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iApp Power Play

by Derrick Story

Author's note: The so-called media iApps--iMovie, iPhoto, and iTunes--actually form an ad hoc IDE (integrated development environment) for creating digital content. You probably didn't realize this because Apple's marketing focus to consumers is simplicity, not integrated environments. But there's certainly more to the iApps than initially meets the eye.

In this article I'll show you how these components work together by taking an iPhoto slideshow and making it a full fledged video presentation. To work with today's example, all you need is a decent digital camera, a stack of music CDs, and Mac OS X.

Using Just One Leg of a Three-Legged Stool

During a recent iPhoto workshop I learned that many of the participants hadn't opened iMovie or played much with iTunes. When I asked, "Why not?" I heard responses such as, "I don't own a DV camcorder or an iPod, so why would I need those apps?"

I realized that many creative people have been influenced by Apple's consumer marketing that aims to keep things simple in order to appeal to the greatest number of potential customers. But the iApps are better than that. Beneath their tantalizing GUI lurks powerful tools capable of producing professional quality media, especially when used as a group. So let's take a look at how to get some serious work done with this trio of digital media programs.

Get Your Toolbox in Order

If you don't have Jaguar yet (10.2), that's job #1. You need all the performance you can get when working with digital media, and Jaguar is the best Apple has to offer.

Next, make sure you have iMovie, iTunes, and iPhoto accessible because you'll be opening them a lot. I keep them on the Dock. Put them wherever you want, but make sure they're easy to get to.

If you haven't upgraded to QuickTime Pro, version 6, now's the time to do it. The player version is fine for playback, but you'll need the pro tools to do serious work. And for $29.95, it's not a bad deal, especially since the iApps come bundled with the operating system.

Related Reading

iMovie 2: The Missing Manual
By David Pogue

Finally, you might want to grab a couple enhancement applications to expand the capabilities of the media iApps. Here are my favorites:

  • BBEdit (lite version 6.1 is free) -- Serious Mac power users typically have the pro version of this versatile text editor. If you haven't snagged your own copy yet, you can use the free version until you're ready to upgrade. This tool is necessary for editing code for tasks such as embedding QuickTime movies into Web pages.

  • PixelNhance image editor (free) -- It's like the folks at Caffeine Software looked at iPhoto and created an application to fill its gaps. You'll need this freebie for sharpening, color adjusting, and levels control (that is until iPhoto 2.0 hits the scene).

  • iPhoto Library Manager (free) -- Enables you to create multiple iPhoto libraries, store them on hard drives, then switch between them as necessary. Gives iPhoto the flexibility you need for managing thousands of pictures without bogging down the application.

  • CDFinder (shareware) -- This nifty application allows you to catalog the archive CDs and external drives where your collection of iPhoto libraries and other media reside. If you can't remember in which iPhoto library the NY Times Square images reside, CDFinder will help you locate them.

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