Skype is the most popular service around for voice calls over the internet. You can also use live text chat and send files. Many international organisations rely on Skype to reduce their costs, using it instead of the telephone. It makes online collaboration between global grassroots communities easier, as it is both cheap and universal, supporting calls to landlines and mobile phones.
Screencasting software lets you record what is happening on the screen of your computer as a video file. This can be used together with audio narration to create useful help videos. Windows has at least two good open source options: Cam Studio and Webinaria. These both allow you to record audio from your microphone or choose another sound source. You can select the whole screen for recording, or just part of it. Record My Desktop offers the same functionality in Linux, and you can record screencasts with QuickTime player on a Mac.
Because of some of the challenges of editing video on the desktop, it may be a good idea to try an online video editor. Two options are YouTube and Video Toolbox. YouTube Video Editor allows you to take videos that you have uploaded, as well as other videos and audio that have been uploaded under an open licence, and edit them in a simple editor in your internet browser. The features are limited, but the service is stable enough to use for short videos. Video Toolbox is a free service which provides a limited amount of space for uploading, storing, downloading and converting videos.
Most video editors are similar in design. Once you have learned the basics in one application it is often easy to apply these skills to another program. This is fortunate as there are no free cross-platform video editors available. Here are some comparisons of different tools:
Windows Movie Maker and iMovie come free with Windows and Mac OSX respectively. Recent versions have made them much more than the basic editors they used to be; they now support images from modern hard drive cameras, and video from mobile phones.
HandBrake was created to convert DVD discs into smaller video files suitable for viewing and sharing on the Internet. This is called 'DVD ripping'.
HandBrake is popular, and is available for many different operating systems.
There are now more features including transcoding, which means changing one type for video file into another. This is very useful for video makers wanting to make their projects small enough to fit on a CD, or to share online or on a mobile device.
DVDStyler is a cross-platform, free DVD authoring application.
It creates DVDs that can be played on almost any standalone DVD player. You can design interactive DVD menus and the interface is simple and intuitive to use.
If you do run into problems with image quality or opening different video formats, then try using a different application (like Avidemux) to transcode your video into DVD-ready MPEG-2 files, and then import them to DVDStyler.
Amara is a free online subtitling service.
It allows you to add or import text to create subtitles for a video hosted somewhere else on the Internet. The interface is easy to use, allowing you to play, pause and review your video as you type the text of the dialogue. You then match the text to the timing of the video. Subtitles can then be made available for other users to review and improve; or they can add extra subtitles in a different language.
Synfig Studio creates 2D animation.
It uses new techniques to allow you to create animations quickly, with a limited budget. It can be compared to the Flash animation application. It is a very stable tool with a lot of professional features. Photographs and other backgrounds can be integrated with icons and cartoon figures to create scenarios which can communicate a particular message.
The use of animation allows you to use the power of moving images cheaply to communicate your message.
In order to circumvent internet censorship in China, bloggers have created a lexicon which makes puns out of words and phrases in the Chinese language to talk about forbidden topics. It started with the 'grass-mud horse' – a mythical creature which sounds nearly the same as a dirty insult – as a tool to ridicule the government's blocking of vulgar content online. The grass-mud horse has achieved a personality, making its way into art, poetry and online videos, as well as inspiring an entire vocabulary of words.
WordPress is a system for creating websites and blogs.
You can have your own installation of WordPress if you have some webspace, or you can use the free service at wordpress.com.
It is easy to install WordPress and learn how to publish webpages, and it is a good vehicle for publishing and promoting your audio and video online.
If you are using wordpress.com, you either have to pay an upgrade fee to host media files, or you can include them from SoundCloud, YouTube or other audio and video sharing sites.