Apple iDVD 5.0 DVD Authoring Software Review

Steve Jobs, Apple Computer CEO, introduced iDVD 5 at this year’s MacWorld San Francisco keynote address as part of the iLife ’05 "digital hub" application suite. Complimentary to iMovie HD, iDVD 5 is a critical component of Apple’s push to allow "mere mortals" to make professional quality video you can share with anyone.

In addition to iDVD 5, iLife ’05 includes iMovie HD, for editing HDV movies; iPhoto 5, for managing digital photographs; iTunes 4.7.1, for managing your digital music library and GarageBand 2, for creating your own music.

We tested Apple’s iDVD 5 on a PowerBook G4 1.5GHz 15-inch computer with 1.5GB RAM running Mac OS X 10.3.8. To test the OneStep DVD creation we used a Sony DCR-PC350 camcorder.

iDVD 5 flawlessly installed as part of the iLife ’05 application suite; installing over a previous version of iDVD will replace the older version. Run Software Update to install the updates for both iMovie HD and iPhoto after installation. While not directly impacting the performance of iDVD, the media used in your DVDs will generally come from these two programs, so it is best if you update them prior to starting a new project.

iDVD is so simple to use to get professional results you may never appreciate the well-written documentation included with iDVD. The tutorials walk you through every step of the process, while the on-line iDVD support site gives you tips and tricks that really make your DVDs perform. Also available is a 15-part video tutorial as part of Apple’s .mac Learning Center.

For this review we produced a DVD containing animated menus and backgrounds, several short videos and photo slideshows with the original digital photos added as DVD-ROM content. The total neophyte can create a stunningly professional DVD simply by following the example in the Getting Started with iDVD guide.

Nothing Endures but Change

The one constant in the universe is change, and the one constant improvement in iDVD is the provided themes. iDVD 5 is no exception–the new animated themes grab your attention and kick your creative juices into high gear. The new themes have animated drop zones where you can add photos, slideshows and even movies.

iDVD 5 now lets you define your own custom transitions for each button on your DVD menus, each of which can showcase a different theme. The coolness of Hollywood’s best DVD titles are now within the grasp of anyone using themes such as Travel Cards, Travel 1, Memories, Baby Mobile or even Anime Pop.

Give it Evolution

The remaining improvements to iDVD 5 are each evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. The cumulative effect is a very polished application that harbors more pizzazz-power than one expects in an entry-level program.

For example, iDVD can now burn to nearly all-available DVD formats. Although DVD-R media remains the most compatible, you can now use DVD+R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW media in most newer SuperDrives.

Another incremental improvement added to iDVD is the ability to save projects as disk images. You can now work on a iDVD project on a Mac with no built-in SuperDrive, save the final product to a disk image, and later burn that to DVD using the Finder or third-party DVD programs.

The Map view is improved and now allows you to view the DVD layout in either horizontal or vertical maps. Using a slider control borrowed from iPhoto you can change the zoom level, which aids in navigation. Photos or individual frames from video render in real-time in the boxes as you zoom in for more detail. Zoom in far enough and DVD titles become visible.

iDVD sports tighter integration with the rest of the iLife ’05 application suite. The iDVD media selector finds your iMovie HD movies, including HDV, MPEG-4, iSight, and 16:9 Widescreen video. Drag your iPhoto albums or folders directly into iDVD to create slideshows. Save RAW originals of your photos, when you select the Add files to DVD-ROM option. Use any of your custom iTunes playlists in iDVD, as well as any individual audio tracks.

The Year of HDV. Almost.

iDVD now supports HDV and 16:9 Widescreen DV video created in iMovie HD. Unfortunately there currently is no "One HD-DVD Standard To Rule Them All," thus you cannot yet burn HD-quality video onto DVD. For the time being, iDVD will automatically convert HDV video into 16:9 Widescreen DV when burning.

Instant DVD, Just Add Water

iDVD 5 provides a one click, tape-to-DVD feature called OneStep DVD.

OneStep DVD will rewind the tape in a connected camcorder, capture the video and burn it to the DVD as an auto-play movie.

Conclusion

iDVD has an exquisite interface that is extremely intuitive, and effortlessly creates a professional looking product. Combined with the improvements of the other components of the iLife ’05 application suite, iDVD is certainly worth the price.

Joseph Dries III is a freelance writer and consultant


TECH SPECS

Platform: Macintosh

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later
(10.3.6 recommended)

Minimum Display: 1024 x 768

Minimum CPU: 733MHz G4

Minimum RAM: 256MB, 512MB recommended

Minimum Hard Drive Space for Installation: 250MB, 4.3GB for full installation of iLife ’05 including GarageBand 2

Dolby digital support: No

Dolby digital encoding: No

MPEG audio support: Yes

Accepts pre-encoded MPEG-2 files: No

Accepts DV files: Yes

Built-in MPEG-2 encoding: Yes

Scene Detection: Yes, including predefined Chapter Markers from iMovie HD

Authoring Wizard: Yes

Pre-formatted Templates: Yes, 15 new to iDVD 5.0, 59 in total

Motion Buttons: Yes

Motion Backgrounds: Yes

Internal Titling: Yes

End of Play Behavior Control: No

Video Editing: Yes, via iMovie HD
included with iLife ’05

Multiple Video Streams: No

Multiple Audio Streams: No

Subtitle Creation: No

DVD Scripting: No

Create Links from Video Tracks: No

DVD-ROM Content: Yes

Error Checking: No

Disc Simulation: Yes

Real-time Previews of Motion On Menus: Yes

Label/Case Printing: No

DLT Export: No

CSS Encryption: No

Copy Protect Flag Support: No

Region Coding Support: No

STRENGTHS

  • Very low-level barrier to getting started
  • Intuitive and elegant user interface
  • New animated templates grab your attention
  • Comes with every new Macintosh computer

WEAKNESSES

  • Incremental improvements over iDVD 4

SUMMARY

An easy to use, elegant application that brings professional-level DVD authoring to mere mortals.

$79 / Included with new Macintosh computers

Apple Computer, Inc.

1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino, CA 95014

(800) MY-APPLE

www.apple.com

Divine DVD for Mortals

Videomaker
The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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