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Earlier this week the audio/video production powerhouse AV Linux released it’s newest version, 6.0.3. This is a minor update, mostly focused on fixing bugs and updating software packages to the latest and greatest stable versions, but they did make one non-trivial change; they changed the default kernel to the 3.10.27-PAE low-latency build. This gives improved performance for all aspects of media capture and processing, but especially for PCI audio devices or firewire interfaces. Performance on older platforms and hardware is also enhanced by this change. Whatever type of multimedia creation and processing you were thinking of doing, this Live DVD has all the resources you need for every aspect of the production workflow. You can download the Torrent or the Image and burn it to disk to get your own free toolkit. After you have booted it from the DVD and had a chance to see just how complete the software collection included in this OpSys is, you can also install it to your hard drive if you so desire.

SIGGRAPH is a venerable name in the world of computer graphics, the name itself being their usenet newsgroup identifier, Special Interest Group, Graphics, from the days before the Web. At last year’s ACM SIGGRAPH convention, for the first time they held a series of four classes they consolidated under the banner of SIGGRAPH University. They are approximately 3 hours each, and they are university level courses in some aspect of creating computer animation. After watching any of these, you will understand the basics of how to create, not just a picture, but an entire project with timelines and interactions between components.

The one I am embedding on this page is Introduction to 3D Computer Graphics, where you get a bit of the history of how the technology got to this point, but you mostly get a complete mental map of how to create your own animated movie from the ground up, in excellent detail, using whichever set of software you prefer. As you might have guessed by now, I prefer to use a boot-from-DVD Linux build that includes free versions of all the different kinds of multimedia production software you could ever need. If you would like to burn your own arsenal of amazing free multimedia creations tools, check out these other posts and select the one that looks best to you: Musix GNU+Linux 3.0 (mostly music recording, mastering, production, some graphics and video), Ubuntu Studio Live DVD (a complete multimedia suite that has everything you need for most projects, organized by workflow, one of the best builds), Open Artist Live DVD (They took the kitchen sink approach, throwing in every piece of free and open source software that might be useful, and compiled them into folders organized by the type of task you were trying to accomplish), and AV Linux 6.0.2, a personal favorite of mine when it comes to A/V Production that will go live tomorrow.

The other classes in this series are:

An Introduction to OpenGL Programming
The Digital Production Pipeline
Mobile Game Creation for Everyone

And there are more coming up later this year, at Vancouver SIGGRAPH 2014!

The Musix Linux Live and Install build was originally built strictly for music creators of all kinds, but with the release this week of the stable version of Musix GNU+Linux 3.0 they have expanded out to include some graphics and video creation software. One of the strong points of this Distro is that everything included is completely free, with no proprietary programs or modules, so you do not need to pay any licensing or other fees for things you make with it. This live disk is Debien-based, so there is a huge world wide community constantly developing and debugging everything included.

This distribution was created primarily by the Spanish speaking computer aware musical community, headed up by Marcos Guglielmetti (or at least, he is the person doing their announcements these days, and his name is all over the disc; I have even fewer words of Spanish than I do of Japanese, so I don’t know more than that). Don’t let that put you off if Spanish is not your first language. They have done an excellent job of translating everything into English, as well as French, German, and several other European based languages. Their User Forums likewise support both English and Spanish to give you all the help, tips, and hints you could ever require with your projects.

When you boot from the DVD and the initial selection screen pops up, be sure to scroll to your two letter language indicator; it defaults to /es for Spanish, I went for /en for English, and so forth. If you have problems seeing it on your monitor, they have a VESA selection for the English selection to give you legacy hardware support, on some others it is identified as 800×600. Make sure you see “live” in the boot name so you run it directly from the DVD. Once it all finishes loading the log-in is “user” with the password “live”.

I should probably mention that this Distro used to be a geek-oriented package, requiring a Linux nerd to operate it. Things like knowing you had to launch the JACK server to give the various music programs a way to talk to the hardware meant you were doomed to failure without such an expert. They claim they have corrected that issue, and to a goodly extent they have (there are still some “gotcha’s” in the collection; us geeks have a hard time remembering which are the bits other folks don’t know about). Now, the JACK server launches on boot, and if you run something that conflicts with it, it gets shut down automatically.

The menu system launches Icons in the task bar at the top of the screen, and each time you pick one it gives you another set of icons on the screen to access a different set of programs. This visual interface structure gives you a way to access the basic core programs of this build organized by workflow, but does not give you access to the entire collection. If you prefer a smartphone this is perfect, it has that look and feel. In order to get past the icon interface and have access to the actual menu, select the calligraphy M at the left of the icon menu; it will give you the traditional drop-down Linux menu, complete with the usual organized sub-directories.

