November 23, 2008

Free Software for Video Scholars?

by Nick Montfort · , 6:52 pm

Sam Deese is working to foster student digital scholarship projects at Boston University. He asked me about good free software for editing video and for producing slideshows with voice-overs. I didn’t know the answer – do you?

10 Responses to “Free Software for Video Scholars?”


  1. Dennis G. Jerz Says:

    I’ve created slide shows in Open Office. Then I’ve used CamStudio to record the narration while clicking through the slideshow. (CamStudio’s default setting is NOT to record audio, so you have to change that.) I set it at about 4 frames per second – otherwise you end up with a huge file. (But you can adjust that by capturing a smaller window, or compressing the result more.)

    I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard about eVoice — a plugin-in for Open Office that lets you attach narration to slideshows. I think you have to enter the number of seconds each slide will play, so it seems you’d have to record the narration for each slide separately. That wouldn’t work for a Larry Lessig-style talk, where the words and images flow smoothly and some slides have only one word and are visible for less than one second.

    I haven’t done much video editing, but I tried Jahshaka for a while before I ran out of room on my laptop and had to remove it. http://jahshaka.org/

  2. Mark Chen Says:

    Windows Movie Maker (WMM) has a pretty simple interface and has a narration tool built-in, unlike iMovie on Macs.

    I believe WMM is free and actually comes with Windows XP and Vista, but it might be buried in either the Program Files or the Windows directory.

    I don’t know what comes with Macs these days, but a couple of years ago, iMovie came with iLife which you had to buy separately (though I think most people did).

  3. Jason Scott Says:

    Most free video editing software is pretty punk. There’s been some real advancement in low-cost or no-cost audio editing software (for example, REAPER by Cockos is pretty much as good as ACID Pro for the needs of most people) but video editing just isn’t quite there.

    Sony has academic discounts for their software, and there’s a company that brokers them:
    http://www.advancedacademic.com/webpages/sonypictures/sonypictures.html

    In the example I just checked, Vegas Movie Studio (the easier, more general audience version of Vegas) was $50.

    There’s also iMovie (for Mac) and Movie Maker (for Windows), which are the available built-ins for editing software. They come free with the OS.

    I agree, Jahshaka is out there as well, but it’s had ups and downs. People seem willing for it to be “not perfect” (crashes or doesn’t work right) because it’s open source. I like having someone I can yell at.

  4. Bruce Boyden Says:

    Re: slideshows, Larry Lessig has some suggestions here: http://lessig.org/blog/2008/07/one_step_until_brilliant_scree.html

  5. Tim Bulkeley Says:

    For slideshows try PhotoStory free download from Microsoft [!] it is simple [!] and so easy to use but allows panning and zooming over the slide, voiceover and will even generate background music of various sorts to the required moods and speeds.

  6. Andrew Says:

    I wish there was anything that was close to Audacity for video (man I’ve tried the available ones, most don’t even work), Sony Vegas certainly is the most affordable one if iMovie or Windows Movie Maker doesn’t do enough as already stated, since Adobe Premi√®re is way expensive and Final Cut Pro is way expensiverer.

    I agree on just recording the screen with voiceover though. Camstudio, VirtualDub and others can do it all, and with a low FPS (1 FPS can be enough for slides! if you’re advanced enough you can use a codec which works especially well with still frames even) the file size is very manageable.

    If you have a voiceover already done, VirtualDub can do some basic editing for slides (can import a set of images, if you can save them from a slideshow in sequentially named files, then add delays between them) to tack it together.

  7. Dennis G. Jerz Says:

    I’ve worked a bit with VirtualDub, mostly in order to compress the output of Wink files.

    Does PhotoStory require Windows Media Player? If so, that’s a strike against it in my book.

  8. Bryan Alexander Says:

    We had good luck with JumpCut last week. Web-based, free, cross-platform.

  9. Mark J. Nelson Says:

    I find Kino pretty good as a relatively simple non-linear video editor. Linux-only, though.

  10. r Says:

    jahshaka made no sense to me. BUT reaper looks awesome.

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