iDVD 5.0, by Apple Computer
Posted: 12-Jul-2005

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Apple Computer Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Stan Hadley Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
Anyone who has purchased an iMac in the past several years should be familiar with Apple's iLife suite of programs: iPhoto, GarageBand, iMovie, and iDVD. Each program provides a tool for the average person to maintain and manipulate their photos, recorded music, music compositions, digital movies, and video playback. The most recent version is iLife '05. This review covers iDVD 5.

iDVD is used to put one or more movies or slideshows onto a DVD for home viewing. It works well with iMovie HD, iPhoto, and iTunes, and also allows you to create your own DVD from miscellaneous media files on your Mac. The program is aimed at the average user, media manipulation "for the rest of us."

Requirements

  • Macintosh computer with a PowerPC G3 (400MHz or faster), G4, or G5 processor
  • 733MHz G4 or faster required for iDVD
  • 256MB of physical RAM (512MB recommended)
  • Mac OS X v10.3.4 or later
  • Display with at least 1024 x 768 pixel resolution
  • QuickTime 6.5.2 (included)
  • DVD drive required to install GarageBand and iDVD
  • Apple SuperDrive (or 733MHz G4 processor) required for iDVD
  • Compatible SuperDrive required to burn DVDs
  • 4.3GB of disk space required to install GarageBand, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD;


Setup
Setup involves running the installer program on the installation DVD. iDVD requires a SuperDrive (capable of burning DVDs); iDVD will not install if the computer does not have one. iDVD itself takes over 1.5 GB on your hard-drive, largely because of the themes and consequent movie clips that it includes.

In Use
The most common use that people will make of iDVD is putting a movie made in iMovie HD onto DVD for playback on televisions, but that is not the only way iDVD can be used. Users can also bring in photos from iPhoto as a slideshow, adding transitions and music. You can also take raw video footage straight from your video camera into iDVD for burning to a DVD. You can drag and drop Quicktime movies into it, and you can add data files that will be available on the DVD when read on a computer.

The main project I used iDVD for was to create a movie for a wedding party from several hundred photos and various music tracks. This 23-minute movie was then burned to DVD to be used at their rehearsal dinner and reception. I've used previous versions of the program to make similar movies, which also included video from digital video cameras and VHS tapes. I also created a slideshow of a recent trip and archived some old raw footage.

A main task in iDVD is organizing and editing the opening screen or Main Menu that lets a viewer select the various movies or slideshows on the DVD to view. First, you pick a "theme" that gives an overall feel for what the DVD is about. iDVD offers over sixty different themese to choose from. You can then further modify them to your own taste, as described below.

In the picture below, the theme used is one called Pop Art. When you add movies or slideshows from either the Customize box or by dragging them into the window, their name shows as a menu item on the screen. Its initial placement depends on the theme chosen. It's important for you to turn on the "tv-safe" borders (the red rectangle) to give you an idea of what will be seen on a tv screen. Many televisions do not show the full picture available. If you don't pay attention to the safe area, the menu can easily have much of the text off the screen, as in this example.


Creating a DVD menu with iDVD 5


Many of the themes offered have what are called "drop zones". These areas of the screen allow you to drop either photos or short videos in regions of the screen to better personalize the DVD. This example has a picture of the Liberty Bell I took. Since it has a Pop Art theme, it repeated it in four colors. Other themes will allow multiple photos or videos. These can be gotten by extracting a frame from your movie in iMovie or any other photo. By dropping a short movie, your buttons become animated short clips, looping continuously. Some of the iDVD themes automatically create these clips based upon your iMovie markers, and then you can pan the movie to select the specific start and end points of the animated menu button.

The buttons along the bottom of the iDVD window include Customize, Folder, Slideshow, Motion, Map, Preview, and Burn. The Customize button opens a window to the side that lets you pick a Theme, vary text and other parameters, pick audio and pictures from iTunes and iPhoto, and determine the status of the DVD such as size and movies included. The picture below shows some of the settings that can be changed. These iDVD options provide great versatility even after a theme is selected.


iDVD 5 Settings options


The Folder button adds a link that lets you create additional pages in case you have more videos or chapters in the movie than will fit on a single page. When you make a movie in iMovie, you can identify spots in the movie to be different chapters in iDVD. This lets you jump to specific scenes in the movie. If the movie has more than six chapters, iDVD will automatically create extra pages with the titles of each chapter. Those pages can have their own theme or you can use the same as the Main Menu.

