The best things in life are free

Transmedia NZ's Anna Jackson shares her list of favourite online tools for collaboration, organisation and creation.


Inspired by a comment on the last Transit blog, Transmedia NZ's Anna Jackson shares her list of favourite online tools for collaboration, organisation and creation.

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The best things in life are free (or freemium, or open-source)

In the previous Transit blog post Fiona talked about audience engagement and social networks using the Make My Movie film project How to Meet Girls From a Distance as an example. Vanessa from the How to Meet Girls From a Distance team wrote a great response to this blog post, pointing out that, "not only was social media useful for generating an audience for the film, but we also made the film using social media and other online tools".

I thought this was a really good point. There's a vast array of free, very accessible tools available online that are invaluable to creative teams working on tight budgets. So, inspired by Vanessa, I've compiled my own list of my favourite free resources for collaboration, organisation and creation...

Tools for collaboration/sharing

Google+ Hangouts has become my preferred tool for video-conferencing. Unlike Skype, which charges for video meetings with multiple participants, this service is free on Google+. You can also stream Hangouts live and save to YouTube making this a great tool for live-streaming events or creating video podcasts.

Google Docs. I've wasted many hours searching for the perfect tool for project management and team-based collaboration. In the end I haven't found anything that works better than Google Docs. Call me old-fashioned, but nothing beats a good spreadsheet. 

Dropbox and wetransfer are tools that I wonder how I ever managed without. Dropbox lets me sync all my important files so I can access them wherever and whenever I need them and share files with people I'm working with. wetransfer is great for occasions when I need to send a file that's just too big to email. And it looks pretty.

Prezzi is an attractive alternative to Powerpoint for making snappy presentations (though its transitions have been known to cause motion sickness when not used carefully). However, I also find Prezzi to be a useful way to map out ideas and gather resources. It's fast and easy to drop in images and video and make diagrams, so it can be very effective as a workspace and it's easy to share with others.

Wordpress is far more than a blogging platform. There's a huge variety of templates for creating a website for almost any purpose and the Wordpress platform is extremely user-friendly. There's no longer any excuse for a static site that only the elusive 'web guy/girl' can maintain. With Wordpress you can have a site up for your project or portfolio that anyone in your team can use in a matter of hours.  This is one tool where the free version is pretty good, but it's really worth paying a bit extra. Purchase your own domain rather than using Wordpresscom's free hosting and spend a little extra (up to $100) on a quality theme. (Check out Elegant Themes and Press75 for examples of premium themes).

Tools for organisation

Workflowy is the ultimate to-do list. Very simple, very effective and accessible from anywhere.

Evernote has allowed me to retire the collection on notebooks I used to carry around with me. Now my notes are synced between my work and home computers and my phone. I can record audio, take a snapshot, clip things from the web and attach files to notes, which is very handy. I like working in Evernote so much that I even used it to write this blog post.

Dropmark is similar to Pinterest, but not as social. You can keep your collections private or share with invited users. See eg for a demo.  Also, like wetransfer, it looks pretty. (Yes, this is important).

Tools for creation:

Twitter (as a storytelling platform). Twitter is far more than a micro-blogging tool. Its simplicity makes Twitter suitable for a myriad of creative uses, but its particularly effective as a storytelling medium for mini serial narratives. I'm not a fan of Twitterature per say, but I like character-based Twitter accounts. I've particularly enjoyed the adventures of Cat Bin Lady (reckless and wild senior citizen). Fan-generated Twitter accounts can also be highly entertaining; Madmen has a veritable pantheon of fan-authored characters, for example. 

Popcorn Maker is a totally free and open source tool for making and sharing interactive html5 web video that doesn't require users to have coding skills.While it won't be officially launched until later this year you can take a sneak preview now.  It's pretty exciting. To get an idea of what can be done with Popcorn see the NFB's acclaimed interactive web documentary One Millionth Tower.

Bambuser allows you to live-stream video from your phone or webcam to the world. There are a few live-streaming apps available now but I prefer Bambuser because it doesn't interrupt your videos with advertising, it's easy to embed and share videos you can download your own videos. 

This is hardly an exhaustive list, just the beginning. What are the tools you can't do without?

Written by

Transmedia NZ

22 Aug 2012

Interests Transmedia NZ supports the ongoing development of New Zealand’s Transmedia production community, creating opportunities for collaboration and innovation, and the sharing of knowledge and ideas.

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