January 26, 2021 | When Apple (http://www.apple.com)
purchased Astarte GmbH-- creator of the popular Mac DVD authoring
tool DVDirector--in April 2000, and immediately placed a gag order
on the company's employees, it didn't take Lieutenant Columbo
to figure out that Apple was up to something relating to DVD.
Exactly what that something might be, has-up until Apple's MacWorld
announcements in January-been the mystery. During a recent meeting
in Apple's midtown Manhattan office, EMedia Magazine was
able to get the "skinny" on the new products.
Apple has announced new Power Mac G4 systems, which will include
Apple's new omnwriting SuperDrive, as well as itss iDVD mastering
software. The system, with its $3,499 price tag, isn't targeted
for the mainstream consumer market. Its baseline audience is "prosumers"
who desire to replace their aging VHS tape collections with DVDs.
The SuperDrive, a Pioneer DVR-103 drive with Apple-customized
firmware, supports writing to not only DVD-R (2X), but CD-R (8X)
and CD-RW (4X). A firmware upgrade expected later this year will
also supply write compatibility with rewritable DVD-RW media.
The drive currently supports 4.7GB DVD-R general-use discs.
The bundled software, iDVD, is a simplified DVD mastering application
designed for users who are inexperienced with the DVD authoring
process. iDVD allows users to drag and drop QuickTime files and
pictures into a DVD projects, and users can create menus, buttons,
and backgrounds using the software's supplied themes. Users can
also design their own custom interfaces. The software supports
up to six "buttons" on the main menu, and any of the buttons can
also be a folder that leads to another six-button menu. iDVD uses
a software MPEG-2 encoder, and a static compression rate that
is hidden from the user. Before burning to a disc, a user can
preview a project to test navigation and flow. Up to one hour
of video can be stored on a single DVD-R disc. "We feel that this
gives consumers a realistic option when choosing to output video
on DVD as opposed to VHS, where there are issues of lower quality
and durability," says Mike Evangelist, senior product manager
of DVD products at Apple.
But Apple's emerging DVD strategy encompasses more than facile
hobbyist encodes and burns. Apple has also announced a professional
DVD authoring solution, DVD Studio Pro. DVD Studio Pro is, as
the name would suggest, designed for professional DVD authors.
The software can include every feature that the DVD-Video standard
allows. "DVD Studio Pro is designed for everyone except the upper-crust
developers who need extremely low-level access to the DVD spec,"
says Evangelist. "The software is targeted at users that need
to create discs such as corporate training DVDs, etc." The software
supports up to 99 video tracks as well as multiple language tracks.
DVD content can be customized to include slide shows, still or
motion menus from layered PhotoShop files or video clips, and
interactive links directly to the Web.
MPEG-2 video is encoded in DVD Studio Pro development using
Apple's software encoder (the same encoder used by iDVD), which
Apple says can achieve up to 2X encoding speed on a 733mHz G4.
While DVD Studio Pro may be cutting-edge software, it also requires
cutting-edge hardware. Minimum system requirements include a Power
Mac G4 with AGP graphics, a DVD-R, DVD-RAM, or DVD-ROM drive (configuration
must support Apple DVD Player 2.0 or later), Mac OS 9.0.4 or 9.1,
QuickTime 4.1, 128MB RAM, and a 12GB hard drive. The software
is available separately at an MSRP of $999.
Apple has also announced that it will sell 4.7GB DVD-R (general
use) discs in packs of five for $49.95. While the current market
for for home DVD recording is small (due, in part, to high prices
to date for both drives and media), Apple is attempting to expand
the market by offering a comparably low-priced solution. Who knows?
Maybe years from now, when recordable DVD drives are standard-issue
in new computers, we'll all look back and say, "Apple made it