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iApp Power Play
Pages: 1, 2, 3

How the iApps Can Work Together

Now it's time to look at how the iApps can work together. First, let's explore the two database applications: iTunes and iPhoto. This is where your music and still images are stored and organized. You can tap these databases from other applications or through the Finder. If you configure them properly, then you can easily find the content you're looking for when outside the cozy confines of the application interface.

What do I mean by this? Let's say you want to find a song in iTunes to accompany a slideshow (like we're going to do later in this article). If all of your songs in iTunes have their database records completed (artist, album, song, etc), then you'll be able to quickly find what you're looking for when searching your music DB via iPhoto (yes, iPhoto can 'talk" to iTunes) or when looking for a particular tune via the Finder. If you haven't completed those iTunes records, then all you'll see is unknown artist and Track 01 -- not much help. More on this later.

Now I'm assuming that you have data in iTunes and iPhoto. If you haven't used these two programs much, go upload some pictures and rip a few CDs so you have media in there to play with. You'll be surprised at how often you'll tap this information after it's in there.

Related Reading

iPhoto: The Missing Manual
By David Pogue, Joseph Schorr, Derrick Story

Once you have content in your databases, then you can use QuickTime Pro, iMovie 2, and BBEdit to assemble and enhance your media. The basic process looks like this:

  • Upload music and images into the database apps (iPhoto and iTunes).

  • Organize the content and make sure the database records that accompany the media are accurate.

  • Output raw content from the databases.

  • Assemble and enhance the raw content with iMovie, QT Pro, and BBEdit.

  • Share finished product with coworkers, clients, friends, and family.

Obviously there are many variations on this theme of "iApps working together." If you're shooting digital video, for example, you may think you never have to leave the iMovie environment. But what if you want to import still images into your movie (iPhoto)? How about adding music (iTunes)? Why continue to shuffle through music CDs when you have your entire library sitting there in iTunes? Once you understand the iApp relationships, you'll find that you can create better productions in less time regardless of which medium you're primarily working in.

To work with today's example, you'll need a decent digital camera and some good music on a CD. We're going to build a better slideshow. iPhoto enables you to export pictures and music to QuickTime, but the final product is a little rough around the edges. By enhancing the core slideshow with iMovie, iTunes, and QT Pro, you can transform your humble iPhoto slideshow into a polished presentation.

After a few minutes of work, you'll see how the iApps function as a full-fledged development environment. This is only one scenario. There are many other exciting ways to use these tools.

So, let's start by digging in to the two database applications: iTunes and iPhoto.

iTunes

I probably don't have to say this, but you need to have a good variety of music in your iTunes library. So take a stack of your favorite CDs and rip them. Before doing so, however, remember two things:

  • Encode at 192 kbps to capture as much fidelity as possible. You can always sample down specific tracks later if you need to reduce their size. But in terms of file size, music tracks are actually relatively small compared to video and images. There's no need to scrimp on sound quality unless you're serving on the Web, which is a different animal all together.

  • Connect to the Internet before ripping. Prior to encoding your CD tracks, go to the Advanced menu and select "Get CD Track Names." By doing so you'll populate all the vital data fields associated with your music including song title, artist, and album. Remember, iTunes is your music database. If you're to use it efficiently, you need to have your records properly filled out. This is the easiest way to do that. You'll see how this plays out soon.

Screen shot.
When you first load a CD in iTunes, you only see the most basic data, such as Track 01. If you were to rip the music at this point, you wouldn't have much data to accompany the MP3 files, which makes it difficult to use them outside of iTunes later on.


Screen shot.
If you're online, you can access the CDDB resource to automatically populate the important fields in your songs' database records.


Screen shot.
Now, after accessing the CDDB, you have much richer song records. iTunes will use this information to build a logical folder structure on your hard drive (as long as you have "Keep iTunes music folder organized" checked in the advanced preferences).


iPhoto

Now it's time to get your image database in order. As with iTunes for music, there are a few details to tend to when populating your database that will make your workflow smoother later on.

  • Capture your images at high quality and full resolution. I don't mess much with saving pictures in Tiff or Raw formats because they are unwieldy (even though the quality is great!), but I do recommend that you use the highest quality Jpeg settings. You want the best data possible in your iPhoto libraries because you never know how you're going to want to use that information up the road.

  • Check your camera's date and time settings to make sure they are correct. When you capture a picture, your camera also writes valuable metadata to the file header. But your settings have to be on target for this information to be accurate. For more information about the value of picture metadata, see my recent article.

  • Create descriptive custom albums in iPhoto to organize your various shoots. Every time you create one of these custom albums, iPhoto writes valuable data to your library file. This data makes it easy to search specific images across many libraries and will save you lots of time as your image collection grows. When you name your iPhoto albums, think in terms of keywords such as "Paris Vacation 2000," "Annie's Graduation 1999," and "Southwest Images 2002."

  • Keep your iPhoto libraries to 650 MBs or less. Use iPhoto Library Manager to switch among libraries as needed. By limiting the size of your libraries, iPhoto will perform better and you can easily archive your images to CD.

  • Add descriptive information to the Title and Comments fields. Again, the time you spend adding data to this image record will come back to you positively in the future when trying to find in which iPhoto library those images reside.

Screen shot.
iPhoto also lets you add valuable data to your digital content. The four key areas are: custom albums (e.g. Tues Uploads), Title, Date, and Comments. When you add information in these record fields, iPhoto stores it in the iPhoto Library with the image files. Now you can search for images across many iPhoto libraries using catalog apps such as CDFinder.

Working Example: Use iMovie and iTunes to Add Professional Touches to Your Still Images

One of the most powerful methods I have for presenting still images is the QuickTime slideshow. The pictures seem to come to life as they are organized by story line and accompanied by music. For example, in my photo business I now show these two-minute shows at the beginning of wedding appointments before I hand over the actual prints. The combination of pictures and music telling the story of their marriage makes a tremendous impact on clients, and the rest of the appointment always seems to go well.

But like everything else good in life, there's an art to making a persuasive presentation, whether it be for clients, coworkers, friends, or family. My best slideshows use iPhoto to create the core presentation, iTunes for the music, iMovie for the titles, and QuickTime Pro to stitch everything together.

I'm going to breeze through a couple techniques to give you a feel for how these apps can cooperate with each other. If you don't have experience working in iPhoto, iMovie, and Quicktime Pro, then refer to our tutorials in the Digital Photography and in the QuickTime and iMovie collections on Mac DevCenter. Also, check out the O'Reilly book sidebars in this article for Missing Manuals for iMovie and iPhoto, and for the Digital Photography Pocket Guide.

Pages: 1, 2, 3

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