Optically transparent, highly oriented nanocrystalline AlN(002) films have been synthesized using a hybrid plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition and plasma-assisted radio frequency (rf) magnetron sputtering process in reactive Ar+N2 and Ar+N2+H2 gas mixtures at a low Si(111)/glass substrate temperature of 350 °C. The process conditions, such as the sputtering pressure, rf power, substrate temperature, and N2 concentration were optimized to achieve the desired structural, compositional, and optical characteristics. X-ray diffractometry reveals the formation of highly c-oriented AlN films at a sputtering pressure of 0.8 Pa. Field emission scanning electron microscopy suggests the uniform distribution of AlN grains over large surface areas and also the existence of highly oriented in the (002) direction columnar structures of a typical length ∼100-500 nm with an aspect ratio of ∼7-15. X-ray photoelectron and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy suggest that films deposited at a rf power of 400 W feature a chemically pure and near stoichiometric AlN. The bonding states of the AlN films have been confirmed by Raman and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy showing strong E2 (high) and E1 transverse optical phonon modes. Hydrogenated AlN films feature an excellent optical transmittance of ∼80% in the visible region of the spectrum, promising for advanced optical applications.