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The Digital Tipping Point: Free film made with free tools

by John Sullivan Contributions Published on Apr 14, 2009 05:51 PM

Christian Einfeldt is producing a documentary movie called the Digital Tipping Point about how free software is changing global culture. He is releasing all of his footage under a free license, and is inviting participants to grab the video and use it to tell stories about how free software has changed their lives. He also wants the film to be produced using only free software tools.

He writes:

I am producing a movie about the cultural implications of the global shift to free software. The project is called the Digital Tipping Point. We have interviews with lots of prominent politicians, thinkers, business leaders, and free software developers.

To scale up, we want to encourage people to use only free software tools, for many different reasons, some pragmatic, and some ethical. One of the biggest impediments we have encountered to creating a free software video community is the insistence on most people in the video world on using non-free tools such as Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier Pro.

The pervasiveness of these non-free tools poses several problems: 1) proliferation of non-free codecs; 2) the need to often re-render submissions of video from non-free tools; 3) the delay in development of free software video tools; 4) the delay in creating a knowledge base of free software tools; 5) the limited growth of video editors knowledgeable and passionate about using free tools; 6) the need to use non-free codecs to view content created by users of non-free tools; 7) the creation of vast libraries of media in non-free formats.

While these problems might not be the result of actual DRM code, there is a close relationship between proprietary code and proprietary formats. If we are going to tell our stories, the stories of how free software can be more fun, more original, more creative, more long-lasting, and better for civil cyber rights, we will need to become adept at using free software tools if we are going to collaborate on these projects with the same sophistication and professional results that have characterized many free software projects.

Non-free software packages such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier Pro might be alluring in their feature sets and included assets, but those non-free applications keep us tied to non-free platforms such as Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X.

The best remedy for this problem is to just pick up a cheap video camera and start shooting your own video blogs, and use the robust free software tools out there to capture, edit, composite, render, and upload those pieces to public sites such as It is only by using these great tools that we will be able to develop the skills to create moving and emotionally compelling works of pop art that will speak to the newbies who don't know the difference between Software Libre and software gratis.

Christian makes a great point -- There are many free software video editing tools out there: Kino, Cinelerra, AVIDemux, Kdenlive, LiVES, Lumiera, as well as PiTiVi and the Open Movie Editor. But video editing remains an area considered by many users to be an obstacle to switching to a fully free operating system. This is why it is on the FSF's High Priority Project list.

The way forward is not to sit on our hands and wait for someone else to do the work. The way forward is to make a commitment to use the tools as they are available today whenever possible, and to push the envelope of what "whenever possible" means. If you are able to help by organizing this effort, contributing code, bug reports or feedback about user experience, please speak up on the wiki page we have created for this.

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