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Thursday, August 18, 2011


A few years ago I compiled what I believe were the best free software tools for movie-making in list formate (DWARFED FILMS ESSENTIAL FREEWARE 2007).

Well I think it's about time I updated the list for 2011, taking into account any newer programs that have popped up during this time and removing programs taht are obsolete or which I personally are old hat.

So here goes:


Essential Freeware or Open Source Software:
Note: items frequently used by Dwarfed Films.

Animation/Modelling Tools
(Alternatives to Maya/XSI/Lightwave 3D/Cinema 4D/3DS Max/Poser)

Blender 3D: Open source (freeware) 3D modelling, animation, sequencer for windows/mac/linux/etc
Still, in my humble opinion, one of the best graphical software programs out there. There has been a massive redesign of the user interface with versions 2.5+.

The only issue I have with the new versions is the problems it has displaying images in the sequencer; to make your images display in the display window while editing you need to set the output formate to 512X512 pixels (also works 1024X1024, etc). Maybe this has been corrected in the updates but I haven't checked.
Anyway, you can always use an earlier version (Blender 2.49 for instance) for sequence editing.
Visit to download Blender (you can visit the archives and get earlier versions also)

Makehuman: Open source software for creation of hyper-realistic human characters with no need for any modelling experience - just toggle some parameters and you can tweak every anatomical part of the base character to create any male/female character of your choice. Exports to OBJ format.

Image Editor Tools
(Alternative's to Photoshop/Painter/MS Paint)

The Gimp: Open Source image editor that is just like photoshop
I've used The Gimp for years and prefer it to Photoshop and Painter. Some people find it fiddly, but I love it and think it is reliable and allows me to do whatever I need to get done.
The very best graphical software program - and its free.

Irfan View: Freeware image viewer supporting practically every format from .png to .mov.
Mainly use it for converting images to different formates and viewing stuff. Fast, reliable.
Find it at

Paint.Net: Similar to The Gimp but easier interface and it also loads much quicker. Supports layers and a whole range of effects.
Haven't used in a long time, but if you like nice interfaces and want something like Painter - but Free! -then this is for you.

Visual FX Tools
(Alternative's to Adobe After Effects/Nuke/Mocha)

Terregen: Freeware landscape creator for making stunningly realistic landscapes.
Haven;t used in a while but this program can really give you options if you really need a cool helicopter-flying-over-mountains type sequence.
Terragen 2 was released which offers import of 3D objects and creation of fully 3-dimensional worlds.

Terranim: Freeware plugin for terregen that makes animations of created landscapes.
Without this you only get static images from Terragen. With it you get unlimited camera moves and image morphing (to simulate a flat plan 'growing' into a mountain, for example).
Do a Google search to find "Terranim plugin for Terragen".

Landformer: Freeware landscape map generator for use in Terregen.
Do a Google search for "Landformer for Terragen".

Voodoo Camera Tracker: Freeware camera tracking software.
Raely use as I have After Effects and don't really ever need 3D motion tracking, but this could od the trick for you. And its free. Downsides are the import formates accepted: TGA.

Apophysis: Fractal-based image creation. This can produce incredible imagery (see our short film "BIRTH" for Apophysis designed animation).
Not sure if the basic download package includes an animation output, so do a search for "apophysis animation plug-in" on Google if it doesn't.

Video Editors

(Alternative's to Sony Vegas Pro/Adobe Premiere Pro/Avid/Final Cut Pro)

Lightworks Beta: the legendary Lightworks video editor is now available for free!
Enjoy the weird editing process and famous Shark delete button in the safety of your own home!
I remember learning to edit using this thing when I was in college. It was very intuitive once you got the hang of it (is that an oxymoron?). It has auto save...which is handy becasue the program has an annoying habit of randomly crashing. I find it a bit finicky nowadays when compared to other video editors such as Sony Vegas and others. But it's a small download (approx 40MB) and it can't hurt to try it.

Blender: Didn't I already mention this? Who cares! Not only is it a great animation/modelling program, but the Blender sequencer is one of the best video editing applications you will find: fast and free.