This particular build takes a unique approach to helping. They created the folder /home/user/demos/starters/ and packed it with .starter demos (yes, the dot indicates a file extension; Linux has a longer string than Windows for extension names). Use the File Browser to go to the folder, right click on the demo you want to check out, and open it with -> musixstarter. While the process may not be as mindless as doing the same kind of things in Windoze, the price tag will be a world smaller for the same capabilities, which seems like a fair trade off to me.

The last stable release for Musix came out in 2009, so the operating system it runs on and the various software packages themselves have both gone through some major improvements over the last half decade. But to me, what makes Musix special is the thought the developers have put into trying to make it the best one-stop solution for musicians/composers and recording artists/producers. While some of the included tools still require a bit more of a learning curve than some people may want to devote to the effort, the complete toolkit is a rival to anything else you will find online for these tasks, and often better at the same task for the price (did I mention it was free?).

If you are building your own artwork, or animations, or videos, or perhaps a button set for a web site, it can be fun and useful to have some Science Fiction Fonts in your toolkit to give a bit of flavor to your creations. A great place to start is with the complete Futurama suite. It has both of the alien languages fonts (and if you didn’t already translate all the jokes on the signs that use them, you may want to go back and re-watch some of the episodes, with you cheat sheet close to hand) as well as the Title, Ambient, and Bold Fonts used in the series. The RoboCop font is a classic, Back To The Future is a good choice, Alien is a classic, and Splash Gordon is also quite a good catch. Because of the way that last web site does everything server side with Javascript, that link only gets you to the site. You will have to drill down to get to the font itself.

There are a number of other series that make their font set available which you should search out, but you will also find some quality resources at the font compilation sites. 1001 Fonts includes 137 free Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fonts, and Da Font has several hundred more, for instance. FontSpace includes a bunch more, as does Fonts2U. Note that on several of these sites you will get different results with different search terms; try several of them and see what other goodies you come across.

If you are an artist or creative media enthusiast of any kind, I would like to recommend the boot-from-DVD Linux build known as Open Artist. They took the kitchen sink approach, throwing in every piece of free and open source software that might be useful, and compiled them into folders organized by the type of task you were trying to accomplish. So if you feel like creating or modifying your own font, there is a subfolder under Graphics with about 5 different font editors, as an example. They have some general category icons across the top of the screen, 2D, 3D, Audio, Video, and so forth, as well as the main menu, to help you jump right into the tool suite you need to create or modify your current project. After booting it a number of times and exploring (and launching a bunch of programs to check them out), I can honestly say I have never seen a more far ranging collection of creative programs. It includes everything I would expect to be in such a tool set, and a bunch of stuff I never even knew existed. It also includes a full range of servers and other distribution tools, plus all the normal software any good operating system should have, so you can surf the web or read your email while working on your projects.

The build is based on Ubuntu 12.04 but they installed a lot of non-Ubuntu programs, configuring them to play nice in the environment, including not just other flavors of Linux but also Windows code running under Wine. One of the most impressive details is they tweaked the GNOME and NAUTILUS interfaces so the key-press shortcuts don’t interfere with most of the program shortcuts; so you wont accidentally launch an FTP program while you were trying to save a graphics image, again as an example. There was a lot of thought put into making the entire package work as a whole, and keeping the fiddly bits from biting you in the posterior while trying to use it.

If you want to make it boot and run faster, update your software packages to the latest and greatest versions, and have space to store your raw materials and project files, but don’t want to impair your computers normal operating system, the 2.5Gig live boot DVD can be installed to a 16Gig USB stick. That gives you 10Gig for the existing software to unpack and install itself to, 4Gig in a separate partition to save all your project files to, and another 2Gig of expansion space to add any other software you think might be useful. It also gives you the option of using a lot of other features only accessible from an installed version, like alternative desktops with a minimum footprint, launching a specific program or set of programs you always work in at boot, and so forth. And let’s not forget being able to set up all your software to load with your own preferences already configured, which is always a plus.

You can also do like I did, and use a 32Gig USB stick, partitioning the other 16Gig in Fat32 (or whatever your preferred Windows file system format is). Then you can use that partition as both still more storage for your project files, and a convenient way to transfer the various media between your two operating systems. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Bottom line, I like this Live DVD build a lot. Download Open Artist, burn the ISO (Image File) to DVD, and start checking it out; you might be just as impressed as I am! Be sure to grab the DVD version, which is a Live DVD, rather than the Base Distro, which needs to be installed to a hard drive before you can add the other programs yourself (WAY too much work for me!).