iDVD 3 full review

When Steve Jobs introduced iLife at January’s Macworld Expo, Apple was doing more than just offering upgrades to several of its Digital Hub applications, it was creating a more tightly integrated package out of the four programs - iDVD, iMovie, iPhoto, and iTunes. So does Apple deliver what it promised with iLife? We’ve had our experts review the three new programs, as well as offer tips to help you make the most of iLife. iDVD 3
iDVD 3 benefits more than the other application from iLife integration. It’s a shining example of simplicity - letting you build complex DVD projects with ease. There are limitations (there’s still no support for external DVD burners - it only works with Apple’s internal SuperDrive), but most casual DVD creators probably won’t notice. This massive upgrade - tipping the scales at nearly 1.3GB of new menu pages, music, and program changes - is what you’re really paying for when you buy iLife. But even at £39, it is well worth the cost. Themes
iDVD 3 includes two dozen new customizable DVD-menu themes from which to choose - and you don’t lose version 2‘s themes, either. These new themes, like Theatre and projector, are dazzling. Many of them sport a drop zone - areas where you can customize Apple’s pre-built backgrounds by dropping in photos or video. In the Projector theme, for instance, the drop zone corresponds to the movie screen lit by a film projector. By dropping video onto this zone, iDVD plays the video back as if it were projected film, adding an old-film-look filter. The only drawback to the drop zone is that the video or photo album plays back with a constant framing. While the framing can be adjusted by clicking and dragging the video to the desired placement, the adjustment is applied throughout. As a result, while most of the photos will appear properly, some photos in an album can appear awkwardly framed. Being able to adjust the framing for photos on an individual basis would have been ideal. Additionally, tall photos are sometimes squished vertically. Integration
iDVD 3’s additional features can add an extra layer of sophistication to projects. iTunes iDVD 3 has access to the other iLife apps through the iMedia Browser located at the top of the Customize Drawer. The Audio button opens the iTunes library, letting you easily pull audio in for background music - you can still import non-iTunes audio the traditional way in the Customize: Settings pane. Any sound element imported from iTunes starts playing from the beginning by default - and menus can only contain a 30-second loop of music. If you want to use something other than the very beginning of a music track, you’ll need to edit the sound file before bringing it into iDVD. iPhoto 2
The Photos button links iDVD to an iPhoto 2 library. Here you have access to not only individual photos, but to iPhoto albums. These photo albums play like preview QuickTime movies when they are applied to some of iDVD 3’s new menu pages with special Photo/Movie drop zones. Additionally, if you drop an iPhoto album onto a menu page (outside of a Photo/Movie drop zone), iDVD will create a slide show. iMovie 3
The Movies button connects to the Movies folder in the user’s Home directory. This is useful only for video projects that originate in iMovie, as this is the default location for iMovie media. For Final Cut Pro and Express users, you’ll need to drag-&-drop movies into iDVD 3. Perhaps the most impressive new feature in iDVD 3 is chapter-marker support. With chapter marks, a DVD can have scene selections like professional DVDs that let viewers jump to their favourite scenes quickly. This feature has been available for almost a year in Apple’s £829 DVD Studio Pro, but in many regards it is better implemented in iDVD 3. These chapter marks are imbedded in the imported QuickTime movie and can come from iMovie 3, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express or even QuickTime Pro. Once these QuickTime clips are dropped into iDVD 3, the program automatically sets out two buttons: Play Movie, which plays the entire clip; and also Scene Selection, which leads to a separate menu page that lists the individual scenes. iDVD 3 limits you to 36 chapter marks per video clip, divided into six chapter marks per menu page. For most people this should suffice. Another limitation to this new function is that iDVD displays the Play Movie and Scene Selection button for only one video clip with chapter marks at a time - the first movie loaded into iDVD. If you drag a second clip with chapter marks to the menu page, only the clip’s name will be displayed. The Play Movie and Selected Scenes buttons for the second clip are instead displayed on the menu. Slideshows
Another interesting enhancement to iDVD 3 is found in the slideshow pane. When photos are added to a slideshow, they are converted to video resolution. With the new Add Original Photos on DVD-ROM option, you can now include the full resolution photos as well. While these high-resolution pictures aren’t accessible via set-top DVD, they are accessible by computer. iDVD tips and tricks
iDVD 3's chapter markers and DVD-ROM features add to its usefulness, and some hints on preparing your content will help make the iDVD experience better. Importing Chapter Markers from Final Cut Since version 3.0.2, Final Cut Pro has been able to export Chapter Markers for DVD Studio Pro. Now, it (and Final Cut Express) can also export chapter information to iDVD 3 - but the process differs significantly than for DVD Studio Pro. To create chapter markers in Final Cut, position the playhead in the timeline. Typing M twice will place a marker in the timeline and bring up the Edit Marker window. Name the marker, which will become the button name in iDVD, and click Add Chapter Mark. In iDVD 3, there's no need to add a compression marker. For DVD Studio Pro, you'd convert a movie to MPEG-2 from Final Cut, but since iDVD 3 doesn't import MPEG-2 files, you must export a Final Cut Reference Movie. Select Chapter Markers in the Markers options. Adding DVD-ROM material It's possible to make your own enhanced DVDs with iDVD - adding material accessible only via computer. The last button in the iMedia Browser brings up the Status window - click the Encoding Status button and a DVD-ROM Contents option will appear. You can now drag almost any file type in this window, and even create folders to organize content. Organize your content first The credo of DVD authoring is that all elements should be in a finished state before you begin the process of building a DVD. You obviously want to edit video footage before putting it on DVD, but you may be less prepared with supporting elements such as photos, background movies and music. While you can access the libraries of iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes from iDVD, you can't edit these elements from inside iDVD. For example, if you want to have a particular sequence of photos play in one of iDVD's new Menu Drop Zones, build a photo album - in the order you want them shown - in iPhoto before dropping it into iDVD. The same holds true if you want a short video sequence to play with the Menu Drop Zone. You should edit the video element first in iMovie, so that it is available to you in iDVD. If you want to use a piece of music for background music in iDVD, and the section required is not at the beginning, you'll need to edit this with a application with sound-editing capabilities such as iMovie. Anton Linecker
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