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The Apple G4 with SuperDrive trains its lasers on video enthusiasts from all levels. Introducing true DVD MPEG-2 video in the home or edit suite with a simple, yet shallow, included software package that will initiate all who can afford the price of admission.
We’ve been talking about it, writing about it and pouting like little kids waiting for it. Now we have the G4 with SuperDrive, and guess what? It works!
Apple now offers a 733MHz G4 tower equipped with the SuperDrive – Pioneer’s DVR-103, write-once DVD-R, CD-R and CD-RW. Finally, computer manufacturers have taken the bit and kicked desktop DVD writing in the flanks. And we say, "Giddy up!"
All in all, this system is a multimedia PowerPC house. Not only are you getting an all-inclusive DVD-R solution for less money than you can procure an external SCSI writer, but it is housed with the fastest single-processor G4 to date.
iDVD – the Software for the Job
Included in our review package from Apple was its obligatory iMovie 2 editing software for gathering footage and exporting it to iDVD, its new bundled addition. iDVD is a simple DVD authoring software that makes writing DVDs so easy that it will leave the novice as well as the experienced wondering what all the fuss is, or was, about. Another notable inclusion was the iTunes music management tool that allows audio conversion of CDs to MP3, turning your G4 into a digital jukebox and MP3 audio CD-authoring system.
The only aspect that may keep the DVD-Revolution in "expensive novelty mode" is the cost of blank DVD media, currently about $20 for a single-sided 4.7GB disc. "This too shall pass," sayeth the optical media prophets, when enough DVD-R units are out there to dilute the waters and lower the price.
The Moment of Truth – Nothing to it
Anticipation was high when we unboxed our system. Opening the outer blue door covering the optical drive, the understated "DVD-R" insignia confirmed the dawning of a new era.
Keeping it simple, we began our first DVD project with iDVD. But first, through iMovie 2, we captured about 40 minutes of video from Videomaker’s instructional video archive. We chose Advanced Shooting Techniques and loaded each segment from the Mini DV master (about five to 10 minutes in length apiece) onto the hard drive to trim the unwanted material from our raw captured clips. We had to turn off iMovie 2’s automatic scene detection to give us manual control over what we recorded. After trimming, we exported our clips to iDVD from the File menu.
When you launch iDVD, a simple interface appears that offers a minimal selection for composing your project. A theme folder gives you a pallet of preset backgrounds to use as a canvas for your content icons. You can customize the look of your DVD by adding any chosen image to the theme library. Clips, slideshows or folders can be added to the theme background. Each open page can accommodate six icons selected from clips, slideshows or folders. Each folder can, in turn, accommodate six more icons. So, you can quickly create multi-layer DVD menus with varied content. The Slideshow tool lets you gather images, arrange them and define slide duration, but does not offer the ability to attach an audio file to the slide presentation.
We placed our intro clip on the theme background and chose an icon frame from later in the scene. You simply advance a clip until you select the frame that you wish to represent the clip’s content. When the disc is burned, this becomes the permanent thumbnail the viewer will see. With our simple, 40-minute, six-chapter DVD-R ready to go, we pressed the "Burn DVD" icon that opened to reveal an inner button that confirmed our intent to do the deed. The actual burn of our 40-minute project took about one hour and 50 minutes to complete. We placed the finished DVD-R in four different DVD-Video players (all current models) and none had any trouble playing the disc or navigating through the content. In fact, it worked extremely well, and the resulting full-screen image rivaled the quality of our original Mini DV footage.
Authoring Tool Choice
Simple, elegant and very useful is how we characterize the iDVD interface. For videographers that just want to get their video onto disc, starting with iDVD is a great way to go.
Along with iDVD, Apple also sent along its high-caliber DVD authoring tool, DVD Studio Pro. As needs for more interactive presentations enter into your imagination, you may want the more complex and versatile DVD authoring software. In the DVD Studio Pro environment, full-motion, full-screen video is only one facet of the application’s functionality. Some of the features that help create fun, adventurous interactivity include: the ability to include subtitles, attach audio tracks, add alternate languages and create a multi-angle track with parallel video clips that can be selected by the viewer during playback. Look for a complete review of DVD Studio Pro in an upcoming issue.
The Next Wave is Here
The addition of the Pioneer DVR-103 to the already digital video strong G4 puts this slick tower into the "wave of the future, now" class. Apple has broken the dam and DVD-R will soon flood into production suites and homes.
The mystique is dissolved and optical video recording is where it should be – in the hands of the multitudes. All those who have already purchased the $6,000 DVD burners are steaming right now. I can feel it.
In/Outputs: 6-pin FireWire
Bundled Software: iMovie 2, iDVD
Processor: 733MHz G4
Operating System: Mac OS 9.1