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Wow Your Friends: 3 iDVD Tricks

1. Add an iPhoto Book to Your Slide Show

Rather than just showing off your pictures one at a time in an iDVD slide show, why not lay them out in a book and display them as pages in iDVD? In iPhoto 5, you can save a photo book as a PDF. Click on the book and press Command-P.

Choose Save As PDF from the PDF menu, and then open the PDF in OS X’s Preview program. In the drawer (View: Drawer), select the page that you want to turn into a slide, and choose Edit: Copy. Go to the File menu and choose New From Clipboard—the Preview program will create a new document and paste the page you copied into it.

To add that page to your slide show, position the iDVD and Preview windows so you can see them both. Then drag the thumbnail from the new Preview document you created into the iDVD window. You don’t have to save the Preview documents—you’re simply using Preview as a tool for extracting individual pages from your book’s PDF.

2. Hack iDVD

The iDVD application is a package, a kind of sophisticated folder that stores iDVD’s program code and other resources. By exploring the contents of the iDVD package, you can take an inside look at iDVD’s themes and even extract video and audio from them.

Control-click on the iDVD icon and choose Show Package Contents from the pop-up shortcut menu. The Finder will display a directory window showing the contents of the iDVD package. Open the Contents folder and then the Resources folder.

In the Resources folder are iDVD’s themes (each ends with .theme ). Each theme is also a package; to explore it, control-click on its icon and choose Show Package Contents from the shortcut menu. Open the Contents folder and then the Resources folder, and you’ll find background movies and audio loops. To extract an item—for example, to grab the background audio from the Drive In One theme—press the option key while dragging the item’s icon to the desktop. This makes a copy of the item but doesn’t change the original. (Don’t throw away or alter any resources whose purpose you don’t understand, or you may have to reinstall iDVD.)

3. Archive Projects to Burn Elsewhere

If your PowerBook lacks a SuperDrive but your desktop Mac has one, you can still work on a DVD on a cross-country flight. iDVD 5 has an archiving feature that saves a project and all of its assets in one self-contained file that you can move to any Mac with iDVD 5.

Choose Archive Project from the File menu. If you created customized themes for the DVD—or if you want to be certain that your themes will be available in a future version of iDVD—select the Include Themes option. If iDVD has already encoded the DVD’s content, you can include those encoded files in the archive by selecting Include Encoded Files (but this will make your archive file quite a bit larger). Click on Save, and iDVD copies everything in your project into a file. You can transfer this file to another Mac, using a FireWire hard drive, a fast network, or the FireWire disk mode that laptop Macs provide.

Choosing the Right Media

There are several types of writable DVD media: DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW. Previous versions of iDVD could handle only the DVD-R format, but iDVD 5 is much more versatile. It can burn any of the aforementioned formats, assuming your DVD burner supports them. Most of the SuperDrives in today’s Macs can; older SuperDrives support only the DVD-R and DVD-RW formats.

There is an important difference between R and RW discs: an R disc (-R or +R) can record data only once; an RW disc (-RW or +RW) can be erased and reused roughly 1,000 times. If you insert an RW disc that already contains data, iDVD even offers to erase it for you.

RW discs are great for testing, although you’re more likely to encounter playback problems with them on some DVD players. Also, RW discs are more sensitive to damage and aging than write-once discs.

If you’re interested in the technical details of these formats, read Jim Taylor’s superb DVD FAQ.

Want to tinker with the song or design from one of iDVD’s themes? Go to its package contents.
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