Free Software for Video

Video Editing
Video editors are usually described as 'Non-Linear Editors' = 'NLEs.' My own choice of NLE is Sony's paid-for 'Platinum Studio 12' editing suite, costing less than a ton but I am migrating my efforts to the free DaVinci Resolve (see below in the list). The Sony editing suite has now been taken over by Magix but is still being developed. It includes a Video Editor, audio Wave Editor and DVD/BluRay burner. One great thing about the later version 15 is the inclusion of Izotope RX6 sound editor, which a huge leap forward in that field.

Some programs on this page are high-level 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 often use node-based editing, which might be alien to most amateurs and perhaps too advanced for amateur projects. Take a look at the Free NLE Guide 2017.

Youtube has a wide range of tutorial videos to help install and use the programs listed below. The Chrome web browser comes from the Google empire and you will probably not find browser extensions to download the tutorials. Youtube is part of the same Google empire and they don't want you to download them. I would urge you not to use stand-alone Youtube downloaders as they can have viruses or result in opportunistic and unpleasant scam emails. You could try pasting the video URL into the Gen Youtube website. Alternatively, replace www.youtube(etc) with genyoutube(etc.) in the adress bar of your browser. You will see a load of advert links but just scroll down the page and right-click on the appropriate download link (usually the HD one). My guess is that it would be much safer than installing something on your PC. Then you can put your tutorial videos on a USB stick and watch them on your smart tv - or via a set-top box, if the tv has no USB slot.

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.

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. 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.

Don't forget the sound side of your video creations. Most NLEs will let you use the same VST plug-ins that you might use in a wave editor to generate various effects. Better still if you save them all in the 'VST' same folder for easy access. See the Free Audio Software page.

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 and Freebies
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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