iDVD 2.0 Announced

The DVD-writing SuperDrive, introduced in January as part of Apple's high-end Power Mac G4, is a remarkable accomplishment. But truly bringing DVD to the masses requires something more--software that would make DVD menu scripting and MPEG video compression a remarkably easy process.

With iDVD 1.0, Apple did just that -- although not without a few missteps (see our review ). Wednesday at Macworld Expo New York, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced a new version of iDVD that adds several impressive new features.

Due by the end of September, iDVD 2.0 will be a free upgrade for iDVD 1.0 owners. At least, that's what Jobs said during his keynote. An Apple press release indicated that the upgrade will cost $20.

However, Jobs didn't reveal whether the DVD authoring software will be available for purchase by users of external DVD-writeable drives -- although that would follow in the pattern set by the company's rollout of its iMovie editing software. iMovie wasn't sold separately until version 2.0 was released.

Jobs says that DVD 2-created discs can have production values "in many cases better than most Hollywood DVDs you can buy." That may be a bit of an overstatement, but iDVD 2.0-created discs will certainly seem much more professional, thanks to the addition of motion in menu items.

Version 2.0 will add the ability to animate the images on iDVD buttons, the backgrounds of the menus themselves, or both. A sound track can play in the background of any DVD menu screen. You'll also be able to add music tracks that will play in the background of an iDVD Slideshow. In version 1.0, Slideshows are completely silent.

Encoding digital video into MPEG format takes some time -- press the Burn button in iDVD 1.0 and you'll need to wait quite a while before your disc will be ready to burn. iDVD 2.0 speeds things up by starting that encoding process as soon as you drop a video clip into iDVD.

Furthermore, iDVD 2.0 will expand the amount of video you'll be able to fit on a DVD disc, up to 90 minutes from a 60-minute limit in version 1.0. There's no word yet from Apple on the reason behind that change, but it's possible that Apple has increased iDVD's level of MPEG compression or added VBR (variable bit rate) encoding.

iDVD 1.0's interface-building tools were fairly inflexible, a situation that's apparently being remedied with version 2.0. Users can now create simplified and dense interface screens by creating text-only menus, the sizes of graphical buttons can be varied, and users have more options when choosing button border styles.

In a boon for would-be DVD designers, iDVD 2.0 will allow for much more free-form interface creation. iDVD 1.0 positions buttons automatically, depending on how many buttons are onscreen. iDVD 2.0 does this, too -- but you'll also have the option to drag buttons anywhere you'd like on the screen.

The first version of iDVD only worked in Mac OS 9. In contrast, iDVD 2.0 will only run in Mac OS X -- the forthcoming OS X 10.1 update, specifically.

For iDVD fans and those who are thinking about becoming DVD authors, the announcement of iDVD 2.0 suggests that Apple is not finished revolutionizing the DVD authoring process. Combine that with Apple's reshuffled Power Mac G4 offerings -- two of the three configurations now offer the SuperDrive -- and DVD promises to play a major part in Apple's future plans. And if the company is truly following the lead of iMovie, version 2.0 will be a major step into the mainstream for iDVD.

"We think a lot of people are going to be writing a lot of DVDs starting now," Jobs said.

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