide 2017.

The Linux Operating System is good if you are about to scrap an otherwise good PC because of a Windows go-slow, but run some clean-ups first and uninstall anything you don't use, to see if you can get some life back into the box. If all else fails, bung Ubuntu on it and away you go - a clean start. There won't be a lot of video apps for Linux but some are quite good. My experience of installing some Linux apps is that they can be a bag of trouble but the newer ones are better. Some older Windows programs might also run in Linux under 'Wine', but often with limitations.

Some programs on this page are designed for serious operators and used for commercial films that you will have heard of. Pro software needs serious hardware, with a good processor, at least gaming graphics and plenty of RAM (See Pugetsystems for Resolve hardware suggestions). Some apps are 'Fremium' (free-but-nobbled) usually with fewer video tracks and limited rendering possibilities. But some are quite usable without the paid-for features. Pro apps will often use node-based editing, which will be quite alien to most amateurs and perhaps too advanced for amateur projects.

Youtube has a wide range of very good tutorial videos to help install and use most, if not all, of the programs below. Get a downloader extension for your (non-Chrome) web browser and you can collect them, put them on a USB stick and watch them on your telly (via a set-top box if the tv has no USB slot). By the way, during 2017, the Chrome-based web browsers now block Yotube downloading, as Google, Chrome and Yotube are all from the same company. The older Opera versions (such as version 12) work fine with a suitable download plug-in. I've not tried it with Firefox, so that might work.

Just as there are free VST sound effect plug-ins for use in sound editing, there are also free OSX video plug-ins suitable for a range of NLEs, such as Vegas Studio and Resolve. I also suggest you install some unusual fonts for use with on-screen text. A suitable font for your video will help set the context and make it stand out. The same goes for background music. Youtube has a lot of free and royalty-free music. You might like to search for free sound effects too but most of them are poor quality, to get you to buy the better ones.

Before you Start
Set up the monitor correctly for brightness, contrast and neutral colouration. If it is out of kilter, so will be the end result. If, for example, your monitor is a bit greenish and you adjust the on-screen material to look right, your results will end up with a magenta tinge. The idea is to remove any colour bias so that greyscale tones are neutral and colours look correct. The professional tool to use would be a colour-checking gizmo, like 'Color Monkey' or 'Spyder', which is placed on the face of the monitor and an app run to correct the errors but a very basic adjustment tool like Calibrize (below) is better than nothing. In any case, unless you have a top quality monitor, you might never get it right. I am unable to remove 'white crushing' from my laptop and, as that is 'baked in', there is no tool on earth that can fix it.

If you have buckets of money, purchase a proper colour-correct monitor and have it set up properly. Some such as an Eizo Color-Edge appear to be set up very well straight out of the box. Some high-end OLED LG televisions are close to correct with some tweaking. If you are checking your work on a domestic TV, make sure it is set to 'Cinema' mode (natural contrast and colour saturation); never 'Dynamic' or 'Vivid' which are really only for showroom purposes. How I lament the demise of the TV test card. Bring back the test card.


Video Editing and Compositing
Key: W = Windows, M = Mac, L = Linux, , Am = Amateur, Pro = Professional. See also 'Blender' in the later section.

Morphing, Animating and Other
Morphing will turn two pictures into a morphing video clip.

Video Format Converters, Rippers and Players

Digital Cinema Format (DCP)
A quick definition: DCP = A special format for projecting video in digital cinemas. The idea here is that amateur film-makers might wish to project their doings in the local flea-pit, perhaps in a film festival, and that is where DCP would come in handy. An easier process (but not as high quality) might be Blu-Ray if the cinema is able to play the discs, but check up first. DVD quality has lower resolution and interlaced video and it is really not good enough quality for a cinema.

The technical spec of DCP was prepared by Digital Cinema Initiatives as a joint venture by major film studios and is now the standard used for film distribution. The actual 'films' are sent out to film theatres on hard disc drives. For commercial films, a decryption key is required for a particular time-span to unlock the files for projection, as arranged through the distributor.

OpenDCP and DCP-Omatic are free utilities to prepare 2k (24/48 fps) or 4k (24 fps) video/sound/text files into DCP, which comprises MXF (Material Exchange Format) and XML files. This is the format used for projection in digital cinemas such as our own Penistone Paramount. The process requires each video frame to separated into a 16-bit TIFF picture, resulting in perhaps thousands of picture files. Another process converts sRGB colourspace to 'XYZ' colourspace, the cinema standard. The resulting files are encoded into JPEG2000 and exported as MXF files to save on an EXT2-formatted memory stick (easy to do), ready for the cinema software to read and project it. As a matter of interest, it appears that DCP files are stored as 'Reels', as with physical films. So a full film might use three 'Reels'. The alternative is to spend thousands of pounds and let the experts to do it. The new Resolve Studio 15 will have some DCP tools.

Wikipedia's DCP page has some pointers about what goes into DCP and lists some DCP tools. See this 2012 article 'How to Make a Digital Cinema Package on your own Computer'. Of course, you would like to see your results but the viewers are all commercial products. The trial version of 'EasyDCP' Player allows you to check your work, but only for 15 seconds. The OpenDCP Forum has some tutorials on DCP. See DCP-Info and suitable LUTs (Look-up Tables used in editing to make the colours look right). This article on 'How to make a DCP for Film Festival projection' might help.

TV - PVR Software
New section for receiving and recording TV off-air.

Video Tutorials
Well, it's very easy to find good tutorials on Youtube, using its search engine. But before I start adding them here, have a look at a useful list of hints aimed at professionals. It's a bit techie and written from the editor's point of view but the basic rules hold good for the amateur. And don't forget the Audio.

Out of Interest
Some interesting home-brew and video club videos.

And from the professionals...


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