Some basics

Some basics
Resources and links
The Apt Gets

What is the FAVTR.pdf?
FAVTR.pdf contains some results and conclusions of research I did in 2007-2008, funded by the Arts Council of England, into Open Source audio-visual software on no-cost or low cost pc hardware

Some basics:

Open Source software is freely downloadable from the internet for free. Linux is the most widely used Open Source operating system.Free and Open Source software (FOSS) is distributed under licences which allow the software to be freely distributed and for the source code to be accessible to anyone (see Resources, above).
Multimedia Linux distributions are a relatively painless way getting an Open Source operating system and a good selection of a/v applications on your pc. Each distribution has instructions about how to install it. You'll need a broadband internet connection to download one and a CD or DVD burner together with burning software.

Some multimedia distributions are available as "live" CDs or DVDs. This means you can boot and run an operating system from the CD or DVD, or a Flash stick, without installing anything - try pure:dyne, 64Studio or Dyne:bolic (see Resources above) This can be a good way to test whether all the components of your pc will work with the Linux software you want.

It may be worth checking that your pc soundcard has had ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) drivers developed for it (see Resources above) as you'll need an ALSA compatible card for most audio and some video activity. It is also better, but not essential, to have soundcard which is duplex (allows audio in and out at the same time) so you can monitor what you are recording.

If you want to play soft-synthesisers and record midi as you play you'll need a midi keyboard and either midi to USB converter cable or a soundcard which has a midi interface.

Advice about what computer you should use for audio and video is usually, "the faster the better and as much RAM as you can get". This is true of Open Source a/v also, however you do not need a top end pc to be creative or productive (see FAVTR.pdf, above), in fact you may already own the pc which will be perfectly good for what you want to do. .