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iMac DV makes home video editing simple
(CNN) -- The translucent graphite-colored iMac DV Special Edition is Apple's way of gently introducing users to video editing for personal home movies and for the Internet. With the iMac DV you can now also create video email to send pictures of the kids to grandma, as long as you have a digital video camera with a FireWire (IEEE-1394) connection.
The all-in-one system includes the computer with a 400MHz PowerPC G3 processor, DVD-ROM drive, 15 inch monitor, a 13GB hard drive, and two Harman/Kardon speakers in a single unit. All the components are directly accessible from the ports located on the side or on the back. In fact, this is one of the simplest computers to add more memory to. The iMac DV comes with 128 MB of RAM--twice that of the standard iMac--and also offers two additional slots in the back that allow you to upgrade the memory. Additionally, there is an Ethernet port to connect to other computers, a built-in 56Kbps modem and a slot to add the Apple AirPort wireless networking card.
On the right side of the computer are a number of ports to connect your keyboard, mouse, printer, phone connection, and others. There are two Universal Serial Bus ports and two FireWire ports for devices such as digital camcorders and cameras. Apple uses USB to connect the mouse to the keyboard and the keyboard to the computer, reducing the number of cables snaking their way to the computer. The mouse can also be connected on the left or right side of the keyboard making it easier for righties or lefties. If you are a regular Windows PC user, the one button mouse can be confusing, but you can get over this rather quickly.
When you first start the machine, it will ask for some simple information such as how your connect to your Internet Service Provider, and basic registration information. Once configured, you can immediately connect to any Web site or Internet service. This uncomplicated configuration procedure keeps to the iMac's theme of simplicity. Unfortunately for us, this crashed the first time around and locked up the system. It worked fine the second time.
Working the magic
Apple's iMovie video editing system is quite simple and intuitive to use. Even without reading the manual it was simple to transfer and manipulate video clips. You simply connect the camcorder to the PC with an appropriate cable, start iMovie, and click on "import." It will automatically scan your tape for video clips to import.
When the video is first transferred from the camcorder to the iMac, it is stored in an uncompressed format that can take several gigabytes of space. One clip from a 40-minute tape took up about 6GB. While manipulating the clip, several subset copies took up even more space. Thus, even with a 13GB drive, you need a lot of the space for editing long video clips. Once you have edited the video, it can be compressed to a more acceptable size for downloads. As a note, you cannot take video off a DVD movie because of its copy protection system. This is to prevent copyright violations and reduce video piracy.
iMovie is split into the main video display in the top left, the source palette on the right side, the working palette along the bottom, and the command box just above it. There are also icons for the trashcan and the amount of free disk space available. The video being played appears on the main display with a timing bar below indicating where in the clip the current frame is.
You can place up to nine video clips on your palette. From these sources, you can drag them to the working palette in the bottom to cut and paste portions of the clip, apply effects, titles, and transitions. The software comes with a number of basic transition effects that you can place between different scenes: cross dissolve, fade, push right, scale down. In addition, you can also create various effects with titles, add sound effects or even music. Applying any of these effects simply involves selecting a clip, selecting the effect, previewing it, and then dragging-and-dropping the result onto the clip.
The software does not have the complex capabilities of a full video editing package such as Adobe Premiere, but for the beginner, this is a plus more than a minus. You don't need to learn how to use several different applications; you don't have to fight with the interface to get it to do what you want; and you don't need to learn complex techniques for video editing.
The right tools
We used a Sony TRV310 Digital8 camcorder that can record in standard 8mm as well as in digital quality Hi8 format. This makes it backward compatible with existing 8mm movies and still cheaper than an enhanced digital video camcorder system using MiniDV. Sony also has MiniDV capable camcorders but at over twice the price.
The camcorder has a i.LINK or Firewire interface to connect to other devices such as the iMac. Although the camcorder also has the ability to perform a number of cool digital effects directly while recording.
The iMac does not come with a Rewritable CD (CD-RW) drive for you to create your own Video CDs unlike the Sony Digital Studio PC system. Instead, you can write a movie back to your camcorder through the FireWire interface, directly onto tape. This works fine for camcorders but most VCRs do not have FireWire and thus to save this to a VHS or S-VHS format, you have to do a two step process; first from iMac to camcorder and then camcorder to VCR. This is inconvenient and time consuming.
The video can be saved into Apple's QuickTime format for online distribution. Thus once you have your movie ready, you can upload it to your Web page and tell your friends. Unfortunately, QuickTime movies tend to grow to quite a size and downloading a 12MB file for an eight-minute video clip is no fun for most users with 56Kbps modems, no matter how wonderful the movie.
The iMac is targeted at home and amateur users, but Web developers might also find it quite handy. If you are a serious video editing professional, you might consider one of these computers for a basic desktop but should probably choose a higher end PowerMac G4 and professional software for serious work. All in all the iMac DV and the iMovie video editing tool is very easy to learn and use. If Apple could offer a way to import new transitions and other effects, and add a way to create Video CDs, it could be all that you ever need for basic video editing.
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