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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

By Nathan Willis on July 25, 2007 (9:00:00 AM)

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Ubuntu Studio bills itself as the "multimedia creation flavor of Ubuntu," an official Ubuntu project "aimed at the GNU/Linux audio, video, and graphic enthusiast as well as professional." It is certainly flashy on the outside -- even if it is mostly the same Ubuntu Linux distro under the hood.

Ubuntu Studio's first release is 7.04 -- the release number indicating that it is built on top of standard Ubuntu 7.04, although it was in fact released later, at the end of May. This version is available only for 32-bit Intel architecture. You can install it by downloading the DVD ISO image, or you can convert an existing Ubuntu 7.04 installation into Ubuntu Studio by adding the project's APT repository.

That repository gives you access to a dozen or so new packages -- some containing just a single application (such as the digital recording suite Ardour), and some containing multiple tools.

Because of its non-free status, video editing app Cinelerra is available through a separate individually-hosted repository -- at least such is the plan. I never got the repository to work, nor the parent domain to respond to HTTP queries. Whatever the cause, I was unable to test Ubuntu Studio's version of Cinelerra. Others reported the same roadblock on the ubuntu-studio-users mailing list and forum, but the only solutions reported to work involved retrieving third-party packages built for a different distro. I concluded that that would not be a fair circumstance in which to review Ubuntu Studio, and that trying to install Cinelerra was more trouble than it is worth.

I did install the rest of Ubuntu Studio via DVD, though, and it was painless. The installer is text-mode only (which is a bit ironic). The process is a basic desktop Ubuntu install much like Ubuntu's OEM Mode process, in which the normal package selections are replaced by four custom software collections: audio, graphics, audio plugins, and video.

Beyond these multimedia tools you are only given a handful of basic packages: Firefox, Gaim, OpenOffice.org, and so on. But after the system is up and running, you can add any package available through standard Ubuntu repositories.

JACK and a dark gray theme

Right off the bat, Ubuntu Studio looks different -- gone is the brown-and-orange color scheme beloved by Mark Shuttleworth and criticized by others. The Ubuntu Studio team has discarded all of the traditional Ubuntu artwork: splash screens, login manager and window manager themes, and GTK+ and KDE themes. Replacing those elements is a low-contrast, dark-gray look that will be familiar to users of expensive proprietary multimedia apps like Avid or Shake. It is a look sported internally by at least two free software heavy-hitters, Ardour and Blender, so adopting it system-wide might make the rest of the desktop look more cohesive, even if it won't win over any new converts. It is not quite smooth across the board, though, as the multimedia apps use GTK+1, GTK+2, and KDE widget sets, and many utilize custom "canvas" elements that do not conform to the system's theme colors. Plus, reading text is hard in certain circumstances, and the dark gray button and checkbox elements look weird on Web pages in Firefox.

Exploring Ubuntu Studio, you will find dozens of audio editing, mixing, and synthesizing programs, plus a wide selection of effects plugins for those programs -- and that's about it. The "video" and "graphic" enthusiasts and professionals targeted by the project's mission statement get literally nothing new.

Don't misunderstand: there are video and graphics applications in Ubuntu Studio, but they are standard fare available in almost any run-of-the-mill Linux distro. For graphics, the offerings are nice ones -- some of free software's best, such as Blender, Scribus, Inkscape, and Hugin.

For video, the picture is less rosy. You get Kino, a capable (if not fancy) DV video editor; the less mature but similar editor PiTiVi; and if you can manage it, the aforementioned Cinelerra.

This makes Ubuntu Studio about 80% pro audio, 10% graphics, and 10% video. I don't think that one can attribute this lopsidedness to a lack of interest in graphics and video; the situation is roughly the same in other "multimedia distros" like dyne:bolic and 64 Studio. Rather, it illustrates the state of multimedia on Linux: pro graphics is simple, pro audio is possible, and pro video ... well, it just doesn't exist yet.

Pro audio on Linux (regardless of the distro) always comes down to two components: the high-end audio server JACK and a low-latency kernel. Both are available through standard Ubuntu repositories, but Ubuntu Studio makes them the default and provides sane setups preconfigured.

Ubuntu Studio does build on top of JACK with an impressive array of audio applications, from hard disk recording to MIDI control. Foremost in this arsenal is Ardour, the multi-track recording, mixing, and editing workstation. Ubuntu Studio provides the latest revision, Ardour 2.0; vanilla Ubuntu is stuck with a much older 0.99-series build.

In addition, there are samplers (SooperLooper, LinuxSampler), sequencers (Rosegarden, Shake Tracker, Timidity), software synthesizers (Csound, Hydrogen, FluidSynth), mixers (JAMin, Mixxx), effects racks (JACK Rack), even music typesetters (Lilypond) and soundfont editors (Swami).

