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Apple's Titanium PowerBook G4
Ultimately, performance is what the G4 will be judged on, and the specs are impressive. The system that I tested was a 500 MHz G4 with 256 MB of RAM. There is a built-in 56K modem, a 100Base-T Ethernet port, a FireWire port, two USB ports, an S-Video-out port, a VGA-out and an audio-out jack. The hard drive is an 18GB IDE drive, and the unit has a slot-loading DVD player. The battery supposedly has a life of five hours, but I have not gotten that out of it. It seems to go for three to four hours with normal use and close to three hours less with disk-intensive operations.
The bottom of the PowerBook gets very warm. It was uncomfortable to keep my hand under it for more than 30 seconds, so I had to put it on a table while I used it. I also noticed a high-pitched whine when the sound level was turned all the way up.
The PowerBook's pre-installed components include OS 9.1, iMovie 2, iTunes, QuickTime, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and FAXstf. I added Microsoft Office, Photoshop and Illustrator.
The first thing that I tested was the DVD-ROM player. One of the few areas where Apple has really lagged behind the competition has been in the area of DVD playback. I'm happy to say the new G4 laptop has closed the gap with its PC competitors. I was able to play DVD-R discs with full control over the navigation. The image quality of the DVD video looked good as well. When I quit, the movie quit. No crashes or strange error messages.
Next up was iMovie. This was my first exposure to the DV-editing program, and I was really wowed by it. It is simple to use and has enough features to make it useful while keeping the interface and tools easy to use.
iMovie's interface has three windows, a Shelf where clips are kept, the iMovie viewer where the video clips play, and the Clip viewer where the clips are sequenced.
When a new project is created, iMovie automatically creates a folder for the project and, in that folder, it creates the project file along with a folder called Media, where the captured media is stored.
Clips are captured into the Shelf from the DV device. The DV device is controlled from the viewer, where the output from the DV device can be seen on screen during viewing or capture.
The clips appear as icons in the Shelf. Along the bottom of the shelf are tabs for selecting transitions, titles effects and audio. Each of these tabs opens a work area for the selected feature.
Clips are dragged from the shelf onto the Clip viewer window. Here, the clips can be arranged in any playback order. Clicking the play button in the iMovie viewer starts real-time playback of the clips in the Clip viewer.
Once the clips are arranged in the Clip viewer, the user can select the timeline mode icon on the Clip viewer window, and it becomes an editing timeline that contains one video track and two audio tracks. In fact, the timeline can support three audio tracks, because audio and video are interleaved in the video clip and the timeline has two audio tracks.
The six basic transitions include a dissolve and several wipe options. As soon as a transition is dropped between two clips, it can be previewed at a non-real-time speed; however, the transition starts building immediately. As the user continues working on other areas of the project, the transition builds to completion. The render time for the transitions is extremely fast-perhaps 2X real time.
Title lets users to create simple titles with two lines. The titles can be animated with a variety of presets, and the rendering time is fast.
The effects are few, but they are very nice. Sepia tone, blur and water ripple are just three of the seven effects included. They can be previewed prior to being applied and, once they are, the results can be seen in less than real-time. Rendering is automatic and fast.
Audio recording within iMovie is just plain cool. The Audio tab at the bottom of the Shelf opens a work area with three different options. There is library of sound effects, each of which can be dragged to the timeline. A Record Audio button can be selected for the user to record his or her own narration. The internal microphone on the laptop does a nice job of picking up voices. The user simply clicks the Record Voice button and starts talking. The narration appears in the audio track as a yellow bar that begins where the play head is located and expands to the right as the track is recorded.
Music can be recorded from an audio CD using the Record Music button. The audio tracks appear in numerical order in the Record Music window. The user selects a track and listens to it play as it is recorded to the timeline as a purple bar. Different color bars make it simple to tell voice tracks from music tracks.
I took the PowerBook for a spin at a local park. I shot some video with my DV camera and then edited the clips together. I recorded a narration track and added a few sound effects. Within a very short period of time the project was completed with titles, narration, transitions and a music track.
Web site: www.apple.com
I can see many uses for G4 PowerBooks with iMovie in a variety of professional situations. Producers of documentaries, marketing presentations, sales presentations, product demos, Web-based movies and event videography could use iMovie to produce effective content.
Matt Payne is the founder of Payne Media, a Seattle company that creates graphics, animation and special effects for print, multimedia, corporate video and broadcast television.
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