Apple Shows Off DVD Software in the Big Apple
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 a 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 omniwriting SuperDrive, as well
as its 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
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 project, 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 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 happen.”
—Stephen Clark Jr.
CES and MacWorld Converge on Desktop DVD--Commentary
by Jeff Sauer
During the first week of January each
year, two different trade shows—the Consumer Electronics Show
and MacWorld—open their doors to seemingly quite different crowds.
However, this year the two shows crossed paths with some exciting
news for DVD creation and, ultimately, the DVD industry.
First, at CES—although it was hidden away
in the 1394/FireWire technology pavilion rather than a bold company
booth—Compaq demonstrated a newly announced bundle that will create
a complete home video DVD authoring station. The MyMovieSTUDIO
Presario 7000 will feature Intel Pentium 4 processors (starting
at 1.3gHz) and will include Pinnacle System’s StudioDV video editing
software with FireWire capture card, Sonic Solution’s DVDit! DVD
authoring software, and Pioneer’s new DVR-103 DVD-R/CD-RW burner.
While each of these products will be available
individually, Compaq is going beyond a simple boxing of parts.
Naturally, Compaq will include complete manuals for each separate
software package, but also wisely plans to include a unified QuickStart
manual that walks the user through the complete process of moving
video from the camcorder to a DVD disc. It will show how to capture
and edit video in StudioDV, teach how the resulting file can be
converted to MPEG video and authored with DVDit!, then burned
to DVD disc image in the Pioneer drive to create a disc that will
play in consumer DVD players. Best of all, Compaq’s price for
an entire system starts at $2,399, lower than the price of the
components sold separately.
At his opening keynote to the MacWorld
faithful just a few days later, Steve Jobs announced that in an
“industry first,” Apple would be bundling the same Pioneer drive
in the top 733mHz version of its new G4 computer. Jobs calls it
the Apple “SuperDrive” for its ability to create both DVD-R, CD-R,
and CD-RW discs, but it’s the same Pioneer DVR-103 announced by
Compaq for its Presario. An anonymous Apple public relations representative
rationalized that the “industry first” was that Apple hadn’t ever
bundled such a drive before; however, competing speculation suggests
that Apple’s anticipated February release would beat Compaq’s
March release to market. Apple’s configured price will be $3,499.
Yet, Steve Jobs is never one to let a
few details stand in the way of a good line, and in this case
neither should we. What Apple and Compaq are doing is really quite
extraordinary for DVD creation and adoption. Compaq has assembled
independent parts while Apple has built and bundled native Mac
applications, integrated with the operating systems. Apple has
also gone one step further by offering certified blank DVD media
to consumers for just $10 each.
For Apple, the video capturing and editing
software piece will be either its very popular consumer iMovie
II or the professional Final Cut Pro, both existing tools. The
DVD authoring solution, however, is brand new. iDVD is a direct
result of Apple’s acquisition of Astarte, former makers of DVDirector,
last spring and pairs Astarte’s significant DVD expertise with
Apple’s interface design skills. The result is a very straightforward,
drag-and-drop interface targeting home video users, but with a
very powerful DVD engine in the background. Unfortunately, at
this initial release, iDVD will be bundled free with the SuperDrive-enabled
G4 733mHz but not available for separate download or purchase.
However, that will likely change over time.
Even better for professionals, Apple hasn’t
restricted Astarte’s engineers to lowest common denominator authoring
tools, and has announced DVD Studio Pro ($995), the effective
rebirth of Astarte’s DVDirector for Macintosh. Combined with Final
Cut Pro and the SuperDrive burner, DVD Studio Pro completes a
sub-$5,500 professional DVD authoring system that includes Apple’s
most powerful desktop computer.
Ultimately, you can take your pick of
Windows or Mac. With these announcements and Pioneer’s new affordable
burner, both Compaq and Apple are reaching something of a perceived
Holy Grail of the home video market and are opening the door to
personal DVD creation. There’s no question of the success of DVD
players in this country for movie rentals, but home DVD burning
and distribution of personal video have the potential to exponentially
increase the use of the format, both at home and in business.
The Driver’s House Rules: Putting the Brakes on
As almost anyone who undertakes a daily
drive to work will tell you, drivers that chat away on a wireless
phone while attempting to navigate the ever-chaotic roads are
annoying, to say the least. One can only imagine the reaction
to a driver that, while cruising down a turnpike, can’t seem to
keep his eyes from the dash-mounted LCD DVD player as the passenger
watches The Matrix.
Sounds like traffic’s worst nightmare?
