Essential Free Filmmaking Software

Today's independent and student filmmakers have a distinct advantage over their predecessors in the world of technology. The tools to produce great films have become easier to acquire and less expensive for budget-conscious filmmakers. Large resolutions and Hollywood quality effects are produced for a small fraction of what they would cost even just a few years ago. Below is a list of some of the best free filmmaking software, for all stages of production! This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but hopefully, this gives you an idea of some of the great pieces of software available to use for free.

#5: Adobe Story (Free)

Adobe Story is a fantastic writing and pre-production software that comes with Adobe Creative Cloud. It's an amazing tool for users of Creative Cloud, but for those who don't subscribe to Adobe CC, there's an excellent free version that retains many of the powerful screenwriting features of the full version. It's a very professional feeling software, and it allows one to work faster than in other free screenplay writing applications. The free version does miss the collaboration features, production reports, and markup features that the full version has, but for a solo screenwriter or director, it is an amazingly powerful tool.

Check it out here!

#4: Google Drive

Millions of people around the world use Google drive for productivity applications, and it is evident why. Google brings a powerful suite of word processing, presentation, spreadsheet and collaboration tools that is available for free. This can be a great tool for creating and sharing production reports, keeping collaborators up to date with project versions or to securely share rough cuts of a project with your team. The only limitation is the 15gb of free Google Drive space can get eaten up pretty quickly with video projects and footage, but Google has fairly-priced options for larger amounts of cloud storage space.

You can sign up for Google drive here!

#3: Hitfilm

Hitfilm is a post-production software that aims to combine editing and visual effects into one cohesive package. Although it is rather new, many filmmakers have been intrigued by the software and the price tag for the introductory version, which is available for free. It is perhaps most analogous to Adobe After Effects, but with editing functionality included. I haven't spent a ton of time with this software, but it has some pretty powerful effects and compositing tools for a free software. Additionally, it feels a lot more intuitive than After Effects, so if you're struggling with trying to understand the complexities of After Effects this may be worth a look.

Hitfilm's website is available at this link.

#2: Lightworks

Lightworks is a free editing software with a pretty impressive pedigree. Editors such as Jill Bilcock (Moulin Rouge, Romeo & Juliet), Tariq Anwar (Revolutionary Road, The King’s Speech), Sally Menke (Pulp Fiction), and Thelma Schoonmaker (Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street) have used Lightworks on their projects and many have gone on to win BAFTA and Academy awards for films they edited on the Lightworks platform. Lightworks is a bit of a polarizing piece of software, and although I found the idea of it fascinating, it didn't suit my particular tastes as an editor. That being said, I know a lot of filmmakers who enjoy cutting in Lightworks, and for that reason, it's worth a shot for any filmmaker because it may just be the software the clicks for you! There is a free version and a paid version, with the difference between the two being primarily export formats. For filmmakers looking for a different approach to the editing process, I highly recommend giving Lightworks a try and seeing if it may be the editing software that works best for you.

More information on Lightworks can be found here.

#1: DaVinci Resolve

DaVinci Resolve is an absolute powerhouse color correction and grading software that has recently introduced some pretty impressive editing capabilities. The free version is perfect for HD finishing and color grading, and DaVinci has worked to improve Resolve's editing capabilities. Formally editing on Resolve was clunky and slow, but now they've improved the interface and response of the system and create a useful editing system. The real gem of Resolve though is the color correction power. Even in the free version, it is an immense tool for finishing your films and getting a professional looking end product. Using LUTs, you can dial in a basic look and then with Resolve's other instruments you can hone the exposure, contrast, and color. The mattes and motion tracking work flawlessly, and allow you to create complex windows with ease. Using Resolve, you can craft awe-inducing final color grades for nothing! This is a must have software for every filmmaker in my opinion, and if you take the time to get to learn the conventions of grading, you'll have a lasting skill that will set you apart as a filmmaker, editor or cinematographer.

Check out Resolve on DaVinci's website here.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my post on how to improve client relationships and also my series on producing a micro-budget film.

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