'We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.' — Salisbury, 1159
Open source does not distinguish between race, sex or class. It has no borders, financial accounts or political affiliations. Open source is about people; collaborating and contributing to build a better world. It's important because it shows what can be achieved in a post-capitalist system. Critics might scoff at the idea and point to the smartphone in your pocket as a product of capitalism. It is true the internet and technology built upon it has seen exponential growth in recent years. It is also true that anything worthwhile developed on the internet (the internet itself) has its roots in open source. From ARPANET in the 1950s to Linux, Apache, mySQL and PHP (LAMP stack) in the 2010s, open source has been the driving force for scientific and technological advancement. Being exploited by the capitalist system to commercial ends has only enhanced it’s importance.
I’m an advocate of free and open source software (FOSS) and believe it is a great example of organising productive work on principles of openness, cooperation and mutual benefit. I have a particular interest in developing a filmmaking workflow upon it. For years, FOSS has been the domain of nerds and techies. More recently, design thinking has been embraced by many FOSS projects to make the experience more accessible to the mainstream and FOSS can now replace many proprietary software and commonly used applications. I have included below a (perpetually updated) list of projects I use and recommend. I encourage you to embrace open source. In doing so, you are helping build a better world.
Libreoffice is a great alternative to Office and has wide support for various document formats including OpenDocument Format (ODF) an open, ISO standardised file format which ensures that your documents can be transferred between different computers and operating systems, without having to worry about vendor lock-in or license fees. It also has a wide array of plug-ins which extend it’s functionality.
Signal is an open source privacy focused communications protocol developed by the non-profit Signal Foundation. It is used as the underlying technology for secure chat features in many popular messaging applications. It offers its own standalone cross-platform application which includes secure text, voice and video messaging. You can set it as your default messaging app in Android.
Firefox is the cross platform open source browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation. The web browser is your gateway to the world wide web and for this reason commercial organisations such as Google, Apple and Microsoft offer web browsers for free to lure consumers into their ecosystem. Using Firefox ensures you can browse the web in a secure manner on your terms. As with many FOSS projects, there are also niche versions of the Firefox browser dependent on your use case (eg. the privacy focused Tor Browser).
Final Draft is the industry standard screenwriting software. Sadly, it is expensive, clunky and worst of all proprietary. Whilst filmmaking is collaborative and relies on standardisation, I believe it ought to be accessible to everyone and not beholden to a single company. Enter Fountain, a simple markup syntax for writing, editing and sharing screenplays in plain, human-readable text. Fountain adheres to industry standard formatting allowing you to work on your screenplay anywhere, on any computer or tablet, using any software that edits text files.
A lightweight but extremely powerful text-editor that has many uses. I use it to view PDF files and write film scripts in Fountain format (extensions are available for both of those applications).
Google has been increasingly hostile to Android’s open source roots making it virtually unusable without Google’s proprietary layer of apps. LineageOS is a secure, sleek mobile OS based on the Android Open Source Project and in the same vein as Firefox allows you take control of your mobile operating system (without the bloat of proprietary versions of Android).
I use Windows out of necessity but looking forward to the day I can move my entire workflow to Linux. My favourite distribution is Debian which I believe best represents the spirit of FOSS.
Open source video transcoder
A powerful cross-platform image editor
Open source video editing has come a long way. Professional workflows still necessitate proprietary applications but there are many open source projects which cover most applications. KdenLive is the pick for video editing as it can be as basic or advanced as you make it.
Open Broadcaster Software
Free and open source software for video recording and live streaming.
Apertus is a global community committed to building accessible, open source digital cinema tools to liberate filmmakers.