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iLife 08 Review

Product Review

product

Product: iLife ’08
Company: Apple
Contact: Apple iLife
Price: $79.00
Pros: iMovie redesigned for the better, all apps tweaked and improved
Cons: higher end computer needed for iMovie

Product Rating

5 moose

Excellent

by Rob LeFebvre, AAUG Member

iLife 08 contains iMovie, GarageBand, iPhoto, iWeb and iDVD. For the most part, iDVD, iWeb and iPhoto have been upgraded with some new features. GarageBand has one significant new feature, and iMovie has been redesigned from the ground up. If you’re unsure about upgrading, just know that iMovie is a different beast altogether, while the other iApps will feel familiar and comfortable.

iPhoto – Powerful and Familiar
iPhoto has a new organization scheme, called Events. It automatically organizes new imported photos into date-based “events,” which you can then customize and re-organize. It takes all your old “rolls” and creates new events based on the dates on the photos themselves. If you have a lot of photos from previous versions of iPhoto, like I do, you’ll need to wait while iPhoto upgrades its database, and then go in and title the newly created events with appropriate titles. There are new editing tools, an easier way to create online galleries (.Mac required), new calendar and book options, and a new theme-based home printing option, where you can create your own layouts and print right on your own printer at home. If you’ve used iPhoto before, you’ll feel right at home with this newer, more powerful version.



iWeb – More Dynamic

iWeb is a program I’ve not used much in the past. New features include integration with Google AdSense and Maps, enhanced photo galleries, and the ability to mix and match themes within one iWeb site. It still allows for easy blog and podcast site creation, and also lets you use a personalized web site domain name. Using iWeb seems easy and intuitive, with drag and drop ease of use. If you’ve used Apple’s Pages for document creation, you’ll be comfortable with iWeb’s workflow. Perhaps the most significan taddition to iWeb is the ability to add dynamic content, through what Apple calls “widgets.” You can put up RSS feeds from other web sites, add Google maps with a click and drag, and embed YouTube videos.

iDVD – Pro Features at a Consumer Price
This seems to me to be the least upgraded iApp, in terms of features. There have been some tweaks to the backend, though, so you’ll see a snappier performance (on a relatively new Mac) and less wait time when changing themes and adding slideshows. There are ten new animated themes, advanced menu customization, a higher level of encoding, and the ability to use higher quality photos in your slideshows. A quick tour of the iApp shows it, too, to be a fairly familiar place, with all the features of iDVD ’06, plus the new ones. Longtime users of iDVD won’t be confused when using this new version. The “pro level encoding” allows iDVD to dynamically compress your movies so they fit on the entire DVD-R, allowing for a higher quality video experience in the end product. All in all, iDVD is the perfect complement to iMovie, making your home and business videos available to anyone wiht a DVD player with a minimum of effort and time.

GarageBand – No Experience Necessary
Garageband looks familiar, works the same way as it always have, and adds new tweaks and one significantly new (and fun!) feature – Magic Garageband (they really need to rename that one). When you start GB up, you’ll see the familiar splash screen that allows you to choose what kind of project you want to make: podcast, music score, and the new Magic GB. Clicking on the new option, you will see a stage with a closed curtain. A line of genres shows up at the bottom, and you can choose the style of music you want to make: rock, jazz, blues, latin, funk, etc. Click the Audition button, and the curtain opens up, showing you the default line up: guitar, bass, keyboard, drums. You can click on each instrument, highlighting it with a spotlight (cool visual effect that really has a use). When you highlight an insturment, several versions of that same instrument open below the stage. You can pick the type of guitar, keyboard, bass or drum set to customize the sound. Don’t like the way the lead guitar sounds? Simply pick a different instrument or guitar style to make it sound like yours.

Music creation made simple
You can then create an entire song based on the genre and instrumentation chosen, and have a full-on song for your iMovie or iDVD project. You can click intot he song, and see Garageband’s familiar editing workspace to further edit and tweak your song. No musica or technical ability required! This is a great way to waste an afternoon, too, let me tell you. Clicking on the different instruments and genres let me while a way a whole BUNCH of time when reviewing this product.

iMovie Redesigned

Holy heck, you’re not going to believe the new iMovie. It’s a completely redesigned interface and paradigm. The visual metaphors are a little of the iMovie we all know and love, a little of Final Cut Express, some of iPhoto, and a bunch of new stuff, all rolled into one. If you’re not a fan of changing your workflow, I’d not recommend this upgrade. It’s more of a whole new software package than an upgrade. However, if you have grown tired of the iMovie you’ve grown up with, and have been chafing at the bit for a new set of movie chops, this is the one for you.

Importing new media
First of all, importing video seems to have gotten easier. Newer, DVD- or flash-based camcorders are automagically recognized, as are more typical mini-DV camcorders. Bringing in video is a snap, and easily managed from the file menu. Video now comes in and is organized in iMovie’s new “Video Library,” which seems like a nod to the cataloguing and organizing of iPhoto. One thing that’s been tricky wiht hours up on days of video and home movies is knowing what you have. There are many third-party applications out there to help do that job. Now, however, there’s a built-in part of iMovie to do it for you. Creating, modifying, and putting different videos together into Library entries is a snap.

