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Cellular Automata? Cool! Hope that goes well. I can't really imagine if that would work any better than just your basic tile-based system, but sounds cool. Reminds me a lot of Dwarf Fortress's physics with gasses and water.
You're basically screwed in this department. There are literally no free alternatives for video editing that are actually good (iMovie and Windows Movie Maker aren't exactly top notch). There are a few trials, but other than that you're better off just buying software.