38 Free Tools to Help Create a Summer Blockbuster

Nathan asks: There are a few projects I would like to do for a company just to gain experience and possibly a foot in the door. The problem is I have no cash to spend on the software used in school- the ones I’m most familiar with. Are there any free tools out their that will allow me to create a decent film?

Answer: There are a ton of goodies! We plucked a few of the best ones:


For scene breakdowns, managing money, the actual scriptwriting, etc.  you will want OpenOffice, for writing that masterpiece.  Here’s a little template to get you started.

Task Coach is a great Task management tool to keep you on track with your project.

Midgard is an excellent content management tool for those larger projects. With Midgard, you can have your data everywhere, from mobile devices the web server. It enables peer-to-peer sharing of information, and makes it possible to have all the materials you need also when offline.


Director’s Boards is a very simple application for creating “AV” format storyboards from existing digital scans, illustrations and photos. The software prints the boards, presents them as a digital slide show, and exports them to tab delimited text..

For stop motion & pencil tests MonkeyJam is designed to let you capture images from a webcam, camcorder, or scanner and assemble them as separate frames of an animation. You can also import images and sound files already on your computer. Although it is designed for pencil and paper, MonkeyJam can also be used for StopMotion animation and has several features just for that. Movies created in MonkeyJam can be exported as AVI files.

3D Modeling

Anim8or: easy to use and very popular. I found it somewhat similar to 3ds max. We’ll have to excuse that rotating “Enter” button at the bottom. Windows only.

Blender 3d: my personal favorite for an all-around powerhouse of modeling, animation, and even game prototyping. Blender has been making incredible strides since going open-source. You can script it in Python, or tie it with XML and web services. Super nifty. Check ’em out at SIGGRAPH next time. Oh, and it runs on almost anything.

Wings 3D: a free, open source, subdivision modeler inspired by Nendo and Mirai from Izware. Wings 3D is named after the winged-edge data structure it uses internally to store coordinate and adjacency data, and is commonly referred to by its users simply as Wings.

Wings 3D is available for most platforms, including Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, using the Erlang environment.

gmax: is a 3D modeling application based on Discreet’s 3ds Max application used by professional computer graphics artists.

K-3D: is free-as-in-freedom 3D modeling and animation software. It combines flexible plugins with a visualization pipeline architecture, making K-3D a versatile and powerful tool for artists.

Video editing

If you’re looking for a free program with the video and audio editing capabilities of professional-level software, Jahshaka should be tops on your list. With every release, it gets more stable and gains more features.

The list of what the application can do is extensive and exhaustive. It can handle real-time image processing with node based effects; editing in DV, SD, HD and film; real-time 3D composting and Flash animation (up to 32k matte layers); OpenGL-based paint; and a text module. There’s also modules for color correction, keying, and tracking, and an array of media support.

(Linux only) does primarily 3 things: capturing, compositing, and editing audio and video with sample level accuracy. It’s a movie studio in a box.

Audio editing

Audacity: can handle minor audio editing and fx work there’s

Power Sound Editor Free: is a visual audio editing and recording software solution, which supports many advanced and powerful operations with audio data.

mp3DirectCut: is a fast and extensive audio editor and recorder for compressed mp3. You can directly cut, copy, paste or change the volume with no need to decompress your files for audio editing. Using Cue sheets, pause detection or Auto cue you can easily divide long files.

WavePad Sound Editor: lets you make and edit music, voice and other audio recordings. When editing audio files you can cut, copy and paste parts of recordings and, if required, add effects like echo, amplification and noise reduction. WavePad works as a wav editor or mp3 editor but it also supports a number of other file formats including vox, gsm, real audio, au, aif, flac, ogg and more.

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