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DIY Video: 10 User-Generated Content Tools You Can't Live Without

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In the early 1980s, the desktop publishing revolution democratized the whole process of page layout and book production. Suddenly everyone became a publisher.

The same thing is happening now with the tools and processes for working with audio and video. Anyone who wants to edit or convert moving images and sound can do it inexpensively.

The desktop publishing revolution resulted in some amazingly beautiful design ideas being tried out for the first time. The same thing is happening with video. You only have to spend a little while on YouTube to see some very creative ideas. (Of course there’s plenty of bad execution out there, and at least as many nondescript productions, but we’ll not dwell on those here.) The general public is enthusiastic about producing video now that they can afford the tools, and the best way to learn is to experiment with your ideas and show them to people.

Choosing Your Platform
In this article, we’ll explore how you can put together a toolkit to deal with the 10 main areas of video processing that you’ll need to cover. Rather than recommending one tool above all others, we’ll present you with a number of options for each part of the process. You may have no money at all and need cheap or even free tools. At the other end of the scale are enterprise-level users who can afford anything that is available whatever the price, provided there is a good business case. In the middle are professionals working in small companies who have a limited budget for their tools.

Beyond budget, the other main variable is your chosen workstation’s operating system. Creative professionals tend toward the Macintosh platform, although tools are widely available for Windows, too. And, at least as far as open source tools are concerned, Linux is also well-supported for this work. You certainly don't need to consider switching platforms just to produce video. You may occasionally find that an important tool or a direct alternative to it is not supported on your chosen platform, but there is usually a workaround. Where I refer to Linux, the solution is also generally applicable to other UNIX variants such as BSD or Solaris.

Acquiring the Tools
If you search Google for the keywords "video tools," you get a lot of hits. The same is true of Wikipedia. Whether you use Windows, Linux, or Mac OS, there is no shortage of tools at every price point to solve just about every problem you might encounter.

These tools are useful whether you are working for a broadcaster and produce TV programs for a living or are at the other end of the scale, a home video enthusiast building a collection of favorite TV clips and programs that you might want to watch again, perhaps delivered to the lounge from a home media server.

Many of the tools are available as shareware or completely free of charge, and a lot of work is being done even by professionals with tools that are open source and available to everyone. Even the high-end tools such as Final Cut Pro are within the reach of anyone who has some disposable income to spare on their hobby or is planning to make a living working with video content.

There are some important caveats with freeware. Since you aren’t paying the developers, you may not get the same level of support you might expect from a major manufacturer. Test things first before making delivery promises to your customers. Something vital in your workflow may not work quite right, and you may need to track down the reason yourself. Free software is sometimes referred to as user-supported software.

Rights and Wrongs
Before we go any further, let’s get something important out of the way. Building, delivering, or describing conversion tools in an article like this is not an endorsement of copyright infringement. You need to understand what the limits of fair use are in relation to the video you are working on. Be aware of the boundary where redistribution of content becomes a criminal act that infringes a content owner’s copyright.

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