So you want to start making something CREATIVE and FUN?! Not only do you want to make something, but you want to make something on a computer?! Well good golly gosh– time to get some software and get this show on the road! I heard Adobe makes some fantastic products.
I’m going to assume that you’re not a Rockefeller. Sure, you could opt to pay the fairly ludicrous 599.98 dollars a year—Adobe does make phenomenal products. But this price point of nearly 600 bucks a year for products that you most likely won’t use enough to justify the price is, frankly, insane. You could piece out what Adobe software you’d use, but how do you know what you will and won’t need off the bat? Yeah, you could spend hours and hours vomiting questions into Google until you find a forum thread that doesn’t end in “got it, thanks guys” with no discernable solution. Or, hey, alternative—check out the /g/ wiki and get clear answers for everything you’re looking for.
I’ve been creating digital content for the better part of the last decade. Every aspect of Heck Media has been created by me: our site, our podcast, our video content, our graphic design– EVERYTHING. I’ve gone through program after program, trying to find the best one in terms of functionality. I want to help you circumvent the problems that I had searching for the optimal programs and selflessly guide you in the right direction. Also, fun thing– all of the titles of each section are direct links to the alternatives! So, uh, you’re welcome in advanced.
I’ve had a fair bit of formal training in Adobe Photoshop and Paint.NET is a great alternative to Photoshop. The user interface of Paint.NET is very similar to Photoshop and has many of the same functions. The only real discernible difference is Paint.NET’s lack of out-of-the-box ability to create 3-D text. However, as with most programs on this list, Paint.NET is open source, so there are a lot of third-party extensions and a vivacious community of creators that can only make your life easier.
If you want to see some more in-depth comparisons between Adobe Photoshop and Paint.NET, check out this discussion on the Pain.NET forums.
This is one of the only Adobe Suite alternatives that doesn’t come 1000% recommended. ShotCut, in its vanilla form, is bare-bones compared to Adobe Premier. Another thing you have to keep in mind is that video editing software is very CPU intensive and will require a fairly decently powered computer for it to run smoothly while you edit. Adobe Premier is better optimized to run on lower-end systems. ShotCut, like Paint.NET, is open source software so there are many extensions and additions to boost the ShotCut experience. ShotCut can also be a bit confusing of an experience when if you have little video editing experience due to its bare-bones nature. I would still recommend it over Adobe Premier, if not for the price point alone than for the open source code and wide breadth of user created expansions.
I have been an absolute shill for Audacity since I started doing any audio editing on my own PC. Audacity is a full featured audio editing program, with multi-track recording and all of the bells and whistles that makes an audio program beyond just functional. Adobe Audition also has the same bells and whistles, but lacks one crucial ability—you cannot convert DV video files into audio files. This is not going to be a big problem for most people, as tape-less recording has become the norm nowadays. However if you are using editing software on file from footage shot on physical tape formats you may be out of luck with Adobe Audition. Audacity also has the same ease-of-use showcased in Adobe Audition as well. Audacity is ALSO ALSO ALSO open source, so there is an extension or patch out there for whatever asinine thing you’ll ever need.
If you haven’t noticed the pattern by now I’ll spell it out for you— ahem—OPEN SOURCE PROGRAMS ARE THE WAY OF THE FUTURE.
Paying out the butt for all kinds of proprietary software to faceless companies is absolutely insane. Sure, the independent programs are not the shiny, optimized masterpieces that the Adobe Suite offers—but they are a phenomenal alternative for someone who is looking for function over form. The nature of open source programs makes them inherently more capable, comparatively. A corporate program has to go through all of the bureaucratic red tape when they want to release a patch for their programs. You also have to deal with the problem that companies may just move to a new version of the software and make you pay in again to use it. Open source software tends to be supported for as long as anyone is using it because the community AND the creator perform upkeep.
I can understand companies or corporate entities using something like the Adobe Suite. Hell, I even understand an independent professional dropping the cash just for status or some bizarre form of security. But for the every-day content creator it does not make any sense to pay so much for software that you still have to learn. I’d even urge you, if you really NEED to use the Adobe Suite that you start off using the free tools I’ve suggested to learn how to create beforehand so you can optimize your time with the Adobe Suite.
-Brendan C. Bush, co-creator and contributor at Heck Media