12 Incredibly Useful Software Tools for Video Pros

Freelance video production is an amazing job, one adorned with interesting locales, weird and wonderful clients, and occasional brushes with stardom. In a week, a freelancer might go from shooting a CEO interview video, to attaching a GoPro to a hang glider, or running after soccer players with a MoVi.

Fun? Yes. Absolutely. But there’s a price. And the tools of the trade don’t stop at gadgets and hardware.

Today’s freelancer needs to be a production manager, editor, motion graphic designer, client relationship manager, and more.

Fortunately, the tools available for pros have never been better, or more affordable. Let’s take a look at a few of our picks.

Editing and Post Production Tools

1. Adobe Creative Cloud
Price: $10 – $50/month

This one goes without saying (but we couldn’t not mention it). Adobe’s Creative Cloud gives you subscription access to their entire suite of creative applications. The highlights, for those keeping score, are Premiere Pro, After Effects, SpeedGrade, SoundBooth, Photoshop, and Illustrator. A creative could just about run their business with this investment alone.

2. HitFilm 3
Price: $299

Those looking for an alternative to Adobe, Autodesk or Apple’s offerings will find solace in the wildly capable, totally affordable, HitFilm 3. HitFilm has taken the best of a handful of applications and brewed its own all-in-one editing, VFX and 3D application. Crammed with powerful compositing tools, the ability to import and manipulate 3D models, and all of the editing power of one of the large players, HitFilm 3 is an outstanding addition to any workstation

3. Clipwrap
Price: $49.99

Those who use it know that there are times when it’s just easier to wrap some footage and get editing. Clipwrap takes the guesswork out of HDV and AVCHD footage ingestion by allowing footage to be wrapped in popular formats such as ProRes and DNxHD. The wrapped files can also be optimized for editing apps such as Premiere, FCP, FCPX, Avid Media Composer, and even iMovie. Quicker than transcoding, Clipwrap can grab joined or non-joined files, right from a connected camera.

Effects Tools

4. Red Giant Universe
Price: $10 – $99/month, $399/lifetime

Red Giant changed the way plug-in users and VFX companies looked at buying and implementing effects tools. With Universe, subscribers have access to a selection of free tools – good ones – and a library of premium effects – both ranges are huge, and growing constantly.

5. 4KFree.com
Price: Free

The latest offering from Rampant Design Tools is their craziest yet – 4K visual effects, tools, and backgrounds, absolutely free. These are the same tools and effects available in their paid packages – not all of them, and not in 5K ProRes, but a handful of 4K mp4 versions. These are drool-worthy drag-and-drop visual effects and optical light effects captured using a RED EPIC, all created by a three-time Emmy Award-winning visual artist. A must for editors, motion graphic designers, or photographers.

6. Zaxwerks 3D ProAnimator 8
Price: $449

A designer can’t have enough tools for modelling, titles, and object extrusion. Sold as either a standalone tool or as a plug-in for After Effects, 3D ProAnimator 8 is the latest in a long line of killer 3D apps out of the Zaxwerks stable. It has straightforward options for extruded, textured text and objects within seconds, and for more complex animations, PA8 offers pro features such as ambient occlusion, depth of field, image-based lighting and procedural randomization. The best part is real-time 3D rendering: working without waiting to see what’s been created is a breath of fresh air.

7. VideoCopilot Element 3D V2
Price: $99.95 upgrade, $199.95 full version

Andrew Kramer and Co. recently rolled out their latest 3D object and particle rendering engine as a plug-in for After Effects. Impressive modelling tools such as bevel and extrude, and 3D bend and twist make this more than just another extrusion tool. The addition of soft shadows and ambient occlusion, as well as a raft of add-on model packs, make this a must-own.

8. Mocha Pro
Price: $495 upgrade, $1,495 full version

Imagineer’s Mocha Pro is the industry standard for planar tracking, object removal or roto work. The difference between point tracking and planar tracking is Mocha’s ability to analyze an entire plane. When tracking with Mocha Pro, multiple surfaces can be simultaneously tracked. Very accurate and powerful. For a version of Mocha that you probably already have on your workstation, check out the version that ships with Adobe After Effects.

9. Cinema4D Studio
Price: $3,695

3D tools are becoming more common on the market for effects artists but there are only a handful of full-blown 3D applications. Cinema4D is a doozy. This is seriously one of the most powerful and intuitive 3D applications available today, with tools for character, hair and physics rounding out the already-impressive object modelling tools. Like Mocha Pro, a Lite version of Cinema4D ships with After Effects.

Stock Footage/Templates

10. Pond5
Price: Prepay Credits

Pond5 was a late entry to the stock footage and template market, but over the last few years they have gained steam – and built a heck of a library. Stock images, After Effects templates, 3D models, stock music and sound effects round out their offerings. Weekly freebies and a great contributor program make Pond5 a solid choice for extras to finish off a project.

Business tools

11. Wistia
Price: $0 – $100/month

A worthy competitor of video juggernaut YouTube, Wistia offers video marketing tools that keep a client informed of progress once a video is online. Deep analytics offer insight into video performance, embedding tools allow for customized implementation into most web platforms, and customized XML sitemaps will help Google know where videos are hosted.

12. Studio Suite Xi
Price: $400 freelancer account – $2,160/year pro account

AlterMedia’s Studio Suite has been keeping studios organized for years, and their latest offering takes the experience even deeper. These are the tools you need to effectively run a professional studio, from booking studios and edit bays to tracking equipment and billing based on actual usage of assets. While not as easy to pick up and run with as some of the cloud tools on the market, Studio Suite Xi’s power and depth make it essential for companies of any size looking to run a studio efficiently.

Lucky #13. Well, I had to plug a tool that I’m quite partial to.

13. Wipster
Price: $0 – $100/month

In short, Wipster has taken the pain out of video review and approval.  Notation tools allow for comments to be made directly on top of videos by team members and clients, with the ability to point to a specific area of the frame. My favourite part of the tool the ability to drag an updated video atop the last uploaded version as well as the ability to archive videos. The pricing model takes some adjustment for small users so take a look at the free account to start out.

Russ Fairley is a writer, educator and owner of Russ Fairley Productions, a turnkey video production company in Toronto. When he's not making videos he can be found walking his pointers or playing drums.