Well, as automobile-mounted DVD players are beginning to hit the
mainstream, this could soon become a reality. Fortunately, the
Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has expressed concern regarding
the safe installation and use of video devices in automobiles.
The CEA has issued guidelines that state if an LCD panel or video
monitor is used in an automobile for the viewing of television
or video—including DVD—then it should only be used when the vehicle
is in “park” or when the parking brake is set. The other option
they offer is to mount the monitor where it is not in view of
the driver, but solely for rear-seat entertainment, which would
be permissible to use when the vehicle is moving. The CEA maintains
that operating devices used for navigation, observation, or system
control would also be permissible while driving.
Although the exact percentage of consumers
who prefer to watch a DVD from a bucket seat as opposed to a Lazy
Boy recliner is not available, it seems unlikely that we’ll see
many drivers watching DVDs in their driveways (unless they really
miss those bygone drive-in movie days). But the CEA insists that
that’s the only way to go. What’s more, many manufacturers have
expressed safety concerns similar to the CEA’s, and therefore
include instructions and warnings with the devices they sell.
Eclipse (by Fujitsu Ten), for one, has incorporated a number of
safety measures into its video devices. According to Sheryll Siazon
of Eclipse, “No moving picture, movies, and animation, are displayed
in the driver’s viewing area.” Eclipse has also included a mechanism
that is connected to the vehicle’s parking brake, and will prohibit
the DVD device (if located in the front of the vehicle) from being
used unless the brake is applied.
Panasonic has launched its first in-dash
DVD Audio/Video player, the CQ-DVR909U, with the following warning:
This unit must not be installed where
the video monitor is visible to the driver to avoid risk of serious
injury or possible violation of laws. The driver must not operate
the color LCD monitor and/or watch videos while driving. Operating
the color LCD monitor and/or watching movies while driving may
lead to carelessness and cause an accident. Keep the unit at an
appropriate sound level. Driving with the sound at a level that
prevents you from hearing sounds outside and around the vehicle
may cause an accident.
Andy Marken, president of Marken Communications,
a PR firm representing clients including Panasonic, sees where
the CEA is coming from. “I have a GPS display system in my new
car and I personally find it most distracting,” says Marken. “Maybe
I can’t multitask enough, but I find it difficult to watch the
screen and drive responsibly on city streets.”
In the quest to reduce distraction and
increase safety, Panasonic, as well as a number of other manufacturers
of DVD video devices, offers headphones for the rear-seat occupants
and a separate sound system allowing front-seat passengers to
listen to the radio.
Most monitors are mounted on the ceiling
of the car, and the units either fold down or are stationary screens.
Questions have arisen regarding the distraction level to other
drivers on the road, and some car manufacturers have taken the
whole safety issue to new extremes.
Mercedes-Benz locates viewing monitors
in the back of the front-seat headrests, allowing rear-seat passengers
to view films comfortably but decreasing distraction to other
drivers. The company’s S55 AMG Advanced Mobile Media, however,
is a car so packed with technology that a techno-savvy professional
may never need to set foot in the office again. From the comfort
of the driver’s seat, one can send faxes, make telephone calls,
email, surf the Internet on a built-in PC, and hold video conferences
via a small camera in the PC workstation.
Other cars including the Nissan Quest
Minivan, the Oldsmobile Profile Sports Sedan, and the Buick Regal
Cielo concept car offer a DVD-Video player as a factory-installed
add-on option, and it is standard with the Volvo S80 Executive
Package. The move to include DVD seems justified as sales of mobile
DVD video devices continue to rise. According to Alpine marketing
vice president Stephen Witt, an estimated 50,000 units of Alpine’s
car DVD player were sold in 2000 and that number is expected to
jump to 250,000 in 2001.
Competition among DVD-Video makers is
increasing as well. Pioneer, Clarion, Eclipse, Audiovox, Accele,
Panasonic, and Alpine have joined the ranks of vendors offering
DVD-Video players for the car. Kenwood is expected to ship two
models in early 2001, and Blaupunkt and Sherwood are also considering
releasing units of their own. Visteon Corporation has announced
plans to work in conjunction with General Motors Corporation to
offer the first family of vehicles featuring DVD rear-seat entertainment
systems. Visteon expects these units to be available in early
The growth of the vendor pool and the
dramatic price drops of portable DVD and DLP displays suggest
that dash-mounted DVDs may become standard equipment in the years
to come. However wise the suggestions of the CEA for limiting
the use of that equipment, though, it seems that any practical
restrictions will have to be targeted at manufacturers, as it
is unlikely that simple recommendations will suffice to regulate
consumer activities in the seemingly inviolable refuge of the