Linux in the Studio: The Test Drive

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by Nate Austen

Back in November 2014 (Vol 27, No. 11), Gord Williams wrote a piece for RAP magazine, introducing the Linux operating system to subscribers and production folk everywhere, as a replacement for Windows and perhaps the Mac OS. Bravo Gord, and thank you for that.

I’ve been inside the Linux box for several years now, doing graphics, audio recording and editing, a little video production, one feeble try at 3D animation, some ham radio, and actual radio station automation. And, with one or two exceptions, all of it was for free – thanks to Linux and free open-source software.

Gord laid down a deep foundation as to the whys-and-whats of Linux in your plant. I’d like to introduce you to a bunch of software that can help get you started in this new sphere of production tools.

These programs and apps are not direct, pop-in free replacements for some of your favorites (there is no free identical clone of Photoshop, for example), but are more than capable of getting the job done. And the fact you are ahead several hundred bucks at the other end speaks volumes.

Keep the computer handy. A good number of the pieces I’ll be talking about here have demos and tutorial videos posted all over the Web by users and fans. You can see what Linux software can do before you try any out.

Mixxx-1.11.0 web

AUDIO

First, let’s talk about individual software, then I’ll tell you how to get a whole big honkin’ disk of the stuff all at one time, rather than gather the apps piecemeal.

I’ll open with a little deejay fun courtesy of MIXXX, a free MP3 DJ deck for all three platforms (Win, Lin and Mac). Mixxx gives you two Players, a quad sample player, smooth crossfaders, EQ, a BPM detector, and the ability to Shoutcast directly from the computer. Basically, this is the same software that wedding DJs and club jocks use, but didn’t cost $700. Look for several Mixxx videos on the web, then get your copy at www.mixxx.org.

Audio recording and editing is at the heart of what we do. You may already be using the most fundamental multitrack editor out there: Audacity. Totally free, insanely useful, and again works across all three major platforms. Some may blanch at its rather juvenile-looking GUI, and you probably wouldn’t want Audacity as your primary DAW in a Top 10 market station, but it is THE go-to editor for cutting and trimming news soundbites, recording and editing commercial voices, processing audio files (Audacity has a pretty good plug-in toolkit and VST compatibility), you name it. Being totally free, you can put this on every desktop in the station and take copies home with the authors’ blessings. http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

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