Back in my teenage years (before I had an income!) when I wanted to create things on the computer I had two choices, join the masses who were illegally cracking or downloading software in order to avoid paying the sometimes astronomical prices (though as a teenager, pretty much any price seemed astronomical), or tap into all of the free resources available through the ‘open–source’ community. There is a slight difference between freeware and open-source. Even if a programme is free to use, i.e., free software or freeware, it doesn’t mean that the code is available for everyone to create their own versions. Through my research (and sometimes errors) I began to favour open-source over freeware. Why? Well, when something is open-source and the code is available to everyone, hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of people look into the code to make sure of it or to modify it, and when someone has done something naughty like hidden a virus or other nasty thing in it, they will shout about it to EVERYONE. This being said, there is a lot of freeware out there.
Although I’m no longer a teenager, the reality is some software packages for media and content creation can be prohibitively expensive. Open source tools can offer affordable alternatives with comparable functionality. In this series of blogs I’ll list some of these alternatives and other useful tools for Windows and Apple (Mac), with the intent of providing a toolbox for media and content creation on a budget – over the series we’ll be looking at video (players, recorders, editors, hosting), audio (editing, hosting), images (photo editing, graphic design, etc), productivity (office suites), project management, web, desktop publishing, text editing, FTP. Where possible, descriptions have been taken directly from the service itself. This is not an exhaustive list, but I thought I’d share it with you to help with your own activities, many of the tools are very powerful and can accomplish just as much as the paid-for software, though, they often don’t look as pretty!
A big thanks to Heidi Scherz who took my original list and updated it with current information about the software and in the process added her own favourites to the list as well!
Links provided below last checked 05.07.2016.
Most operating systems come with built-in video media players. However, these are often tied to their native video codecs. The open-source video and media players below offer as a minimum broad video codec support, enabling the user to view nearly any video file, regardless of the codec with which it has been compressed and encoded.
VLC Media Player
Description: VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.
Benefits: VLC has the functionality to play most video codecs (including MPEG-2, DivX, H.264, MKV, WebM, WMV, MP4, MP3, etc.) without requiring additional codec pack downloads. VLC player runs on all platforms, is completely free with no ads, and can convert and stream media.
Platforms: Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Ubuntu, Android, iOS, and more.
Description: Miro is a free, open-source music and video player.
Benefits: Miro can play most video or music formats. It can also manage downloads and convert media, and offers syncing services with Android & Kindle Fire.
Platforms: Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Ubuntu, Android, iOs, and more.
Description: UMPlayer is a free, open source media player.
Benefits: UMPlayer has more than 270 built-in audio and video codecs, including AAC, AC, AVI, DivX, H.263, MOV, MP3, MP4, MPEG, WAV, WMA, WMV, and more. UMPlayer offers subtitle search, audio/subtitle sync, and a YouTube player/recorder with a simple and intuitive user interface.
Platforms: Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Screen recorders capture footage of your computer’s screen. They may also record your voice. Some screen recorders offer the ability for live screencasts.
Open Broadcaster Software
Description: Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is free, open source software for video recording and live streaming.
Benefits: Includes support for: H264 and AAC encoding; an unlimited number of scenes and courses; live streaming to Twitch, YouTube, DailyMotion and more; file output to MP4 or FLV; capture device support (webcams, etc).
Platforms: Available in its full form for Windows. OBS MultiPlatform is a rewrite of OBS that provides an early, simple version of OBS for Mac and Linux. OBS MultiPlatform will eventually support of many of the advanced features of the full version of Windows OBS on Mac and Linux machines.
Icecream Screen Recorder
Description: Icecream Screen Recorder is a screen recorder that comes equipped with a suite of tools and options for professional screen capture. The free version of Icecream Screen Recorder allows up to 10 minutes of recording time.
Benefits: Icecream Screen Recorder allows the capture of any area of your screen either as a screenshot or a video file. It enables area selection, a drawing panel, webcam support, and options for video quality output.
Platforms: Available for Windows. A PRO version is available with no recording limits and watermarking support.
Description: QuickTime Player is a native Mac multimedia platform and media player. QuickTime Player for Mac also offers Screen Recording. From the File menu in QuickTime Player, select New Screen Recording. QuickTime Player offers adjustable microphone and mouse click options with screen recording and outputs video in QuickTime movie files which are immediately useable in, for instance, iMovie or YouTube.
