If you look around on the Internet there are hundreds of free resources for those who like to create. Whether you create digital art, images, work with audio recordings or make videos, there’s something out there for every artist. The most popular you find online are the free software programs, but few realize how much film footage, video, and audio clips there is to download for free. In this article I will feature several free helpful resources for artists I’ve found and still use. Support them any way you can, they deserve it.
We’ll start with free computer software. The main media creating programs I use are store-bought, but sometimes you need to do something simple that your program doesn’t do. If you’ve bought expensive high-end software, you probably already have these tools built in. But if you’re like the rest of us, your software may be lacking. Several of these programs are open source, which means that others are free to contribute and write downloadable plug-ins to further develop the software. Please note that these are PC programs. I didn’t really look but a few may have Mac versions.
This web site offers too many free software programs to list. Contributed by programmers from around the world, it is just about the best place to find open source software around. You can find free software for just about all your computing needs, including multimedia. I use the program below, which is available on Source Forge.
This is a very useful audio recording and editing program, has been around for years and continually updated. For those who like to do multi-channel audio recording, layering and editing, this open-source software is for you. You could spend big bucks for audio software but Audacity does the trick for free. It may not be good enough to make release-able CDs, but others have written some great free plug-ins, so many of the bells and whistles are available for free. Good enough to make demos with and easy to use.
Although this software is no longer supported, it is still available for download online. It doesn’t need much updating because this tiny little program only does one thing, compile and convert still-frame images into AVI video animation files. No audio support. Great for animators! It supports bitmap and Jpeg formats. You can also adjust frame rate and image size.
Free Video Converter
Another program which only does one thing. If you need an unrecognizable video file format converted to one your computer can use, this program is a must have. It supports many file formats. For example, I don’t have the mp4 codec installed on my computer. Yet with this software I can download an mp4 video file and convert it to a useable mp2. Fully updated and supported. There is a free version that converts most common formats, and an inexpensive purchase version that has more features.
This is such a cool program to have. I’ve seen videos online that show someone playing a computer game. This is one way how they do it. It will record any activity you do on a computer screen, and convert it into an AVI video file. Audio (mic) recording is supported. The video file can also be converted into a bandwidth-friendly Streaming Flash video (SWF). You can even select certain sections of the computer screen to be recorded. This is a great program for making video tutorials and game walkthroughs.
Digital Level Meter
This is free software, but the UK programmer does accept donations. Have you ever needed to know the volume level of audio you are recording into your computer? This is good to know and extremely necessary when digitizing video clips. That’s what this small program will do, and only that. This very clever programmer has even made several versions of this handy meter, including LED and classic analog VU versions.
Now we’ll review downloadable resources. Many people ask where they can find free downloadable images, videos, music or audio clips they can use in their work. There are more free resources out there than you think, but there are a few things for you to remember first.
Always keep in mind that you cannot use commercial media released by large corporations, networks or studios in your projects, whether you earn money from it or not. Under no circumstance should you download and use anything from them. But there are other alternatives. Some of the following sites offer free resources in the hopes of you buying their collection, usually at an affordable price. Their only request for what you download is that you credit them on your project. Other sites offer media resources created by people who give out or license their works.
There are many generous people and artists who contribute to the Internet. Many artists use the services of the Creative Commons organization (http://creativecommons.org/), which offers free online disclaimers for artists distributing their works on the Internet. They’re not going to hire lawyers for you if someone steals your work, but it is a good way to protect artists and document the works they distribute. The idea being, that most of us can be trustworthy.
There are several ‘licenses’ an artist can choose from, depending on what limits they choose. Please be sure to read and understand what rights are permitted before downloading any file. You may not be able to use the file at all, or use it only for non-commercial purposes. Sometimes they require that whatever you’re creating carry the same Creative Commons license. Other restrictions may be that you can’t alter the file or use excerpts from it (derivatives). So read carefully. Having said that, most downloadable files only request that you credit the author and web site you got it from.
Anything you see that is labeled Public Domain means that you are free to use it for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, but be careful. Some public domain resources may not be accurately labeled as such. There are also things to consider when using public domain files. Let’s say you see the video of an older film you want to use. The video may be labeled public domain, but the characters in the film, or even the music is still copyrighted. For example, some of the old Disney cartoons have fallen into public domain, but many of their popular characters still carry restrictive copyright limitations.
In general, if you’re just making something to upload and be admired, the most you have to worry about is giving someone some deserved credit. So now that you know what to look for, here are some web site resources that are worth your investigation.
It’s nice to have a variety of fonts available to use in special projects or videos. This site has a huge collection of fonts with various licenses, most free to use.
PacDV’s Free Sound Effects
This site offers some very useful sound effects with no limitations other than giving credit and not redistributing or reselling them. The idea is you’ll purchase their affordable CD with thousands more.
Mayang’s Free Texture Library
A site offering free texture images in hopes that you’ll buy their CD. A generous web site if you need texture images for digital art or animations. You only have to credit them in your project, and they request you only download a few a day. Be courteous and respect this request. Don’t go hog wild and download everything.
Partners In Rhyme
Looking for music? This very generous site offers music loops, short music tracks, midi files, sound effects, video loops, drum loops, even software. All files are free with no restrictions, other than not reselling or redistributing. And you can’t make any CDs using solely their tracks with narration. Their generosity is in hopes that you’ll purchase one of their themed CDs with full version of the songs, probably in higher quality.
The Internet Archive
The greatest public archive housed on the Internet with thousands of audio recordings, images and film footage ranging from vintage to modern works. Remember those old films they showed in school? You can watch them here again. Movie drive-in ads, VJ loops, animations and a whole lot more. Some resources are public domain, and some are variably licensed.
In addition to housing a huge collection of topics to research like Nature or Society, Wikimedia Commons also holds a large amount of images, audio clips and video recordings. I mainly use this site as an image resource. There are thousands of images to search, both public domain and variably licensed.
The Library of Congress
If you don’t mind vintage B&W resources, this is a great site. Spend hours here looking at downloadable historical images, documents, and film footage. Audio recordings are also available. Most of what’s here is public domain but be careful with copyrighted characters.
These are just a few places to find media resources on the Internet. Some have commercial motives and others just enjoy sharing. Thank goodness for people like this. It’s what makes the Internet the most valuable resource of them all, if you know where to look. Enjoy these free resources and go out searching for more. You never know what you’ll find.