capsule review

iDVD 3

At a Glance
  • Apple iDVD 3

iDVD 3 is a shining example of elegant simplicity -- it lets you build complex, professional-looking DVD projects with ease. It has limitations, to be sure (for example, it doesn't support external DVD burners -- it works only with Apple's internal SuperDrive), but most casual DVD creators probably won't notice them. This massive (1.3GB) upgrade is what you're really paying for when you buy iLife.

Themes

iDVD 3 includes two dozen new customizable DVD menu themes to choose from (and you won't lose your version 2 themes either). These new themes, such as Theater and Projector, are simply dazzling. Many of them have a drop zone -- areas where you can customize Apple's prebuilt backgrounds by dropping in your own photos or video clips.

In the Projector theme, for instance, the drop zone corresponds to the movie screen lit by a film projector. When you drop video into this zone, iDVD plays the video back as if it were projected film, adding some scratches and dirt with 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 -- although you can click and drag the video to the desired placement, the adjustment is applied throughout. As a result, some photos in an album may appear awkwardly framed. In addition, tall photos are sometimes incorrectly displayed (squished vertically, for example).

Integration

The way you work with iDVD is basically the same in version 3. But new features can add a layer of sophistication to finished projects.

iTunes

iDVD 3 accesses the other iLife apps through the iMedia Browser, which is located at the top of the Customize drawer. Pressing 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, via 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 music loop).

iPhoto

The Photos button links iDVD to iPhoto 2. Here you have access not only to individual photos but also 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 or Movie drop zones. And if you drop an iPhoto album onto a menu page (outside of a drop zone), iDVD will create a slide show for you.

iMovie

The Movies button connects to the Movies folder in the user's Home directory, as this is the default location for iMovie media. This feature is useful only for video projects that originated in iMovie. Final Cut Pro and Express users will need to drag and drop movies into iDVD 3.

Chapter Markers

Perhaps the most impressive new feature in iDVD 3 is chapter-marker support. With chapter markers, a DVD can have scene selections that let viewers jump to their favorite scenes quickly, as they can with professional DVDs. Chapter markers are embedded 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 creates two buttons: Play Movie, which plays the entire clip, and Scene Selection, which leads to a separate menu page that lists the individual scenes.

iDVD 3 limits you to 36 chapter markers per video clip, divided into six chapter markers per menu page. Another limitation is that iDVD displays the Play Movie and Scene Selection buttons for only one video clip with chapter markers at a time (the first movie loaded into iDVD). If you drag a second clip with chapter markers to the menu page, only the clip's name will be displayed. The Play Movie and Selected Scenes buttons for the second clip are displayed on the following menu page.

Slide Shows

When you add photos to a slide show, iDVD 3 converts them to video resolution. With the new Add Original Photos On DVD-ROM option, you can now include the full resolution photos as well. While you can't view these high-resolution pictures with a set-top DVD player, they are accessible by computer -- so people you send them to can print out their own copies.

Macworld's Buying Advice

iDVD 3 is a software marvel that lets you create stylish, professional-looking DVDs easily and quickly, and it's well worth its $49 price.

Continue the iLife review by clicking on one of the following products:

iTunes 3.0.1
iDVD 3
iPhoto 2
iMovie 3.0.1

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Slick new themes
    • Full iLife integration
    • Chapter-marker support

    Cons

    • No external DVD-burner support
    • Minor customization limitations
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