Linux-powered comedy.

First things first… In case you thought this was a cheap marketing ploy for the show I’m directing, it’s totally not. But if you find yourself in Toronto this weekend and in need of a good laugh kindly click here.

And with that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, let’s continue. 😉

Anyone using Linux day-to-day will likely read what follows and react with a resounding: “Well, duh…” But if you’re wondering how free software performs in mission-critical environments like a theatrical stage production then this might be of interest to you.

Note also that I’ve expounded on the tech behind this comedy troupe before, but this latest production depends more on Linux than ever — at least off the top of the show. Read on and you’ll see what I mean…

Setting The Stage

This coming weekend will see three performances of a two-act, ninety-minute original comedy revue. There are six writer/performers in the cast, with yours truly in the director’s chair.

We’ll be performing in this 180-seat theatre, with the help of our stage manager and two in-house techs.

Hardware

Though they’ll be entirely unaware of it, every single member of our three audiences will be treated to Linux Mint 11 running on my Lenovo ThinkPad, as it plays media files projected onto an overhead screen.

My biggest revelation here is that I could connect my ThinkPad to the theatre’s video projector without issue in the first place. Ditto for audio going through the house’s sound system.

And it didn’t require any proprietary adapters, either.

Media

The two media files running from my laptop are:

  1. A slideshow of cast members that loops as patrons enter and take their seats;
  2. A movie file that serves as a karaoke track for the live intro to the show.

Launching the slideshow is merely a matter of right-clicking on the first image in the file folder which opens Eye Of GNOME, Mint’s default graphics viewer. I then press F11 to go full-screen and click a button to unpause. The rest takes care of itself.

Totem handles the movie file with similar ease, thanks in no small part to the extra video codecs on-board.

I should also point out that all the audio cues for the show were edited with Audacity. That I was easily able to normalize the level of the individual tracks to 0dB and add silence at the end of them was much appreciated.

Text

With the video portion of the show out of the way I’ll be powering down the projector and get to the business of taking notes on the performance, to make the next one even better.

For this I find the default GNOME text editor gedit to be the perfect choice. Though I’m seated in the back row of the theatre (to administer the projector) I use the built-in Oblivion colour scheme and go full-screen to minimize ambient light. I also try to type as quietly as I can.

Room For Improvement

Clearly we’ve a long way to go before The Linux Foundation or RMS can put their stamp of approval on our revue — all our media files use proprietary codecs and file formats; likewise, our audio and video cues are executed from the booth on proprietary software rather than FOSS alternatives.

Even so, I’d wager that a lot of people in my local comedy racket would think they’d need a Mac or Windows laptop to play such a critical part in a show like this. They’d be wrong.

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