First Look: iDVD 5

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Of the five iLife ’05 applications, iDVD sometimes comes across as a solid relief pitcher. It isn’t as versatile as iMovie or iPhoto, and it certainly lacks the superstar rookie quality of GarageBand. Instead, iDVD often comes off the bench at the end of the game, after you’ve composed your music and edited your video. It’s become a seasoned “closer” that is capable of performing its most important job well: wrap up the game for a successful win.

Animated Drop Zones

iDVD 5 animated drop zones
If you like your multimedia whizzy, most of the 15 new themes in iDVD 5 feature animated drop zones that move photos or movies around a menu screen instead of simply playing in one place (see the Baby Mobile theme at right). As with the previous version of iDVD, simply drag images from the Media pane onto the drop zones to populate them.

Depending on the theme, when Motion is enabled this feature can be like a little video game: try to drop the picture on the moving drop zone! To make the process easier, turn off Motion and drag the new scrubber bar at the bottom of the screen to advance the animation. You can also double-click a drop zone to jump into the Drop Zone Editor—an even easier way to add media.

Burn Ban Lifted

To me, one of the most important changes in iDVD is its newfound ability to write to multiple DVD media: DVD-R and DVD+R, as well as rewriteable DVD-RW and DVD+RW formats. Newer Macs with SuperDrives can also write to DVD±R and DVD±RW, too.

iDVD 5 Burn dialog
iDVD 5 does a much better job of displaying the burn progress. Instead of a series of progress bars, the new Burn dialog includes the list of steps at the left side of the dialog, as well as a thumbnail of the encoding progress, so you can see where you are in the process. This is a big step up from the interminable Asset Encoding step in iDVD 4 (   , May 2004 ) which gave no indication of how far along the encoding was, or even if iDVD had hung.

What could be better than burning to multiple DVD formats? How about not requiring a SuperDrive at all? iDVD 5 now lets you save the encoded project to a disk image, which you can use to burn a disc on a third-party external DVD burner.

And in the small-but-helpful-improvement department, you only need to click the Burn button once to get the process started. Apparently the two-click, unspoken “Do you really want to do this?” approach of earlier versions was too subtle.

HD Support

iDVD 5 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio
Although iMovie HD can import and edit HD footage (see “First Look: iMovie HD” ), iDVD 5 can’t encode the footage for high-definition playback—but don’t blame iDVD. Currently, there’s no HD-DVD format that’s been accepted by the entertainment and technology industries (though two competing formats are trying to make it to the home stretch). What this means is that any HD footage you bring in from iMovie HD is treated as DV footage in the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. You don’t get the higher resolution, but the DVD will play back properly on widescreen televisions. (The same applies to DV footage shot in 16:9, too.)

OneStep DVD

Sometimes you just want to grab video from your camcorder and burn it to a DVD—no editing, no transitions, nothing but the raw video. With the new OneStep DVD feature, for example, a wedding videographer can present the bride and groom with a rough preview of the ceremony before they head off to Aruba. Similar to iMovie’s Magic iMovie feature, OneStep DVD grabs video from your camcorder, encodes it, and burns it to a DVD—all you need to do is get it started. The footage on the burned disc starts immediately; there’s no menu.

iDVD 5 OneStep DVD

Improved Map View

Finally, the Map view introduced in iDVD 4 can now do more than merely display your project’s structure. Two view options switch between the horizontal flowchart and a new top-down org chart, and you can zoom in or out to fit more detail into the window.

iDVD 5 Map view

The Map is also a quicker method of applying themes: select one or more menus and choose a new look from the Themes pane, without waiting for iDVD to load all of the elements (they get loaded when you switch back to the main menu view). You can also drag iMovie project files from either the Finder or the Media pane to add movies to your project; if you’ve specified chapter markers in them, you end up with the familiar Play Movie and Scene Selection buttons, versus a single button that plays the entire movie.

Home Run

When it’s time to create a DVD containing your movies or photo slideshows, the latest version of iDVD should get the job done. iDVD 5 adds a number of nice visual effects, but more important, it lets you burn projects to lots of DVD disc media, whether from a built-in SuperDrive or a third-party burner.

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