Making your own films is no longer the pipe dream it once seemed. All but the most basic and budget-conscious laptops now have sufficient oomph to allow for editing footage, while the web has become an ideal platform ?for distributing your movies.

Over on YouTube, the world and his grandmother are swapping mashups and home-grown creations and attracting as many fans as commercial companies. There are plenty of opportunities for aspiring auteurs, too, such as haydenfilms.com and plugincinema.com.

Jahshaka is an open-source project that marries the advantages of cheap PC-based editing with the more advanced possibilities of traditional tape (linear) editing. When it first arrived, Jahshaka was heralded by its developers as ‘powering the new Hollywood'.

Development for Jahshaka has been dormant for some time, but you can still download the program from jahshaka.org. The latest build provides a fast, real-time editor that allows for complex effects and output to various formats, including DivX, Mpeg and DVD. Using OpenGL libraries, its performance is impressive. And, while it doesn't offer the hand-holding of low-end consumer apps, its power is remarkable for a free package.

As well as allowing for film, DV and HD editing, Jahshaka uses modules for text and 3D compositing, plus tools for colour correction and keying. With the ability to paint frame by frame, Jahshaka offers more than enough functionality for the majority of users.

The interface changes depending on which task you're performing, whether it's video editing, modifying your soundtrack or compositing different clips into a single image.

Bear in mind that while Jahshaka is free to use, it isn't simple. It can achieve much more than most consumer video-editing packages, so you should be prepared to spend a little time getting to grips with it.

Get to grips with Jahshaka

1. Jahshaka is a free download from jahshaka.org. The main window is referred to as the Desktop, where you can arrange and view individual elements. Select an item on the Desktop and click Play to watch it or Load to add items. The bottom menu offers advanced features for animation and editing.

Jahshaka step 1

2. Before beginning any editing work, click Preferences and alter the settings to control the output. Options include changing the style and colour of the desktop, where to store files and how to render quality settings. You'll also find settings for the type of video to be created - low-res for the web or high-res for TV, for instance.

Jahshaka step 2