iDVD: It's More Than Just a Program
Before we launch iDVD, let's look at the big picture and how the iDVD software fits into the DVD-making universe. Macs equipped with SuperDrives come with QuickTime, iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, and iDVD all pre-installed, so you have what you need to start making movies and DVDs (except for, perhaps, a digital camcorder) as soon as you unpack your new Mac and turn it on.
But making a DVD takes a bit more work than merely launching your copy of iDVD and clicking a few times.
Actually, you probably could make a DVD just that easily. It might stink, but you could "make a DVD" with that little effort.
iDVD is more than just a program it's a piece of Apple's cradle-to-grave integrated system for producing DVDs that you can view on most home DVD players. Because Apple makes all the parts you use in the DVD-making process the hardware, software, operating system, video card, hard disk connection, motherboard, ROMs, and so on Apple has more control over how these elements work together than Dell or Gateway or any Windows system manufacturer can ever have. But iDVD alone is not really enough to make a DVD.
I'm trying to say that DVDs will be much more interesting if you first edit all your raw footage with the included iMovie software from Apple.
Or, if you have higher aspirations, you can edit video with a more capable, more expensive, nonlinear video editing program like Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro (also from Apple), Adobe Premiere, or Avid Xpress DV.
That's one of the beauties of iDVD it doesn't care how you edit your video. As long as it's output as QuickTime, it'll work with iDVD.
The DVD standard requires that video files on DVDs be saved and compressed in the MPEG format. MPEG is a data format for compressing digital video into smaller files. And while that's really about all you need to know about it, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you at least a little bit more. To wit: iDVD automatically converts your content (video, audio, stills, slideshows, and so on) into MPEG format before it burns the disc. This conversion takes approximately one to three times the length of the video segment, depending on the speed of your Mac and the QuickTime compression scheme used when the movie was originally saved.
Here's another example of how iDVD is just part of a bigger system: When you create a video DVD using iDVD you import graphics files, video content, and audio tracks, all created by other programs like Adobe Photoshop, Digidesign Pro Tools, Bias Peak, Bias Deck, Lemke Software GraphicConverter, iMovie, iPhoto, or whatever program you prefer. Again, only after creating all of your "elements" with other software do you use iDVD to assemble those elements, and add menus, buttons, slideshows, and other DVD features.
If you think back to the five phases of creating a DVD I mentioned in Chapter 1 plan, create, encode, author, and record you'll see that iDVD has little to do with the first two steps. That's because let's all say it together now: iDVD is more than just a program it's a piece of Apple's cradle-to-grave integrated system for producing DVDs.
That system even has a name now iLife. And in iDVD 3, the pieces have never been so integrated. You now have direct access to content created in the other iLife applications iTunes, iMovie, and iPhoto from within iDVD. It's another exclusive feature of Apple's cradle-to-grave solution and it's a real timesaver.
Don't panic. We'll be talking about output compressing and saving and importing soon, and it's not as geeky as it sounds here.
Still, you can't just launch iDVD and immediately turn out a studio-quality disc. There's much to be done before you use iDVD. In my opinion, it's much better to complete most (or all) of the video, audio, and still image elements before you even launch iDVD to put the finishing touches on the job.
iDVD 3: More Better Than Before
It seems unlikely that any of you are still using the first two versions of iDVD, but if you are, you should consider upgrading to iDVD 3 immediately it'll be the best $50 you spend on this whole endeavor. Not just because it's the version this book is about, but because version 3 is more flexible and capable than versions 1 or 2 and has several desirable new features.
Version 3 has more and better templates (called "Themes," as you'll learn in a few pages) including some nifty new ones with ever-so-pro looking "Drop Zones."
And version 3 finally supports honest-to-goodness chapter markers in movies, so your movie can have a scene selection menu, just like those fancy store-bought ones from the major movie studios. Sort of.
And as I just said, version 3 is completely integrated with the other iApps, so you can choose a song from your iTunes library or a photo from your iPhoto library, all without leaving the comfort of iDVD.
Furthermore, you don't have to do anything special in iMovie to have a movie you can use in iDVD. With version 3, your iMovie projects are automatically available to iDVD without having to export them "to iDVD" as you had to do in versions 1 and 2.
As always, version 3 has those nifty "motion backgrounds" and "motion menus," so your menu background and individual buttons can be movies, not just still images or text. So your finished DVDs will look just like fancy store-bought ones from the major movie studios. Sort of.
And, iDVD 3, like iDVD 2 (but not 1, bless its little heart), includes background encoding. As soon as you add a movie to your DVD project, the MPEG encoding process starts in the background while you continue working, which saves a significant amount of time when you burn the disc.
This is good. (And you have Mac OS X's robust multitasking support to thank for it.)
If you don't already have it, you can get iDVD 3 as part of the package of all four "iApps" that Apple now sells as "iLife," at the Apple store online (http://store.apple.com), and other places where fine software is sold. Or you can order by phone at 1-800-MY-APPLE.
iLife was priced at $49 when we went to press. That means iDVD 3 is $49, because iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes are free if you don't mind downloading them from Apple. I still think it's worth it for the chapters, integration with the other iLife apps, and, of course, for the slick Drop Zone themes.