A free-for-all

Who could say no to free, when you’re making a film with little to no budget? Find out the best cross-platform, open-source software programs accessible for the filmmaker in all of us.

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “well what in the world is open source software?” To start off, you need software programs in order to edit, modify, or create content on the internet and you usually have to pay for them. When we say pay, we are talking quite a hefty price at times for said programs. So, when you’re first starting out as a filmmaker or creator, editing and creative suite programs can really add up and put a strain on your bank account.

Open source software helps with that burden. Open source software is shared software that allows users to change, modify, and enhance the source code, and did we mention it’s free? It offers the basic source code of the software and allows anyone that downloads it to add features or fix glitches versus regular software where only the creator can modify or do any updates to it.

Now that we have cleared up a little confusion, let’s begin…

1. Blender 3D Animation and Video Editor



Blender is the holy grail of 3D creation. If you want to make your audience feel like they are part of the film or just bring a more realistic appearance to any of your creations, third dimensional modeling is the way to go. Blender offers not only modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking, but even video editing and game creation. Some notable films that have used Blender include Spider-Man 2, the French film Friday or Another Day, The Secret of Kells, and most recently Hardcore Henry.  That doesn’t even put into account the short films that have utilized Blender’s holy power, shorts such as Cosmos Laundromat, R’ha, Big Buck Bunny (award-winning might we add), Sintel, and the list goes on and on. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

2. Lightworks Editing Suite

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, from Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures.

Not an open source but a powerful freebie, Lightworks is a non-linear editing suite that brings out the professional editor inside everyone. Now, Lightworks offers a free version and a Pro version, but the free one includes features that even some of the big software editing programs don’t have. With an extensive and celebrated history in the cinematic world, make that 25 years to be exact; Lightworks has become a popular editing suite in the film world. Some of its most successful projects include The Wolf of Wall Street, The King’s Speech, Raging Bull, Hugo, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, The Departed, and the Oscar-nominated list could goes on. Available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OSX.

3. Gimp Image Editor


Transfer your wild imagination onto images with this unique image manipulation program. Often compared to Photoshop, Gimp offers the perfect tools for creating graphics, 2D models, and editing pictures. It can be used for retouching and specialized image tasks. With this software, the sky is the limit. Available for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and more operating systems.

4. Ardour Audio Workstation



Record, Edit, and Mix! Audio engineers, musicians, soundtrack editors, composers, and explorers are all welcome. Delve into new ideas and experiment with new sounds. Ardour facilitates the creation of music for film, remixes, CDs, you name it. As long as it deals with audio this software program can help. Here’s a demo created using Ardour. Available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OSX.

5. Frinika Audio Workstation



We included Frinika because having a couple of options to test out is nice. Perfect for scoring a film or just trying out some tunes, this software offers sequencing, audio recording, mixing, soft-synths, and real-time effects. This is a demonstration of what Frinika can do. Available for Linux, Windows, Mac OSX and other operating systems running Java.

6.  CinePaint Deep Paint Software and Graphics editor

Cinepaint 2

One of the most prestigious painting and retouching programs in the industry with some top ranking films under its belt, CinePaint will brighten up your project and day. Developed using Gimp’s original source code (funny how that works), CinePaint offers painting tools that allow retouching and color correction of footage, frame by frame. For my graphic nerds out there, one of the features that sets it apart from Gimp is its onion skinning, frame manager, and the ability to work with 16 bit. Now for the bragging rights portion of this description, notable films that have used CinePaint include Elf, Looney Tunes, The Last Samurai, Showtime, Scooby-Doo, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneCats & DogsDr. Doolittle 2The GrinchSixth DayStuart LittlePlanet of the Apes, Stuart Little II, and Spider-ManAvailable for Linux and Mac OSX.

7. Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor



Create and explore through the power of vector imagery. Often compared to Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape is perfect for creating illustrations, titles, icons, logos, diagrams, maps, and web graphics. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

8. Synfig 2D Animation



If you’re looking for that timeless look of the cartoons back in the day, look no further than Synfig. Synfig is a 2d vector graphics and timeline computer program that supports layers of all types, a bone system that allows control over the look of your animation’s face and body, and sound support that allows syncing your animation with audio. Here’s an episode of a Russian animation project created using Synfig. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

9. Celtx Screenwriting



You don’t have much of a film if you don’t have a script. Not an open source software but a freebie, Celtx offers a free script-writing option when you sign up. Something that makes it even better, you can download it in the app store and write your script on the go. Available for Windows and Mac.

Author: Maricarla Bagos is a sophomore at University of Miami, where she studies Media Management and Motion Pictures. She shares an interest in spreading positivity, expanding human connectivity in a world that is increasingly becoming digitized, and creating content that makes people laugh. This winter she is the Marketing and Social Media Intern at Facets.

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