Skimming and FilmStrips
iMovie has made it easy to move through your ordered video clips. The Clip Viewer has become the Filmstrip. Scrubbing through your Filmstrip is now called Skimming. Simply place your mouse cursor over the thumbnails in your filmstrip, and move it back and forth, at any speed. You will be scrubbing through your video with no extra effort, no trying-to-find-the-little-playhead headaches. Stop skimming, and hit the spacebar: your video picks up right where you left the cursor. If the blurble of the skimmed video’s audio track is too annoying, hit one button to turn it off. They’ve thought of everything!

More advanced editing
The new Trimming video system allows you to have more control over your editied product. Cropping video is a simple click and drag affair, while changing the start and end point of your video clip is a simple double-click and choose. This is non-destructive editing at its best! There’s an option familiar to many iPhoto users: crop. You can crop a video to focus on the action in one part of the original footage. This is pretty amazing, and explains a bit more the high system requirements. In addition, more advanced editing techniques, like slip edits and 1 second trim are available.

iMovie Basics

The basic iMovie workflow has been stood on its head, but to good effect. The main editing window, which was once the Clip Viewer, is now it’s own window in the upper middle of the screen. You can swap the “project” and “filmstrip” windows as you like, which makes it even easier to edit visually. Click and drag through the clips in the filmstrip window, and either click a button, or drag the selection to the new project window, creating a project. In a bold move, Apple has borrowed a trick from Final Cut Express: iMovie is now a central application, and all your iMovies are Projects. No more one-file-one-project, as in older versions of iMovie. The advantage of this is being able to move between projects without having to switch windows. A great addition to workflow and production. Add the auto-saving feature, and you’ll admit, changing iMovie was about due.

Score!
Adding audio has gotten a much-needed interface lift, too! iMovie can use all the iLife audio from iTunes, Garageband, etc. just like previous versions. Drag the audio clip up to the project window, and drop. The music fits itself to the length of your video clips, and automatically fades out at the end of your video. No more fiddling with the fade out buttons or figuring out which track to fade! Simplicity and efficiency! Of course, you can hit a button, and have instant access to audio options, like fade in and out, ducking, and volume level via one of htose transparent window thingies you may have gotten used to in iPhoto ’06.

Exports
You can send your video to Apple TV, iPhone, iWeb, and even….drum roll…YouTube! Video is the new blogging, and YouTube is the place where people from all over the world connect via video. This automatic (after a quick login to YouTube) posting is another way Apple stays at the forefront of the digital revolution.

Specifics

iMovie requires a higher-end computer. Higher end than my current G5 iMac (1.8 GHz). I was able to test iMovie on a MacBook laptop, and, after an update to make it Leopard compatible, it shines. iMovie opens fast, clicks and drags are smooth, and all worked as advertised.

* Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 processor.
* iMovie requires a Mac with an Intel processor, a Power Mac G5 (dual 2.0GHz or faster), or an iMac G5 (1.9GHz or faster).

Video Tutorials
Apple has done something completely different this realease, and provided an amazing array of specific and quality video tutorials available on the web. Each iApp has it’s own section, and there are 8 – 10 videos per iApp to help you see how it’s used. It’s like having your own USer Group guru right there on your computer to show you the ins and outs of what can be some deep and fairly complex iApps. Kudos to Apple for creating this resource. Go see them all at: http://www.apple.com/ilife/tutorials/

The Final Word

This is a great suite of applications. Nowhere else will you find this level of quality, depth and sheer volume of computer software to meet all your media creation needs. Each iApp is a full developed environment for media management and creation. If you are just interested in digital photography, or just movie making, or just music making, iLife ’08 is a great bargain. Any one of the iApps is worth the $80 price tag. You can’t find a good program for the PC for any ONE of those areas for $80, let a product with such well-designed front and back-ends. My advice is: get it. You’ll thank me later.

Comments

One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Very good review.

    iLife 08 utterly rocks, but iPhoto is the one program that gets the most use from me.

    I am a pro photographer and iPhoto is totally spot on. Thanks to iLife there’s only one person my boss turns to for photo projects – me.
    If it’s organizing thousands of images, creating a photo DVD presentation with titles and music or any number of similar projects I get the work because nobody on a PC can match what I can do.

    Example:
    Golf client needed a DVD for their tournament opening ceremony.
    We had shot over 12,000 images for them during 2007.
    They needed a 45 minute DVD – about 800 images set to music and they gave us 2 days notice.

    1. Import to iPhoto, edit down then tweak remaining images as needed.
    2. Find appropriate music in iTunes.
    3. Import both to iDVD, fiddle with the awesome titles and click ‘Burn’.
    4. Enjoy some eggnog, wait for the DVD to cook and serve on home DVD player to ensure correct function.

    Can you imaging clutzing that together on some crappy PC software??
    Makes me shudder.

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