posted by Scot Hacker on Mon 17th Dec 2001 17:34 UTC

"iMovie, iDVD"

Since Apple wants to be taken seriously as the "digital hub" of your life, it makes sense for them to include a basic movie making application with every copy of the operating system. As I learned when I was working at Adamation, editing digital video is an inherently complex process, both from the programmer's perspective and from the end user's perspective. At Adamation, I spent a couple of weeks evaluating every non-linear editor I could get my hands on. When I say there isn't an NLE in the land that's as easy to learn and use as iMovie, I speak from experience. Apple has gone to great lengths to remove as many of the confusing aspects as possible from the video editing experience, while still allowing users to create glitch-free, smoooth-running presentations.

That doesn't mean iMovie is powerful, however. With one video and two audio layers, a small handful of special effects, and very limited editing possibilities, savvy users will bump their heads up against its limitations very quickly (and be tempted to spring for the $1,000 Final Cut Pro instead). Adamation's $29 personalStudio (once available for BeOS, now only for Windows), handles 10 layers (any media type) in real time, with no rendering, and far more power editing possibilities and only a slightly steeper learning curve. In contrast to personalStudio, I find iMovie unnecessarily limiting. But I'm still impressed at it's clear, clean workflow and presentation. And it kicks ass on the pathetic excuse for an NLE bundled with Windows ME and XP.

I've only begun to experiment with iDVD, but so far, its style and presentation seem very much in keeping with iMovie - not super powerful, but very easy to create polished results in quickly. For the first time, I'm hoping to create DVDs of small movies I've made for friends and family this Christmas.

As far as the platforms compare, this is exactly the kind of stuff BeOS was designed for, and the very reason Adamation had the gall to try and do 10 layers in real time with no rendering in the first place. Apple has a lot to learn from what Adamation originally accomplished on BeOS, and has now accomplished on Windows. But in practical terms, the Mac has always been a favored platform for DV editing and video production. Since Adamation pulled out of BeOS, there are no NLEs available for the platform at all. On the other hand, Final Cut Pro 3 has just been announced for OS X. With FCP quickly becoming an industry standard and unseating Premiere in the NLE universe, the Mac is still the place to be for DV editing.

Point goes to OS X, with caveats.

  • Camera
  • A week before I got my Mac, I had spent some time migrating dear old Dad from BeOS to Windows 98. Until that point, he had the honor of being the oldest, least technically savvy BeOS user on the planet. He loved using BeOS. It never failed him, was 100% virus proof (only because there are no known BeOS virii), and was as simple to use as the antique Macintosh it had replaced. But he was tired of receiving attachments he couldn't open and visiting web sites that didn't work in BeOS's sub-standard browsers.

    The migration itself was pretty painless until it came time to hook up his digital still camera (serial). While BeOS' built-in Camera app had functioned flawlessly, and ImageGrinder had let him batch-resize his images easily enough, the Windows software for the camera was ugly, arcane, and barely functional. I spent half a day trying to find free alternative software that would do the trick. The final solution was that he would boot into BeOS to capture and resize his images, then copy them to his Win partition from there, reboot into Windows, and do his printing and mailing.

    With that headache fresh in mind, I was stoked to plug my camera into the Mac and have a simple, friendly capture app pop up automatically. The app even offered to make web pages out of the images as they were being captured. Now I needed to do some batch-resizing. All of the OS X shareware apps I found for the job were a bit too spendy and overkill. Then I remembered I had seen a section of Apple's site hosting dozens of Finder-integrated AppleScripts. Sure enough, I found one that could be embedded in the Finder toolbar. Drag a pile of images onto the icon, enter a Scale By % factor, and all my images were resized in seconds. Again, no 3rd-party tools required.

    I've heard that Windows XP has much better camera support, and I wouldn't be surprised if similar capabilities were now part of MS Windows. But if I come across a secret stash of cash, I'm buying Dad an OS X machine.

  • Office X
  • Despite my political problems with Microsoft, the truth is that some of the most sophisticated software available for OS X comes from Redmond. I'm not a big user of office apps, but when you need 'em, you need 'em. And Office X has, as Wired puts it, "transformed a tired old productivity suite into a work of art." Tens of thousands of lines of new code, hundreds of new widgets and icons ... it's a gorgeous piece of software -- as beautiful as OS X itself. The Mac programming team at MS isn't just porting software, they're rewriting it to meet the demands and expectations of the Mac community, and it shows.

    office

    Microsoft makes it so hard. You finally break free of their OS, only to find yourself in love with their software on another platform. Between Office X and Internet Explorer, it's tough to say no. Click for larger version.

    Kind of ironic though that my political feelings toward Microsoft are part of what drove me away from Windows to begin with, and now I find myself enjoying their software under Mac OS. Reality bites.

    Under BeOS, one turns to Gobe Productive for office needs. Productive is probably the most sophisticated piece of software available for BeOS, and takes a unique approach to integrated word processing / spreadsheets / presentations / bitmap editing / vector graphics -- one app, one file format, five integrated modes. I love it and wish it were available for OS X*.

    Unfortunately, because MS doesn't openly document their file formats, Word and Excel document compatibility with Productive is imperfect. Totally usable in most cases, but it fails on some of the more complex document types, such as docs with pivot tables and revision tracking. With Office X, everything works. Perfectly. Not only that, but they've finally ironed out all Mac/Windows Office doc compatibility glitches, including the extended character bugaboos and backwards compatibility (Office X docs open perfectly in Word 97 for Windows, without having to downsave first).

    Point goes to OS X.

    *Note: Productive 3 was just released for Windows, and the company has announced plans to release a Linux version in the near future.

    Table of contents
    1. "Out of the Frying Pan..."
    2. "... And Into the Fire..."
    3. "Smells Like Home Cookin"
    4. "A Lot To Like, First Impressions"
    5. "Networking Nirvana"
    6. "CD Burning, Disk Images"
    7. "Applications"
    8. "iMovie, iDVD"
    9. "Browsers and E-Mail"
    10. "Power Editors"
    11. "Community"
    12. "The Bad and The Ugly"
    13. "File System Shoot-Out"
    14. "Application-Binding Policies"
    15. "Alien Filesystems"
    16. "Miscellaneous Moans and Groans"
    17. "All Told, Life Is Good"
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