The distro breaks out special effects plugins -- both Linux Audio Developer's Simple Plugin API (LADSPA) and DSSI -- into a separate package collection. The selection is geared for modular synthesis, and includes everything from basic oscillators like BLOP to extensive personal collections like Steve Harris's.

The sound and the fury

The long and the short of it is that if you are a musician or audio enthusiast, Ubuntu Studio is a big win: you get a stable, tested, preconfigured source for the high-end audio components you need to do serious recording and editing, and you get it built upon one of today's most popular, well-supported mainstream distros. The millions of vanilla Ubuntu users on 32-bit Intel machines can add the Ubuntu Studio goodness with a simple cut-and-paste APT repository addition (instructions are at ubuntustudio.org) -- a far nicer alternative than installing a separate distro.

Graphics and video mavens have far less to gain by adopting Ubuntu Studio. You don't need to compile a new kernel or switch X subsystems to enable pro graphics, but Ubuntu Studio doesn't even offer you minor improvements. Let's be cutting edge: on the graphics front, include some experimental stuff like Krita's wet paint mixing, natural media simulation, or Photoshop filter support with PSPI. At the very least, give us GIMP 2.3.

On the video front, naturally, the apps are less mature, so reasonable suggestions aren't as easy to make. Still, the unreliability of the external Cinelerra repository is a major problem. If it is the best non-linear editor available for the present, it needs to be as easy to install as Ardour.

Luckily, with open source, users can contribute to making future releases better. The project has a dedicated multimedia forum on ubuntuforums.org, and an active wiki.

As multimedia distros go, Ubuntu Studio's decision to build on to an existing distro instead of reinventing the wheel gives it a leg up on its competition. I look forward to seeing what Ubuntu Studio will release once Ubuntu 7.10 is out the door.

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on Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 86.34.171.92] on July 25, 2007 12:22 PM
"Let's be cutting edge"

Heh. What Debian deems "cutting edge" and puts in Unstable often lags behind what other distros offer in the stable branch. Of course, the applications actually *are* stable... until the Debian maintainers patch them like crazy.

And, of course, Ubuntu inherits this stupidity. Well, too bad.

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.195.183.237] on July 25, 2007 01:02 PM
Ignorant

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.91.224.184] on September 10, 2007 02:50 PM
well, before unstable, there has experimental =.=

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Kyle Gordon on July 25, 2007 02:09 PM
Cinelerra is not non-free. Both the original HW branch of Cinelerra, and the CV branch are distributed under a GPL licence.

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.70.203.16] on July 25, 2007 05:38 PM
It has serious issues no matter what the license says. Its really too much to get into here. Just think about this, why isn't it in any free distros? ;)

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 134.197.32.70] on July 25, 2007 06:03 PM
I think if you look closely at the files though, Cinelerra has a lot of unlicensed and I think even some outright non-free code in it's supposedly "GPL" releases. The Ubuntu Studio developers (I'm not one) did everything they could to resolve the licensing issues but developers can't relicense somebody else's code. It's up to Heroine, who has so far refused to do so. That's why Cinelerra isn't in Ubuntu Studio.

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Re(1): Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.248.163.15] on August 25, 2007 01:42 PM
Cinelerra is 100% Free software. What prevents Ubuntu and other distros from including it is its dependency on certain Free but patent-problematic pieces of software like x264.

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.57.83.53] on July 25, 2007 04:09 PM
I am a prof. of computer at Benjamin franklin institute of technology and I am teaching linux
would you please send me the latest version of ubuntu with sun studio software, because I teach java and c++ I would like to show
my student how to compiler and execute a file in java or c++ on a linux OS. THANK YOU
my address is
Prof. Richard Azzi
Benjamin Franklin Institute of technology
41 berkeley street
boston, ma 02116
e-mail:razzi@bfit.edu
phone # 617 423-4630 ex 186

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.143.148.251] on July 25, 2007 04:49 PM
weird

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.132.67.36] on July 26, 2007 07:07 AM
haha! if you're really a prof you *should* be able to download an iso-image yourself or else i sincerely doubt you are worthy of a doctorate's title.
otherwise you could still ask your department's it support to download and burn it for you.

maybe shows once again that 'intelligence' and common sense are not related in any way :-(

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Re(1): Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 157.193.108.193] on July 27, 2007 12:29 PM
Well, No BS Richard Azzi is on the instructor staff of Benjamin Franklin institute, Department of Computer engineering... as assistent professor of computer science...

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Where is the "cluster" part? Once that can be a feature or installed as an option and have a bunch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.76.38.87] on July 25, 2007 04:46 PM
I t would be great if the video editing part could be enhanced, if possible, with a "cluster" part (a feature or an aptget option) where multiple PCs running UbuntuStudio could be helping out each other for the sake of faster video editing and production abilities. I have tested ClusterKnoppix (note that OpenMosix project has been frozen).