Benefits: QuickTime Player comes pre-installed on Mac computers; it is free and easy to use.
Platforms: The screen recording function of QuickTime Player is only available for Macs.
Video editing software allows the creation of finalised film and video from raw materials. Generally this includes cutting and combining video and audio clips, rendering, and export to a single video file. The following are open source and free alternatives to professional software packages such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Mac Final Cut Pro.
Description: Lightworks is an award-winning Non-Linear Editing software package which offers both a Free and Pro version.
Benefits: The Free version of Lightworks supports realtime titling effects, realtime effects, advanced multicam editing, all import formats, and export to up to 720p H.264 / MPEG-4 files. Simple and powerful trim functions enable precision editing of footage and audio.
Platforms: Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Description: Blender is a free, open source 3D creation suite. While Blender’s focus is largely 3D animation and simulation, it includes a built-in video editor.
Benefits: Blender’s video editor allows basic video editing such as cutting, splicing, and supports more complicated tasks such as masking. It supports audio mixing and syncing, speed control, transitions, and up to 32 input sources per film. Blender allows video export to AVI, MPEG, and QuickTime.
Platforms: Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and FreeBSD.
Windows Movie Maker
Description: Windows Movie Maker is a movie editing software package that is included in Windows Essentials 2012.
Benefits: Windows Movie Maker allows easy import of photos and videos, video editing tools such as trimming, splitting, and theme presets, audio editing tools, and easy sharing and publishing services.
Platforms: Available on Windows.
Video conversion and compression
Video converters are tools that recode the images and format of the video data. This can include compression, scaling, and transrating (changing the bitrate of a video file). Converting videos is sometimes necessary to ensure their compatibility with video editing or hosting services; compression is necessary in order to manage file size.
Description: Handbrake is a free, open source tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs.
Benefits: Handbrake offers a range of preset optimised profiles for conversion, as well as the further basic and advanced options to tweak and improve encodes. It can process most common multimedia files, supports output to a range of file types (including MP4, H.264, and MPEG-4), and allows title/chapter selection, chapter markers, subtitles, and live video previews.
Platforms: Available on Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu.
Miro Video Converter
Description: Miro Video Converter is a free and open source video converter and compressor.
Benefits: Miro Video Converter provides a simple way to convert almost any video to MP4, WebM (vp8), Ogg Theora, or for Android, iPhone, and iPad. It also supports batch conversion and custom sizing.
Platforms: Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Video hosting services host videos in order to enable quick and easy sharing and streaming of content.
Description: YouTube is a free, online video distribution platform.
Benefits: YouTube allows unlimited, HD video hosting and sharing for its registered users. In order to upload videos that are longer than 15 minutes, user accounts must be verified by phone. YouTube uploads support a variety of file formats, including MOV, MPEG4, AVI, MP4, WMV, and 3GPP. Videos can be uploaded to YouTube from computers and iOS or Android phones. YouTube videos can be shared via link or embedded directly into other sites. Users can create YouTube channels in order to share multiple videos in a single place.
Platforms: YouTube is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Ubuntu, iOS, Android, and more. A web-browser and an internet connection are required to use YouTube. Users must have a Google account in order to sign up for a YouTube account.
Description: Vimeo is an online video hosting and distribution platform. Vimeo offers free, basic membership as well as two levels of paid membership (Plus or Pro).
Benefits: Basic Vimeo membership allows users to upload up to 500MB per week, up to 10 videos per day, and to create one channel, one group, and three albums. Basic Vimeo members can upload videos at up to 720p. Vimeo also has robust privacy controls and basic embedding features. Vimeo provides full support for creative commons licensing and the option to make videos available for download by viewers.
Platform: Available on all major operating systems, but requires a web browser and internet connection. Vimeo supports all major browsers, but in order to use the recommended Advanced Uploader, the user must have the latest version of either Firefox, Chrome, or Safari.
Description: Wistia is a professional video hosting and marketing tool.
Benefits: Wistia focuses on professional video hosting and marketing, with four levels of membership plans (ranging from Free to $300/month). The Free Wistia plan includes global, HD-capable video on any device, video management tools (including player customisation and captions), basic analytics, storage for up to 25 videos, and up to 200GB of bandwidth per month. Wistia does not display ads next to content.
Platforms: Available on all major operating systems, but requires a web browser and internet connection.