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Talkin' Smack: Mac Theater

The missing piece of the creative process is starting to come together By Dave Nagel
Response to my last column shows that Mac users certainly have not stopped believing that we live in an amazing period in the history of technology. And, although we sometimes have differences of opinion with the mother ship and qualms with the mother ship's chip maker, rarely does a day pass when we fail to recognize what an amazing thing Apple has done for us in making the desktop computer a reality and in doing it so right.

Of course, during the Interjobsnium (otherwise known as the Dark Ages), there were some pretty major blunders. We had the IIvx and IIvi, the entire Performa line, the fire-breathing PowerBooks, the dyslexic Newton and, worst of all, that ad campaign that touted above all else the Mac's ability to emulate Windows. But those days are gone, and now the Mac is once again dictating what a computer should be, with a particularly clear focus and the dominating technologies in the creative arena?audio, video and graphic design in print and on the Web.

We're on the verge of a couple more technological revolutions here as well. One of these, DVD authoring, is quite well known by now. The price is still high, but the promise of the Mac as a beginning to end video capture, editing and output system is rapidly becoming much more ... uh ... factual. There are now several DVD-R drives at the $999 price point, all of which are designed to cooperate with Mac hardware and software. And the prices of all digital devices are coming down.

And that's all nice and important and everything. But what I've been drooling about lately are technologies not typically associated with the Mac and usually targeted to a very limited market, namely presentations?you know, Microsoft PowerPoint and all that. Now, I couldn't care less about Microsoft or PowerPoint or making bar charts to show off my division's performance at the quarterly company meeting. What I do care about are the devices these presentation folk get to use to show off how well their divisions are doing.

We don't usually pay attention to the goings on of this market. But as we sit here squawking about capturing and editing video and, more recently, burning it onto a DVD, we haven't been paying much attention to how we ultimately view our work. And this is where the presentation market has left the rest of us in the dust.

What's the best display you've seen running on the Mac? The Apple Cinema Display? Man, I wouldn't waste my time. Sure, it's pretty and everything, and the picture's real nice, but it's too tiny. So what about those big plasma displays? No way. First of all, the picture is garbage. Second, they're incredibly expensive. Third, you can't exactly bring them around with you, since they weigh about a million pounds. And, fourth, they're still too tiny for me.

See, I've had a taste of what displays should be, and, for me, there's no going back. The answer is a digital projector. Imagine working on your Mac on a 156-inch screen (or larger). Or previewing your video work. Or watching DVDs. Or playing Unreal Tournament. I've done it. In fact, I've even installed one of those huge pulldown screens in my house.

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