Open Source Tools For Video Production

Video Production

It may be painful for those of us ‘old school’ web entrepreneurs to admit, but the days of a text-based web are numbered. And with it, a text-based marketing strategy for your online business. Video content is becoming the medium of choice, the one people pay attention to. As this Cisco white paper in May 2013 states, 69% of web traffic will be video content by 2017.

Video Production
This is actually good news, because it’s a great time to join this bandwagon.

Remember that in the early days of television, air time belonged to the brave souls who ventured out into that frontier when it was still taking off. As you’ll see in this list, the barrier to entry for video production and promotion of your web business is actually a lot lower than you think.

Avidemux is one of the most popular open source video editing applications. It runs on Windows (both 64 and 32 bit), OS X, and Linux. It has a nice balance of being simple enough for a novice to use, but having some nifty features anyway, including built-in codecs (is that a sign of relief out there?), and support for formats such as AVI, MPG, MOV, and FLV. Avidemux review. Avidemux introductory tutorial. The project is also live and kicking as of this writing.

Kdenlive is another strong contender, but it is only available for Mac OS X, Linux, and BSD, leaving out Windows. It is also a more sophisticated tool aimed at higher-end production, but at the same time more complex. It has a wide range of image effect filters, including support for masking, blue screen, distortions, color and blur filters, and more. On the audio side, it also has support LADSPA, SOX, and other audio APIs. It seems more aimed at animation work. A hammy Kdenlive review. A beginning KDenlive tutorial.

Two more specialized, smaller projects: VirtualDub is a Windows-only open source video processor, and OpenShot is a Linux-only video processor. Both of these are very simple tools to quickly and easily splice video, audio, image, and some token effects together, but they’re not full video editors. Still, if all you’re doing is recording a desktop tutorial or taking videos with your phone or desktop cam, they’ll be more than adequate. And they’re both so simple, you can learn them in five minutes.

Let’s pause here and consider what video editing can mean for your online business?

If you make or sell a product or service, you can make a video demonstration.
You can post a regular vlog about your industry.
If your business in anything technical, you can do tutorials about using the technology.
You can create your own ads and buy ad time on YouTube.
Produce your own entertainment series. Maybe you’re not a scriptwriter or actor, but you can assemble freelance talent through outsourcing. Your own show, sponsored by your company!
One of the driving forces behind the growth of video consumption on the web is the increasing mobile market.

Smartphones, tablets, and pads are handier for watching video than scrolling through pages of text and images. So be sure to produce video content with these markets in mind.

Now, besides straight video editing, you might want some support software on the side…

For producing image content to include in videos, you almost can’t beat Inkscape. It’s free, open source, and available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. It’s easy and intuitive to use, even downright fun, and it can produce Flash-and-HTML5-ready SVG as well as dozens of other formats. It’s been the flagship open source image application for years now, so don’t worry about it going away any time soon. A gentle introduction to Inkscape.

For those of you without a grasp of graphic arts, don’t forget about the Wikimedia Commons project. It’s been growing year by year alongside Wikipedia, to the point where you can find royalty-free content on just about any subject.

What about editing straight audio by itself? You’ll probably want to go with Audacity, the long-standing premiere audio editor for Windows, OS X, and Linux. Audacity is very, very feature-rich and takes a bit of a learning curve to do advanced affects, but for simple slap-dash audio processing you’ll be up and running in no time. A quick tutorial on Audacity audio mixing.

One of the reasons so many people struggle with the audio part of video editing is that so few of us get a glimpse into the world of sound engineering. Unlike understanding image effects, understanding audio elements requires a good grasp of math, especially the trigonometry functions. So Audacity (and our next entry) might be a bit more challenge for some people, but if you take your time and play with it, you might find yourself hooked.

What about producing background music for videos? Producing small MIDI files on the desktop with open source tools is also an option. First, there’s JACK Audio, a name you’ll need to know because it’s the technology behind all the rest. For a full desktop music studio, check out LMMS, a desktop music production studio for Windows and Linux, but not OS X yet. For simple percussion tracks, there’s Hydrogen drum machine, available for Mac OS X and Linux, but not Windows. And if you’re really brave, you might try tackling Seq 24 for Windows and Linux, which is both very simple by itself, and needs a complicated host of synthesizer plug-in support to do anything.

If the world of producing audio is just too mind-boggling, may we recommend Incompetech’s royalty-free music library? These are simple MIDI files of any mood and style, free to snag and use. One more tool worth mentioning is Blender. Blender is also native to Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is a 3D drawing and animation studio. It is a very, very professional tool capable of producing pro-quality video games and animated films. It is also the most daunting software on this list to learn, by a factor of ten.

If you’re going to be good at Blender, you almost have to be a monk and go away to a mountaintop temple to study it for 15 years, but for those of you who will settle for nothing less, it’s there.

So really, open source video production can be as simple as taking a quick cell-phone camera recording, or animating and scoring a feature presentation. But for even a little effort, you can latch onto some of that video traffic for your ecommerce promotion.