StartCom Linux (based on Fedora) claims to do this, but I have not tried it. However, the idea is a good idea as Hollywood does this with DreamWorks and others renting faster graphical ablities from a cluster managed by some HP folks (for a fee they can get ahold of some serious horse power). Shrek and all have been done on such a cluster.

Now - on a smaller scale why can't we have this with UbuntuStudio?

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Re: Where is the "cluster" part? Once that can be a feature or installed as an option and have a bu

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.143.148.251] on July 25, 2007 04:50 PM
You can cluster in blender.

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 61.28.144.234] on July 25, 2007 08:07 PM
I got Cinelerra installed fine via http://ubuntustudio.org/downloads. Looks like they must of fixed the problem.

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Nathan Willis on July 25, 2007 10:51 PM
Possibly. More likely is that the existing repo is up again temporarily -- the problems encountered by others as reported on the mailing list and forum were not all concurrent; sometimes the repo would be up, then it would go down again. Fixing the repo is good; not requiring a separate, individually-donated repo is better. Integrating the app in with the standard repos is better still.


Nate

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realtime kernel

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.24.128.242] on July 25, 2007 09:48 PM
There is no kernel patched with Ingo Molnar's patches in the standard Ubuntu repositories. The low-latency kernels are not built from sources with Ingo's patches. They are usable, but not real-time enabled. Might be a no go on some lesser powered systems. And the article doesn't mention if UbuntuStudio does anything to make installing and configuring pam for user accessible realtime any easier. Giving users access to realtime privileges is crucial. Try Jacklab. I might.

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Re: realtime kernel

Posted by: Nathan Willis on July 25, 2007 10:55 PM
I'm sure the distinction is clear to you, OP, but for the benefit of others, I think we should point out that realtime is not required for JACK. Low-latency isn't *required* in the absolute, strictest sense either, it's just strongly recommended.

And no, I would have mentioned PAM+realtime if they were part of this UbuntuStudio release. Searching the forum, you'll see that some people are now testing/working on realtime, but the 7.04 release just brought low-latency.


Nate

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Re(1): realtime kernel

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 143.205.216.185] on July 26, 2007 01:58 PM
+ it has a realtime kernel in the separate repository, it's just not added by default

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low-latency vs. realtime in Ubuntu

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.24.128.242] on July 29, 2007 04:00 AM
No, this is wrong. Unless I missed this 'separate' repository. There are precompiled low latency kernels in the multi or universe, but there is no realtime kernel with Ingo's patches. For any serious work with Jack, particularly multi-track hdd recording, low latency is not enough. A huge issue that many less tech savvy, or at least less linux tweak savvy audio people face is configuring realtime privileges for non-root users. Having the structure of an official distro release to help with this one enormous obstacle to happy linux DAW-ing would do a lot to shut up the 'linux is too hard' naysayers.

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 210.84.16.225] on July 26, 2007 01:44 PM
Wheres your links to bug reports Nathan? Have you filed a feature request for all these problems?

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Nathan Willis on July 26, 2007 02:54 PM
You mean the "Cinelerra repo doesn't work" bug, anonymous coward? Because filing duplicate bug reports is bad. And yes, anonymous coward, I submitted my suggestions to the wiki.

Nate

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.107.41.14] on July 26, 2007 05:22 PM
I suggest taking a look at Arch Linux for pro audio needs. Realtime kernels and all the apps available in the repos and zero bloat.

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 172.206.166.142] on August 24, 2007 12:05 PM
how do I get ubuntu studio to fit my screen on my sony vaio k series. when I start ubuntu studio it runs in a window that sits in the middle of my screen with wasted space around it.

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio samples

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 90.2.143.236] on September 05, 2007 03:12 PM
I am a producer of audio samples. I 'm living in Paris. If you want to contact me, please send me an e-mail : nikoszita@wanadoo.fr
Thank you.

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Re: Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio samples

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 152.106.20.148] on October 30, 2007 12:26 PM
Hi

I am working on sound effects project.Do you know how determine latency of ubuntu or test latency when using your soundcard.Thanks.My email is g_govender2004@yahoo.com

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Right... but you can do the same with PCLinuxOS also

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 125.20.39.39] on September 07, 2007 03:00 AM
Ubuntu Studio does it all. But the same can be done on PCLinuxOS also. Moreover, PCLOS is more stable, easy and fast. Visit http://pclinuxos2007.blogspot.com for more.

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.227.156.250] on September 13, 2007 11:48 PM
world musik

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Ubuntu Studio supports serious audio, adds little for video and graphics

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 4.255.77.51] on December 04, 2007 10:29 PM
Sounds good. I tried the new 64Studio 2.0 but the kernel had issues with my POS Dell 1600sc machine.
The ubumtu live installed with no problems and installed OSS driver for my Delta 1010. I was thinking of
using the kernel of the ubuntu live cd - can this be done? Will it cause issues? Are kernals changed
for certain distros? Thanks

Dusty

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