14 Free and Simple Digital Media Tools

| August 1, 2011 | 17 Comments
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Wavosaur audio editor.

With so many free (or inexpensive) useful tech tools out there, editing video, audio, or photos doesn’t have to cost a fortune – or leave you with a headache. If your digital media needs are simple, your tools can be simple, too.

We rounded up the best ones for your consideration.

AUDIO EDITING

Audacity: A simple, yet very effective, open-source multi-track audio editing software. You can import audio files, chop them up, fade them in and out, or use more advanced editing features, then export the entire project as an MP3 or WAV file. Audacity can be used with Windows, Mac, and Linux, is compatible with a variety of audio file formats, and can even convert analog audio to digital.

Wavosaur: Although it only works on Windows operating systems and is barely half a megabyte in size, Wavosaur still has some pretty advanced features, like cross-fade loops, vocal removal, batch processing, and more.

Ardour: Only designed for Mac and Linux, but crammed full of advanced features, this one might be a bit more complex to navigate. Called a “digital audio workstation” suitable for professionals, users can record, mix, and edit their audio cost-free – and consult the support feature if they get stuck.

WavePad: Another full-featured audio editor full of effects like echo, amplify, or text-to-speech and voice-changer functions. It’s also compatible with the full range of audio and music file formats. The free version is only available for Macs, however.

PHOTO EDITING

Pixlr: Very popular and user-friendly, Pixlr lets you upload photos from your computer and edit them right in your browser. There are no downloads necessary, unless you want to grab and edit screenshots using Pixlr Grabber. For simple, one-click edits, try Pixlr Express; for “retro vintage” effects, visit Pixlr-o-matic.

Picasa: Google’s photo editing tool, Picasa is a free download, runs on every operating system, and allows any number of simple editing and organizing features. Reduce redeye, crop, retouch, make a slideshow, and batch upload, or share photos using Picasa Web Albums.

Picnik: Edit photos online with this browser-based software; no downloads required here, either. Picnik, like Pixlr, has a lively, upbeat interface and offers access to special effects as well as simple edits like cropping and color retouching. For more advanced features, users can upgrade to the Premium version for a small fee per month.

VIDEO EDITING

MovieMaker: The Microsoft version of Apple’s iMovie, MovieMaker is a simple video editing software for Windows that turns photos and video clips into polished digital movies, using special effects, transitions, captions, sharing features, and more.

Cinefx: An open-source digital media player and editor, Cinefx is compatible on both Windows and Mac operating systems and lets users navigate simple, yet professional, video editing features and add a bunch of special effects.

MovieStorm: If you want to create 3D animated movies, this is the free download for you. MovieStorm’s goal is to make 3D animation accessible to teachers and students, businesses, and amateur filmmakers, so it’s easy to use, but full of high-quality, industry-standard features.

StoryBoard Pro: Designed specifically for students and teachers by Bill Bierden, an Apple Distinguished Educator, StoryBoard Pro allows users to plan ahead for their video projects. Although it’s not exactly about importing video footage and editing (it’s more of a precursor to that), students can enter shot descriptions, planned lengths, and editing order, create and print storyboards, and upload a variety of media to illustrate each shot.

AUDIO SLIDE SHOWS

PhotoStory:  A free, Windows-only audio slide show software that allows users to upload photos and audio and add captions, narration, and transitions to make a smooth multimedia piece. When it’s done, it’s exportable as a Windows Media Video (WMV) file.

Animoto: A very simple video or photo slide show software that’s excellent for beginners. It can automatically sync up with Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, SmugMug, and Picasa albums and allows users to upload music or select from Animoto’s audio archive. Only the Lite version is free, however, which means that users can only create 30-second slide shows. Still, upgrading to Plus is only $5 a month or $30 a year.

PhotoPeach: Also very simple – perhaps even simpler – PhotoPeach offers users the ability to upload and arrange photos, add music and captions, and share on Facebook, Twitter, or a blog.

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  • http://twitter.com/timekord Martin King

    Don’t forget Aviary http://www.aviary.com/ - this is one of the leading free on-line (cloud based) tools

  • http://www.uptown-media.org Rose

    Hi,
    Thank you so much for introducing these great resources.  I am super excited about Audacity, MovieStorm and Story Board Pro.  I am also extremely interested in CineFx, but am not sure it is a viable option at this point.  Has there been any recent news on this very promising project?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CineFX

    Thank you,
    Rose

    • Beyondtool

      Looks like Moviestorm isn’t free anymore (unless it never was). There is a 14 day trial available and education pricing but it’s not particularly cheap.

  • HoneyFernDotOrg

    Love Audacity !

  • http://facebook.com/toni.tabora.roberts Toni Tabora-Roberts

    Great list of tools! Thanks for sharing.

  • Nathan Hofflander

    Open source… what a great concept. I know a paradigm when I see one.

  • Aholbroo

    What a comprehensive list for the teacher to use this fall. Thanks.

  • Guest

    Our District is having problems with Windows Movie Maker 2.  So, we are hopeful to pilot a web – based application called JayCut–http://jaycut.com.  I should also mention Jing–http://www.jingproject.com.  Enjoy-:)

  • Carmella6366

    for me i think gimp is the best free photo editing software

  • http://www.drm-removal-tool.com/tutorials/convert-itunes-to-windows-movie-maker.html itunes to windows movie maker

    It was a very nice collection! Just wanna say thank you for the selective information you have distributed. 

  • Ddaniels

    Thanks for the list! Always nice to know about free resources for teachers!!!

  • Melissa J Pickering

    This is a great list — SAM Animation for digital storytelling as a free download from http://www.icreatetoeducate.com is a great resource as well!

  • http://twitter.com/jeffboudier Jeff Boudier

    Excellent list! For video and slideshow creation, I would add Stupeflix (http://www.stupeflix.com/). Videos under 1 minute are free, and there is a cool preview function to, well, preview your work. It’s also available on YouTube along with other cool web apps: http://www.youtube.com/create

  • madisoncrocker

    Thank you for all the great ideas.  This will be a short post as I’m going to start downloading.  Storyboard should be a great percursor to video.  With all we have to buy, nice to know there are some good “freebies.”

  • Jennifer

    If you like WavePad as an Audio Editor you might want to try some of the other solutions from NCH Software including VideoPad for video editing which will give you the added benefit of better integration between programs.
    Jennifer
    NCH Software Home
    NCH Software Blog

  • Carly

    Photoscape is also a great photo editing software. It’s free, and I use it for all of my photos. Some features are a bit limited, but there are nice filters it lets you use. http://www.photoscape.org/

    The free download is at the top. Ignore all of the “download” images at the bottom, because those are just ads.

  • http://www.replicon.com/time-clock Employee Time Clock

    Till date, I have been using addons to capture and edit videos. Though editing is not exactly possible, capturing is good. But I believe these tools would help me do both better.