Image Players/Editors
(Alternative's to Windows Media Player)

Handbrake: Open Source media converter. Highly regarded.

Super: Freeware video converter for conversion to avi/mpeg/wav/mp3/swf/ogg/mobile phone/etc and vice versa.

VLC Media Player: Multi formate media player.

MPEG Steamclip: Plays and converts multiple file formats.

VirtuaDub: Still good after all these years. Great for quickly converting video footage to image sequences (although I personally use Blnder to do this as I find it faster).

Audio Editor/Sequencer Tools
(Alternative's to Pro Tools/Adobe Audition/Sound Forge)

Audacity: Open Source audio editor and recording

Reaper: The best audio composer/editor. It's not free technically, but you can download it and use the full version indefinitely if you don't use it for 'commercial purposes'.
Excellent program.

Acid Xpress: It's free and it's Sony. Sony make good products generally, so put two and two together and see what you come up with.

Shittalker: Basic text to speech program. Not sure how much use you would get out of this but it will make you laugh, and that's gotta be a good thing.

DVD Tools

EXPRESS BURN: Excellent, Freeware DVD/CD/BlueRay/HD DVD burn sotware that is 100% compatible with Windows Vista. Nice clean design and the best DVD burning program we've yet seen. Choose this instead of Final Burner! Download it here

DVD Shrink:Excellent and versatile Freeware tool for copying DVD's and compressing them so that they can fit on a standard DVD-/+ disc. (NOTE: Copying a commercial copyright-protected DVD may be done for personal use only).

Final Burner: A great Freeware CD/DVD burning program like Nero (the program - not the Roman emperor). Small download size (about 2mb) and with a user friendly interface. Recommended (Note for personal use only).

Presentation Tools
(Alternative's to Microsoft Word/Excel)

*Open Office: Open Source equivalent to MS Office, but far superior. Can write direct to .pdf format.

*Wink: Freeware tool to create presentations in .swf (shockwave flash) or .exe (executable file) format. Records mouse movements and allows you to edit this into a tutorial demo.

*Cam Studio: Open Source screen-grab utility that records video/audio to .avi or.swf format. Pretty much similar to Wink except for the .avi capabilities. Very useful.

*Foxit PDF Reader: Freeware PDF reader and editor. Better that Adobe Reader.

*PDF Xchange Viewer: Freeware PDF reader and editor. Again better than Adobe Reader.

Compression Tools
(Alternative's to WinZip/WinRar)

*7Zip: Open source compression software. Much better compression than winzip/win rar etc. Supports all compression formats.

Web Browser Tools
(Alternative's to Internet Explorer)

*Mozilla Firefox: Open Source web browser. Far more secure and user friendly than Internet Explorer.

Operating Systems
(Alternative's to Windows/Mac)

Linux Ubuntu: Open Source (ie: FREE) operating system that is updated every 6 months. Has received a lot of very good feedback and reviews and is considered to be more secure that Windows. Comes with software such as Open Office, etc. Can be downloaded from the site or you can apply to receive a copy by post for free!

Freeware Websites

Major Geeks: Safe and secure freeware software arranged into various categories. Click here to visit site

Sourceforge: Directory of open Source projects with downloads. Not the best laid out site in the world but you can find programs of all types for all formats. Click here to visit the site

VST4FREE: Site offering free VST plugins for creating and editing music. Use the plugins alongside other free audio creation software such as Psycle or Reaper. Click here to visit the site

PC-Utilities: Website of the PC-Utilities magazine. You can directly download software in various categories. Click here to visit the site

Wikipedia: The Wiki list of Free/Open Source software. Click here to vist the site

FSF/UNESCO Free List: A list of freeware compiled by the UN. Click here to visit the site

Light Links: This is a bit strange but it's religious site offering freeware! You can ignore the christian preachy stuff and check out the free software links on the left hand side of the main page. Click here to visit the site

As always you can contact us here
Or you can leave a comment or any other links to free software that you think others might find useful.

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