Free Video Editors

There is a perennial search for free or cheap video editors for participatory video and digital storytelling.  The holy grail would be something that is intuitive to use, but has enough features so that participants in projects and workshops don't outgrow it in 20 minutes.  Something that wasn't so quirky that I get frustrated enough to bite myself while I'm working it out would be good to.

On iOS, iMovie is a reasonable start, especially if you have something else to edit the audit on.  On Windows, MovieMaker wasn't all that great and now has became so simple it's near useless.

I've often used or recommended the consumer versions of software, as they're set up for people learning to edit and concentrate on a core of features which are implemented to support satisfying results - pretty much what we're aiming for.   I personally quite like Sony Vegas Movie Studio, because it's the same interface as the pro edition so once you have the hang of it, it's not a big transition to something with more power.  I also have a soft spot for Magix, because that's what I did my first big edit on. 

There are plenty of others.  The main thing is to do a little research, and perhaps try out a trial version.  You need a feel for which of the current versions is reasonably easy to use and has a nice balance of features for the project you're working on.

There are also outliers like WeVideo, which is what the folk at the Storycenter use for the workshop.  It's in about in the right zone, but does everything on the cloud - ie it needs a broadband connection to work.   Fine in the Bay Area of California.  Not so easy in rural Malawi.  Not practical here in Cape Town this week where variations on "loading" were far too common a feature.

So for this workshop we're going to try something new that looks promising.  There are two open source editors I hadn't seen before: Shotcut and Openshot 

Of the two, Shotcut looks to me like the slightly easier to use.  However it doesn't support keyframing and that's pretty essential for putting motion onto photos.  I just worked out how to place a photo on the left side of the frame, leaving the right frame transparent to a video layer underneath.  Well doing that was quite easy, the bit that took working out was how not to set up a keyframe animation across the photo while previewing it.  Then I discovered that once I had it set up properly I could copy and paste the clip position properties to the next photo in the list.  This is going to be very helpful for one of our ideas for presenting the stories that are being constructed.

Openshot is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, but in Windows there is no 32-bit version.  Not a big issue in Windows 10 as most computers are 64-bit now, but potentially a problem if people are using older versions of Windows.   I don't know how stable it is, but we're going to find out tomorrow.

Anyway - time for bed.  That was a long day and there is another to come.


  1. Today Tuesday 27th March 2018 is our 4th day in the iBali Network workshop. In the four days, a number of very personal and sometimes emotional stories have been told. This, indeed, is my first experience in a structured storytelling exercise. I have learned a number of things from this experience. First and foremost storytelling reveals "real lived" experiences more powerfully than any other approach would do. Quite honestly, you can't compare this to for example the use of questionnaires. In storytelling, you do not only get the message or information, but also the emotions. This is a powerful way of bringing to the fore personal experiences. In storytelling, individuals engage themselves actively both cognitively and emotionally and, these are for those of us who believe in constructivism the basic ingredients of meaningful learning.

    Storytelling also reveals a multiplicity of factors that contribute to inclusion and exclusion in an individual's life in society, the school system and, indeed, the workplace. This in my opinion seems to explain the unique traits or personalities of individuals. It seems to me that storytelling would be a very effective qualitative research methodology. Together with the used of media and drama, it can be effectively used to influence policy and bring about social transformation. As academia, we should take the first step. My colleagues, remember society has placed the responsibility of extending the frontiers of knowledge on you. However, you should always also remember that it is a thorny path. You, however, should not give up!

    1. It is indeed a thorny path Fred but because we know why we doing this kind of work we will definitely not give up. I am meeting with my participants and will share what I have learnt from the workshop with them.

  2. This is beautifully capture Fred. Thank you for your kind guidance through the 5 days.


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