25 Apr 2018

Some people complain about free software. We take a look at this surprising phenomenon

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DaVinci Resolve. It's free, and it's brilliant. So why complain? DaVinci Resolve. It's free, and it's brilliant. So why complain? Blackmagic Design

Why do people complain about free software, despite it actually being incredibly good?

On RedShark we recently asked whether Resolve 15 is the ultimate “hero” suite. After all, not only is it a very capable NLE, but it has world class colour grading tools, an immensely capable sound mixer, and now it incorporates the Fusion compositing software as well.

There were some mixed responses to the idea of this collection of apps being the ultimate hero suite. One in particular being vehemently opposed to the idea. Now, I realise that everybody has their preferences for different software, but to write off a very well known, and incredibly capable piece of software that is likely being used in many hundreds of thousands of seats on a daily basis, just because it doesn’t meet your own very specific criteria is a bit silly. It’s silly because the software in question does in fact meet other users criteria very well indeed. To the point where it is used on some very big name feature films and television series. Whether that is in an NLE capacity or colour correction is neither here nor there. It is still being used, and used very extensively indeed.

It’s free!

The other reason why many criticisms have been left, shall we say, wanting, is that you can get hold of the Resolve suite for free. If you do want all the bells and whistles the full Studio package only costs £250 (or $299), and if you purchase a BMD camera you get this version thrown in as part of the deal. This is software that at one point of it’s life not all that very long ago cost over £20,000 for solely the colour correction bit alone. 

Another criticism we were left was that the software is buggy. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I do not think I have used a single NLE that didn’t have a bug of some sort. The reality is that Resolve has been one of the most stable NLEs I have used, and is kn fact no more or less buggy than any of the others in my experience. It is also subject to very regular point updates that address these issues. I use a Mac, so there are less issues of hardware incompatabilty. But tracing bugs is not an easy thing to do, and issues can just as easily be caused by your hardware and the software that drives it just as easily as it can be the editing software itself. So to apportion blame without properly tracing a fault is to jump the gun rather.

However, I digress. To focus on such things is to miss the point that Resolve is a truly capable piece of software, one of the best on the market, and it is available to absolutely everyone from a hobbyist or student through to the highest levels of Hollywood. And at any one of those levels cost of ownership is never an issue. Because you can get hold of it for absolutely no cost of ownership at all. No hidden gotcha's, no Cambridge Analytica, no adverts, no nothing.

Resolve-15.jpg

Resolve 15. A NLE, colour grading, compositing, and sound mixing suite of the highest calibre, available for free

Think about this. If you are a student studying film or video production at University you can download Resolve for free and get to know and practise industry standard colour correction and editing tools and methodologies that work in the real world, on a laptop. The University can benefit too on its machines. While the original FCP was very well renowned for opening up digital editing for the masses in what became a fairly industry standard piece of software, in 2006 it still cost upwards of £600 or more for the full suite of software, and you really needed a decent desktop machine to run it. It was nowhere near as capable as what we have available to us now, for free, and that we can use on a laptop anywhere if we so pleased.

But let’s not restrict this to Resolve. There’s Lightworks as well, which also offers a free version. In most walks of life when somebody offers you something for free you would generally accept it graciously. You might turn it down flat if you had no need for the gift, but if you accepted the offer you generally wouldn’t stand around moaning that what you got for free wasn’t enough. RedShark recently had complaints about the fact that it was only giving away 32GB SD cards to each person who simply filled out a survey. Instead it was suggested that it gave away a camera instead. It is time we put all of this into perspective and got a grip of reality a bit.

Lightworks.jpg

Lightworks v14. Feature film capable software you can own for free.

No corners have been cut

From a video industry perspective, generally we all know what it is like to offer a service for free. It might have been a charity or community event or something similar. Some may even have produced a company promo or two to build up their portfolios when they first started. Or maybe a company made a vanity project that helped a company out while allowing them to stretch some creative muscle. Now remember what it felt like having done that work for free only to have the ‘client’ pick holes in what you have done, requesting change after change, or bemoaning that fact that you didn’t have big sweeping drone shots or a guest appearance by Kate Beckinsale!

Understandably you’d be a bit peeved if that happened. But the thing about software such as Resolve and Lightworks, even in their free form, is that unlike your free video for the local barbers shop or church, no corners have been cut due to a lack of budget. They are truly seriously capable pieces of software with which a large section of users will fail to even break the surface of their true capabilities with. And they just become more capable with each and every release. Not only that, in the case of Resolve, even if you only wanted it for colour correction it is compatible with most of the other major NLE systems out there as well! It is therefore quite staggering to read the sorts of negative comments that have appeared recently.

I know that users have their own preferences as to the software that they use. But there is no need to become protective. All the software today has its place. They are all pretty good, if not exceptional. And that’s because the NLE space is so competitive. Year on year we are seeing ever more powerful capabilities. And yet, Resolve is keeping pace, and in many cases advancing upon its rivals. When the vast majority of those capabilities are available for free it is incredibly churlish to complain about what you are getting for absolutely zero monetary outlay.


Simon Wyndham

Simon Wyndham is Deputy Editor of RedShark News, a professional cameraman and video producer of 20 odd years. With a background in indy feature making, he has been writing camera reviews and tech articles for as long as he can remember. When he isn't producing bread and butter corporate videos he can be found hucking the gnar on rivers whitewater kayaking and adventure sports filming.

Website: www.5ep.co.uk

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