Pleasant Diversions At Studio Dave

by Dave Phillips

Judging by the number of hits tallied for Troubleshooting Linux Audio Part 1 it seems the topic is of interest to many readers. Alas, I must apologize to everyone waiting for the next parts of the series. Various events have kept me from completing it in short order, but you may rest assured that it will return in my next installment. Meanwhile, this week we'll look at two excellent applications that are coming into greater use here at Studio Dave, the LiVES video editor for Linux, and Reaper (yes, again), a native Windows audio/MIDI sequencer running under Wine.


Figure 1: LiVES Knows JACK

The modern performer must capitalize on every opportunity to enhance his or her income from performances. In addition to the expected payment by contract musicians commonly augment their take-home pay by selling a variety of after-market items. These items include personalized t-shirts, keychains, and bumper stickers, in addition to the expected music CDs. Recently the DVD has become a more popular promotional format, and performers now often sell self-produced DVDs of their shows.

Not so long ago producing a DVD was a somewhat arcane and rather expensive art that required exotic equipment and a knowledge base not common to the average musician. However, thanks largely to the pioneering work of the developers for the Amiga machines, video production has become a commonplace function of the modern computer. Inexpensive video capture technologies have made the hardware side more accessable, and its setup and configuration has become simpler for the normal user. Digital video recorders, computer-based Webcams, and video-equipped cell phones abound, and one need only consider the success of YouTube to see that the video net is here and here to stay.

Video editing software has likewise become more affordable and more easily operated by regular users, and powerful desktop video production suites are now available for all platforms (see Wikipedia on video editing software). Linux users can choose from a variety of video editors, including such stalwarts as Cinelerra, Kino, and Main Actor. More recent editors include Jahshaka (to be profiled in an upcoming entry) and this article's focus, Gabriel "Salsaman" Finch's LiVES.

My default package repositories for my JAD and 64Studio systems did not include LiVES, but the program is built with commonly available development packages. I downloaded the LiVES source package, compiled and installed it (on two machines, 32-bit and 64-bit), and I was ready to roll.

I have no background in video production, its processes, or its terminology and jargon. Fortunately LiVES is easy to comprehend and operate, and I'm having a lot of fun while I learn. For this week's article I created a short project demo that exercises a mere handful of the LiVES feature set. I followed this plan :

  1. Import a brief selection from a DVD (video only).
  2. Apply fades in & out to start and end the selection.
  3. Apply an effect in a simple arch over the selection.
  4. Add an original audio track.
  5. Encode/save the edited selection as a new video file.

The work-flow proceeded by selecting sections of the video time-line (where relevant; see Figure 1) and applying menu items in this order :

  1. File/Import Selection from DVD/VCD
  2. Effects/Brightness Change
  3. Effects/Saturation Change
  4. Audio/Load New Audio for Clip
  5. File/Encode Clip As...

The brightness change was applied over only at the start and end of the clip. The saturation change was also applied twice, once from the start to the middle of the clip, then again from the middle to the end. The saturation value began at 20, rose to 120 at the clip's mid-point, then decreased back to 20 by the end.

The audio track is an excerpt from an original composition created with Csound and edited with the ReZound soundfile editor. I invoked the Audio menu item, added the soundfile to create a stereo audio soundtrack to the clip, and that was all I had to do. By the way, in LiVES-speak a clip is (at least) a media file. If I load a video file or import a disc track, LiVES calls it a clip.

Finally I encoded and saved my work. I named the file (without an extension) and let LiVES do the rest with its default settings. You can see and hear the results in my LiVES Test #1 (40 MB AVI). Remember, it's only a simple demonstration of the program's straightforward operation, but hopefully you'll be intrigued enough to check out LiVES for yourself. There's a lot left to check : JACK audio I/O, MIDI synchronization, other audio/video sync features, the many other effects processors, the VJ and realtime features... Well, you'll get the picture when you see it.

A Reaper Project

Figure 2: Reaper Knows VST

I've written about Reaper in previous articles, but recently I've had a special occasion to get into the program more deeply. I've inherited a gifted student who wants to learn how to use the computer as a tool for music composition. He's a very talented guitarist, he's already written more than a dozen songs, and he has no-one around him at his age who can play at his level. He's 12 years old.

I gave him an adapter for his guitar cable and told him where to download a copy of Reaper. I showed him how to connect his guitar to the soundcard input and how to set the input/output chanel levels with the soundcard mixer. He installed Reaper on his home computer (running Windows XP), made the necessary connections and set the necessary levels, and he was ready to go. He's learning the basics of computer-based multitrack audio recording and mixing, and he's eager to learn more about Reaper's plugin support and its MIDI capabilities.

I created a simple tutorial project to demonstrate the use of Reaper's plugins. I recorded a rambling improvisation on my guitar and copied to two more tracks. I reversed the third track, then I applied a unique plugin per track, i.e. track 1 used the Reverbering VST reverb effect, track 2 was treated by the Jesusonic Octavedown pitch transposer, and track 3 used the North Pole VST filter/delay plugin. The Jesusonic effect is included with the default Reaper installation, the other effects are free VST plugins found on the KVR Audio site.

By the way, I run Reaper on both my machines, with Wine 0.9.9 and wineasio/JACK on my JAD box, and with Wine 0.9.35 (without wineasio) on my 64Studio iron.

My Reaper Improv #1 (6MB OGG) rambles and meanders, and it certainly has little intrinsic musical worth. However, the project worked well as a simple tutorial that covers basic recording, track manipulation, and effects processing in Reaper. I'm happy if it clarifies these steps for any user.

Reaper is closed-source commercially-available software, reasonably priced at US$39.95. The program can be downloaded for evaluation in completely working condition, without nags or crippled performance. See the Reaper Web site for more details regarding download and purchase.

Linux Music Makers

This week's cameo spot is taken by composer Benoît Rouits. Beffroi, Carillon, and Clochettes make up a trio of pieces with bells for a common theme. These are simple pieces with great charm, good anytime, but definitely recommended for those frayed or frazzled moments in life.


Next week I'll return with Part 2 of my Troubleshooting Linux Audio series. Meanwhile maybe you can make a movie with LiVES and record its soundtrack with Reaper, but be sure to let us know if you come up with anything you'd like to share.

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