The Slideshow button adds a link that lets you drop photos into the window to make a running slideshow. You can set the time for each photo to appear, add a transition between each, and add a song from iTunes to go with the show. One nice feature is that if you add a song, you can specify that the slideshow's duration matches the length of the song. Then iDVD will calculate the time for each photo so that the photos end when the song does. It also allows you to skip forward and backward through the slides using the DVD players remote control. The transitions are similar to those available in iMovie HD, but have some different ones such as mosaic, cube (similar to the OS X effect when fast switching between users), or droplet transitions (similar to the new Dashboard effect).


Creating a slideshow in iDVD 5


The Motion button sets the page in motion if there are movies or songs in your DVD menu system. Sometimes you need to stop the motion to make it easier to drop photos in the Drop Zone or edit the text, while other times you want to see the motion effect to see how it all goes together.

The Map button gives you an overall view of the whole project. It shows not only the top page, but where each of the connecting links go to, either a movie, slideshow, or another iDVD page with additional links to movies, chapters, or slideshows. This lets you easily traverse through the project. In the example below, there are two buttons on the main screen: one that plays the whole movie and one that goes to a scene selection page. That page then lets you pick any of six scenes or go to the next scene selection page, which also has six scenes, and a final page with five more scenes.


View your DVD map in iDVD 5


Prior to the Main Menu in the Map view, there is an "Autoplay Well". By dropping a movie in here, you can have a movie automatically play before the main menu appears (aka, when the DVD is inserted into a player). This is similar to the previews, ads, and studio logos at the start of a commercial DVD.

Sometimes you don't want to go through the trouble of making a themed DVD, and just want to burn a quick copy of whatever you have taped on your video camera. iDVD has a new capability to do a Onestep DVD, which puts one complete tape on a blank DVD without having to go through iMovie. It doesn't make a Main Menu or add transitions between clips, but rather drops the whole movie into the Autoplay Well. It only works if the movie is coming straight from a digital video camera, not from an analog tape or even through a converter box. Most likely, this is to avoid a quick dump of a commercial movie or DVD onto a blank disk.

Another good feature in iDVD 5 is that you can set up a separate area on the DVD for data files. These won't be seen by your DVD player, but if you put the DVD in your computer, then these files are available. For example, you may want to have a folder of all the photo JPEGs that you used in the slideshow. The photos being displayed in the movie are not accessible as JPEGs, so having a folder of those JPEGs is helpful in sharing photos with friends and family in case they want to make their own prints. Another example might be a small business that includes more detailed PDF files of their product on a distributed DVD.

After you've finished designing your creation, you then have to burn it to a DVD. Expect this to take a long, long time. It took at least five hours to do the encoding and burning of a 2- hour DVD on a 1.5 GHz G4 PowerBook and five hours for a 25-minute DVD on an iMac G4 800 MHz. If you want to burn multiple DVDs, you only have to render once, so that the subsequent burns are quicker (as long as you do it in the same iDVD session). iDVD also took over 8 GB of space on the hard drive (not to mention the huge amount of space for the movie). Even when the project is done, there is still around 4 GB used in a hidden temporary file that doesn't disappear until you restart. I tried making several different projects in a row, but ran out of space even though I tossed the entire project when completed. It wasn't until I rebooted that I got all the space back. Rendering time seemed longer than the previous version of iDVD. On the other hand, once rendered, it seemed quicker to burn multiple copies of the DVD.

iDVD documention does not provide complete information on the application. The help files were not always easily understood. By the end of this review, I ended up getting O'Reilly's "iMovie HD and iDVD 5: the Missing Manual" by David Pogue. There were a whole lot of helpful tips in this book that I wish I had known while I was working on the project.

Summary
iDVD 5 lets you easily take your movies or photos from your computer and make them available to DVD players in living rooms around the world. Not only that, it offers some enhancements to photo slideshows that make them better than just passing around a photo album. It doesn't do the same editing and manipulation as the other iLife applications such as iMovie and iPhoto. Rather, iDVD works with them to easily move their products to the DVD format.

The latest version has improvements over iDVD 4 and you wouldn't want to go back after using the new one. Burning times are improved. The integration with iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes makes it easy to collect all your raw material together for use. iDVD has a bit more of a learning curve than iMovie. I recommend this software to anyone who wants to share their movies or photos with a broader group. It adds an artistic flair and creativity to your video and photos that can really evoke an emotion and tell a story.

Pros

  • Very easy tools to create good movies
  • Good integration with other iLife programs
  • More responsive in latest version
  • Automatic tools for quick archiving

Cons

  • Sparse documentation in some areas
  • Long rendering time


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice