Saturday, August 11, 2007

iLife & iWork 08 in use

We're making a DVD at the moment and I've just purchased iLife and & iWork 08.

This DVD has a video component that is being edited together using iMovie and a slide show that we're preparing in Keynote.

Anyhow, iLife and iWork came out this week so I jumped in and bought them. Here's my rundown after giving them a hammering for a day.

The stand-out is iMovie, they seem to have massively re-designed the program around the concept of "event" organised film strips that show you the video as if a film strip that has been unravelled along a light table. You can "scrub" the mouse over the clip and see it animate as if you were spooling a tape over a tape head. It's incredibly fast and smooth to use and a great way to find the best bits in a sequence of video.

iMovie has a sort of all grey look and makes excellent use of the big wide screens we all have now. My impression is that iMovie is pretty much professional grade, with a simple to use user interface. It's rock solid and if it's possible the DV video looks better than it did before for some reason. Update: a feature I rely on, splitting the audio from the video, is actually missing. It turns out others have noticed missing features too. I had assumed it was there but I hadn't found it yet.

The actual video is now stored in Event folders inside your Movies folder in your home directory. The thumbnails for the fast video scrubbing are built and stored there too. I like the way the actual storage is now more transparent - I know what to back up and what to transport to another machine.

Keynote looks pretty much the same but has some features I was wanting such as the ability to crop images inside it. There's an amazing "magic alpha" feature that I have ended up using in this production - this lets you punch out an image from it's background by making the background transparent.

I'm disappointed at the quality of the exported movie from Keynote, given how fantastic it looks on screen. An 800x600 DV export shows jaggies on the text for some reason. I'll try exporting at higher resolution and letting iDVD do the downrendering. Update: I exported as full resolution H264 and it does look much better.

Pages just gets better all the time, advanced features like change logging, and a formatting tool bar make it more familiar. I really love it but it has always seemed a bit sluggish to use. At the office we've pretty much standardised on NeoOffice/OpenOffice, they do a particularly good job of exporting to PDF which is the standard way to publish now. In particular, OpenOffice's export to PDF generates the table of contents that is displayed down the side in PDF readers, Pages doesn't do that for some reason.

Only played with Numbers a bit. Looks good and they've taken a page layout view of a spreadsheet where bits of spreadsheet can float between images and superb charts. I'm a bit puzzled why they don't just merge it in to Pages and make it like Works used to be.

All up, these programs handle large graphics embedded in documents far better than Microsoft's products ever do, and that's increasingly the way we work today. Combined with OmniGraffle for drawing (there's no need for Apple to compete with such a great product), this is all I need to work.


geo said...

I agree with comparative quality of MS word for documents with large images. It's just buggy. I'm also an Omni fan, but Omni Outliner is lame dealing with inline graphics, and sections, tables of contents, etc.

It's been a long time since I last used it, but I gave the latest Nisus Writer Pro a go and it's lovely. I even paid the US$79 for it. Now I'm happy.

If only there was a good outliner that doubles for creating large structured docs with images.

Does the new iMovie have a way to drop paragraphs of text on screen? I was amazed how hard that was in the old version.

marxy said...

I guess a paragraph of text on screen would be done with the title feature. Obviously the poor quality of many TVs means that you need to keep all text very large to ensure readability.

I've been trying to figure out how to split the audio from the video, something that was pretty easy in the old version, it seems that the documentation isn't up to date with the software at the moment.

Interestingly there is a preference "Show advanced toolbar" that doesn't seem to have any effect for me, so perhaps it's hidden there and my preferences haven't migrated properly.

I'm grateful for the good work that the Microsoft Mac business unit has done over the years, but this long delay for an Intel native Office suite has led us to use NeoOffice and other alternatives - I don't think we'll be back.

Joerg Weisner said...

Is there any possibility to export from Keynote directly to iMovie?

I can't find anything like that.
I had to take the way to GarageBand and from there another export, which I then could open in iMovie.
The quality was quite bad at the end.

Any help???

marxy said...

You can export to a high quality movie from Keynote and then, I assume, edit in iMovie if you want to.

Basically, I'm ending up making a DVD so the movie created with Keynote is stand alone but I can imagine you might want to edit other video in somehow.

Bob said...

@joerg's question: I have the same issue. The only way to get a movie into WebGallery is via iMovie. I've created a slideshow (with movies imbedded) in Keynote, but there is no "send to iMovie" option. I've tried exporting at Full Quality, but the resulting .mov file is not valid for iMovie 08. So I'm having to use iWeb, which will allow me to use the file. Yuck!

Any suggestions? I'm a relative newcomer to Macland. I thought all these iProducts played together? Guess not!

marxy said...

I ended up exporting in full quality and using that movie directly in iDVD, so it did work for me. There are numerous options relating to Quicktime export, perhaps you'd chosen something strange.

Bob said...

Going from Keynote to iDVD is not the problem; getting from Keynote to iMovie (and thence to Web Gallery) is. However, you're right, I was selecting the wrong options for encoding the QT. The correct choice for sharing QT among i-apps is AIC, Apple Intermediate Codec. I figured this out after reading David Pogue's excellent new book on iMovie 08. I would be lost without that book. It looks like AIC is the common format the i-apps share. When I export my Keynote project as Full/AIC, iMovie 08 "sees" it during Import. Confusing as all get-out to this former Windozer: not all .mov files are created equal, it seems. Took me all day to figure it out! Windows relies on the file extension to tell what kind of file it is. Mac don't need no stinkin' extensions. That should have been my first clue...

marxy said...

Thanks Bob for that interesting tip on the AIC codec, I never knew that.

File extensions have never really been good enough to tell you about a file. Like MOV, AVI is a container format and within that it can have video and audio encoded in any one of a large number of possible codecs.