iLife '05 (part 2): iPhoto, iMovie HD and iDVD

ilife Box

By Graham K. Rogers

iLife '05 (iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD iTunes, and Garageband) is installed on new consumer Macs. As it came with the Mac mini I recently tested, I was able to have a fairly comprehensive look. This is the second part of that review. See the link at the bottom of the page for a link to Part One.

Although I like iPhoto and use it every day, it can be an acquired taste. Organisation and storage of images does not suit everyone, particularly with the directory structures.

Version 2 was limited to about 1,000 pictures. iPhoto 4 (there was no 3) improved on that with a capacity of over 20,000 images. Two criticisms remained: the inability to handle RAW format and poor image manipulation tools. Version 5 has these points covered and more.

High quality jpg images are enough for my amateur status. Nikon software (for RAW) does not suit me. iPhoto can also import the mpeg files that many consumer cameras produce. Such files used to mean manual downloads (or lost data if you forgot), now MPEG is stored in iPhoto and can be exported.

Some suggest that, before upgrading from version 4, the library should be rebuilt. Press the command, option and shift keys, then start iPhoto. You will be asked if you want to rebuild the library. Library corruption may occur if this is not done.

The slide show has improved greatly. This has always been useful -- select some images and put them onscreen with music from iTunes. Now iPhoto has several new transitions. Select a different one for each image. As before, slide shows can be exported to QuickTime.

The tools are a major improvement. In earlier versions, the cropping tool was all I could use. Image manipulation was best done in a third-party application (Photoshop, Graphic Converter, Gimp). Version 5 does better.

iPhoto tools iPhoto alignment

The editor has slider bars that alter functions like brightness and contrast, but also for sharpness or -- useful with digital cameras -- exposure of images. A most useful tool is the alignment function. A grid appears behind the image making it easy to adjust to the vertical or horizontal.

It is still "quick and dirty". For best manipulation, other software is needed; but it will improve an image and give a better appreciation of which pictures are worth keeping.

iMovie HD is useful for the less video-adept among us. As well as functions of importing clips from a video camera (or using still images) to make a movie, there is a new function (Magic iMovie) which allows the totally automatic creation of a movie: importing, transitions, effects and (if you have the hardware) burning to DVD.


Like iPhoto (and iDVD) there are several new transitions here. A major change is indicated in the name: it handles the High Definition Video format of cameras, as well as MPEG-4 and flash media formats.

With a new project, or working with one already started, clips and sound are edited using the timeline. Sound can be recorded in iMovie -- add your own voice -- or import music from iTunes.

Effects and transitions may be added during the edit. Some of these, like the scratched look to the film, can already be seen on local TV and movies. New transitions are most efective too, although the old rule applies: less is more. Overdoing effects will spoil the finished product.

iMovie transition iMovie transition

In the right hands iMovie can create excellent short films. Last year the Siam Discovery Apple store held workshops for universty and high school students. The subsequent competition produced first rate work. It is a pity these are not online. Let us hope that the competition is repeated.

There are several export formats to cover most systems: tv, video and computer. Apple's QuickTime is easy enough, and iMovie allows several sizes (for example, email and web-pages). The finished project can also be exported as an iDVD project.

iDVD 5 is a powerful application, but is not useful for all of us. If you are intent on making movies, and distributing them on DVD, then this is a useful and powerful application.

Even with no DVD writer, it is possible use the application and create a DVD-ready movie: you need a medium (e.g. an external disk) to convey the file to a machine with a burner. It is possible to add an external drive but these are not all supported: check first.

As with other applications in iLife '05, the range of transitions and effects has been much enlarged. When I saw this first demonstrated, it was clear that what we can now do on a home computer, like the eMac or Mac mini, is technically reaching what only professional movie-makers were capable of only a few years ago.

If I were not about to buy a new Mac, I would have bought iLife '05 by now. It is available from Apple retailers. Locally I have seen it at 3,000 baht: less than the official retail price.

Part One of the look at iLife '05 is accessible through this link.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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