Ten free and legal Web tools for journalists

Adam Westbrook recently wrote about his favorite freebie programs and the list is worth a look.

Among his Top 10, are three of my own faves.

1. MPEG Streamclip

What it does: Put simply,  MPEG Streamclip is a video transcoder and compressor. It takes a video file and converts it into a smaller, bigger, different video file to suit your needs. I use it to compress the HD footage from my DSLR camera into a smaller high quality file so Final Cut Pro can handle it for editing.

Why you should have it: If you’re involved with the shooting or editing of video, MPEG Streamclip is a big problem solver. If you’ve got a film shot in .mov files, but one .avi file from another source, MPEG Streamclip will convert it. It’s also vital for making sure all your video uses the same codecs. You can also use it to resize footage.

How to get it: MPEG Streamclip is produced and published for free by Squared5. To download it for Mac or Windows, click here.

2. Audacity

What it does: Audacity edits audio in lots of ways and is particularly effective for editing speech. It’s used in plenty of radio newsrooms around the world as an alternative to Adobe Audition. It allows for multilayered editing and lets you add plenty of professional filters to your audio.

Why you should have it: It’s useful as a simple converter (to turn a big .WAV file into a nice .mp3) but you’ll get more value from it if you’re editing podcasts or audio slideshows or using audio regularly in your work. It’s a bit tricky to get used to though, so give it time.

How to get it: It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux and is also released – for free – under the GNU licence. Click here to get a copy.

3.  Quicktime Pro

What it does: Why have I added Quicktime to this list? We all have it anyway right and it just plays .mov videos right? Wrong. Turns out Quicktime (on a Mac at least) is a bit more interesting than that. Did you know it can also record audio, video and even screencasts?

Why you should have it: You can use it to record footage from your webcam and Skype interviews. If you want to demo something on your computer, a screencast video is great.

How to get it: If you’ve got a Mac you should already have it. Again, a quick scout around the internet suggests this isn’t available for Windows users with Quicktime. Sorry guys!

One other I would include:  HandBrake.  When someone hands you a DVD and says you’re OK to use the footage in your story, you may need to rip it and convert it to a usable format.  HandBrake works like a charm.

How about you?  Anymore you would add to the list?


1 comment for “Ten free and legal Web tools for journalists

  1. DB
    February 14, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I left a longer post at Adam Westbrook’s blog, but wanted to mention something here.

    I’ve found Audacity to be a quirky piece of software. Besides having to install the LAME encoder manually for mp3 work, one occasionally hits bugs that slow down or destroy work.

    I use Wavosaur for simple audio editing.

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