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I find it interesting how many existing Linux users don't realize there are specialized distributions just for media creation. These distributions come with a bundle of special media-centric applications, a real-time kernel and other tweaks provided by default.
This article will provide a tour of these top Linux distros for media creation. I'm confident that even if you've heard of some of these distros, you might not be aware of what makes them unique when compared to a standard desktop Linux distribution.
Ubuntu Studio for Media Creation
Ubuntu Studio is in my humble opinion, the easiest and most reliable distro for media creation. Ubuntu Studio comes with a ready to go real-time kernel, great software for media creation and best of all, it's a ready to go Linux distro that is PERFECT for anyone frustrated trying to get JACK audio working as needed.
Features of Ubuntu Studio include:
Audio – JACK audio is installed and configured right out of the box. This gives users access to low latency audio recording. You'll also have instant access to Ardour for your Digital Audio Workstation needs. And of course, there is no shortage of Sequencers, Synthesizers and Virtual Guitar Amps.
Graphics – The graphics applications included are: Blender for 3D modeling, Inkscape for vector work, GIMP to manipulate your images and MyPaint to provide digital painting options.
Video – For video editing, rendering and more, you'll find OpenShot, FFMPEG and DVDStyler provided by default. Additional applications such as Kdenlive are available from the software repositories.
Ubuntu Studio is best for:
Ubuntu Studio is simply outstanding for audio creation. It makes utilizing JACK audio easy without a lot of extra work. And because it's an Ubuntu distribution, there is no shortage of software should you choose to make this your daily use desktop.
This means you can easily use Ubuntu Studio in a small business environment with LibreOffice or other office friendly programs if you choose. At its purist, Ubuntu Studio is Ubuntu with a real-time Linux kernel and JACK pre-configured. The rest of it is merely carefully selected pre-installed software.
AV Linux for Media Creation
If you prefer to run with a Debian Linux installation while still having access to great Linux media creation software, then AV Linux might be a good match for you. Perhaps the biggest selling point with AV Linux is that you get a genuine sense that its primary focus is getting up and running quickly for a professional audio recording environment. Additionally, AV Linux runs with a lightweight Xfce desktop environment. This means performance is the top priority and getting started is as simple as following the provided PDF user manual.
Features of AV Linux include:
Audio: Amsynth, Ardour, Audacity, Clementine, EasyTAG, FeSTige, guitarix, harmonySEQ, Luppp, Non suite, QMidiArp, Qsampler, Qsynth, Qtractor, Renoise, Rosengarden are all included right out of the box.
Video: Blender, Cinerella, DeVeDe, FFMultiplex, HandBrake, LiVES, Kdenlive, OpenShot, TV-Viewer, VLC Media Player, WinFF, Xine, Xjadeo, Totem, Cheese, and Desktop Recorder are all provided by default. I found the inclusion of Kdenlive and LiVES to be especially forward thinking. These are both extremely powerful programs when used by skilled hands.
Graphics: GIMP, Inkscape and Shotwell are provided for basic access to must have image programs. I actually prefer having limited programs because Audio/Video is where AV Linux really shines the most. Graphics work can be done from any Linux distro, not just a custom media creation distro.
AV Linux is best for:
AV Linux provides its users with a real-time Linux kernel, JACK audio, ample media creation applications and the ability to run with a Live environment or one that's properly installed onto your hard drive. If you like having choices where you run your media creation environment, this is the distro for you.
I personally found it refreshing that the included applications weren't merely the easiest to use, rather, the most powerful available. This bundled by the option of running a live environment that also had read/write privileges really makes this a fantastic option.
But perhaps what sets it apart the most is that it can be run from a live environment with read/write permissions on the mounted drive. This is huge for those who don't want to install it onto their main computer. Now the more astute among you are likely wondering how this affects audio latency. In truth, it does add a touch of extra latency. But the live environment is setup to help counter some of this.
Audiophile Linux for Audio Consumption
Thus far we've covered distros that are based on Ubuntu and Debian. But what about an Arch based distro that provides you with access to both PulseAudio and JACK audio servers with the Fluxbox window manager? Audiophile Linux is a distro that does just that. Keep in mind this isn't a distro suited for producing audio content, rather listening to it in the purist, most real time environment possible.
At first I was a bit taken back by the notion of running two sound servers on the same machine, but running both Pulseaudio and JACK on the same PC is in fact doable. The secret is to use the provided documentation on how to best utilize each sound server.
Audiophile Linux is best for:
If you want a lightweight audio creation distribution that has all the extra stuff not needed for audio production removed, this is the distro for you. The final takeaway I loved about Audiophile Linux is that they offer an outstanding "Supported D/A" list. These are hardware based Digital to Analog converters that you can buy locally or online. To Point out that the list is extensive would be an understatement.
Audiophile Linux is built for advanced users in my honest opinion, as it's not really well suited for someone not comfortable in a Fluxbox window manager. I'd also counter that Audiophile Linux is perhaps more about listening to music than it is about audio media creation. While it's certainly doable, at its core Audiophile Linux is built to run directly with a hardware Digital to Analog box or to run an MPD audio stream with the best sound possible.
I see Audiophile Linux being ideal for revisiting audio content you produced elsewhere, but doing so with the purist listening environment possible in Linux. Low latency, real-time kernel and multiple options for listening to your produced content.
The Best Media Creation Distro
Obviously there are other media creation distros available. However the hard truth of the matter is that this is the best of the group. For newcomers, Ubuntu Studio is the easiest to use while I personally believe that AV Linux is the most robust and offers the best documentation.
Perhaps you disagree or have additional input you'd like to share? Not a problem, hit the Comments below and share your thoughts. I'd especially be interested in hearing about your own adventures using Linux distros for media creation.