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How to Turn Linux into a Multimedia Studio

written by: Tolga BALCI•edited by: Eric Stallsworth•updated: 4/26/2010

If you are seriously involved in audio, video and graphics creation and manipulation, you are not locked down to the proprietary systems. Linux is very powerful in this arena and offers you the tools that you can comfortably work with.

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    There are many tools available for Linux on media production, ranging from simple recording/editing to professional-level editing. Throughout the article we will group the applications under three categories:

    1. Audio production
    2. Graphics production (vector, 2D and 3D)
    3. Video production

    If you are interested in a media-center type of application (which will let you watch movies, view pictures and listen to music), then perhaps it’s better to look at our media center articles.

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    Audio Production

    Ardour Audacity is our first software for audio editing. It can record sound from a variety of input devices (microphone, line input and others), create multi-track recordings, edit the tracks with cut/copy/paste/delete operations, mix an unlimited number of tracks, change the pitch without altering the tempo (or vice versa), alter frequencies, adjust volumes, apply effects). You can extend the program’s capabilities with LADSPA plug-ins and even write your own with the Nyquist programming language.

    Ardour takes Audacity one step forward and provides MIDI control, video-synced playback, anything-to-anywhere signal routing with unlimited audio tracks and buses. If you are an amateur, taking steps to professional level, then Ardour will definitely be for you.

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    Graphics Production

    Blender Inkscape is the vector editing program for Linux, competing head-to-head with Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Xara X and is fully compliant with the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format. Inkscape features affine transformations, Spiro Curves (Cornu spirals), Z-order operations, layers, pattern fills, node editing and alpha transparency just to name a few. Inkscape can also be extended with plugins.

    Artists working with 2-dimensional images have probably heard GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) which is a competitor of Photoshop. The features are almost exactly the same with a different interface. If you will be converting from Photoshop, then you may want to check out Gimpshop, which is a fork of GIMP with a Photoshop interface.

    3D artists will be pleased to see Blender, which is the equivalent of 3DS Max. Blender can be used for creating cinema-quality movies to interactive animations, including modeling, rendering, texturing, skinning, non-linear editing, post production and even more. Artists who want to work with ray tracers will find Pov-Ray Modeler extremely handy.

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    Video Production

    Cinelerra For video editing in Linux, we have to begin with Cinelerra first. It is the best fit for professional video editors and it comes close to Adobe Premiere as a non-linear video editor. Cinelerra features 6-channel sound with HD support, built-in videoscope, multiple effects and more. If you are intimidated by the features, you may want to go for PiTiVi, which allows you to work with an interface similar to iMovie or with a complex interface, putting you in total control of your movie editing. PiTiVi’s features can be extended with plug-ins. PiTiVi uses the GStreamer framework.

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    The tools we have described above are very powerful media production tools which you can install via your distribution’s package manager. However, if you want to have a Linux workstation fully dedicated to your creativity, then I definitely suggest you to take a look at Ubuntu Studio and 64 Studio distributions.


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