Apple SuperDrive and iDVD
The DVD authoring revolution has arrived

by Paulo de Andrade





As a video producer I have been anticipating for some time an explosion in demand for DVD-based presentations. This holiday season DVD players reached a sales volume that made them the hottest selling consumer item yet, with an estimated 13 million units sold. And that number is growing at an amazing pace. Now that DVD has become a popular format, clients will most likely start to demand that their presentations be delivered on this format.

Video professionals know that authoring DVDs has been a very painful and expensive procedure. First you must encode the video material into MPEG 2, a process that is very time consuming if you expect to get the best quality out of a player. Good software encoding can take as long as as 25 times real time, meaning that encoding a 30-minute presentation can take 12.5 hours and a two-hour presentation as much as 50 hours. Then there's the authoring process, which can also take a very long time. Creating graphics and organizing the menus and overall structure of the presentation is no easy task with most tools, and good authoring software can be quite expensive. Next comes the burning part itself. DVD burners that are compatible with regular DVD players cost just under $4,000.

What Apple announced today will change all this. Bundled with their new 733MHz G4 Macs is a breakthrough device called the SuperDrive. Not only does it play back DVDs and CD ROMs but is is also a CD-RW drive and --surprise-- a fully compatible DVD burner! Most exciting of all, the 733MHz G4s with the SuperDrive cost only $3,499. That's like getting the fastest G4 Mac ever for free, an awesome authoring machine for any type of content. To make things more interesting, Apple has solved the MPEG 2 compression issue as well, dropping the compression time to just two times real time. So, instead of having to wait 12.5 hours for a 30-minute video to encod
e, you wait just an hour. Quite a time saver, huh?

But what about authoring? That's solved, too. Apple is also releasing iDVD, a very easy to use and capable authoring program that enables you to put together a DVD in very little time. By dragging and dropping images and stills on to the screen and selecting from a number of templates, one can author a basic DVD with menus and submenus in a matter of minutes. Plus, the templates can be easily customized to suit individual projects. Best of all, iDVD comes free with the SuperDrive.

With these amazing tools at your disposal,
a client can walk into your facility and go out with a finished DVD just a couple of hours later. And the cost to do all this is actually less than just that of a DVD burner up to this point. Those who need massive authoring power can purchase Apple's new DVD Studio Pro software for just $995, with features rivaling those of professional DVD authoring tools costing several times as much.

I can see a lot of people starting small companies based around the new 733MHz G4 Mac with the SuperDrive. For $3,499 you get an amazingly fast computer that runs faster than a Pentium 4 PC and comes with 256MB of RAM. And you can burn DVDs on it at no extra cost. Add Final Cut Pro for $995 and you can edit videos professionally, too. With the built-in firewire and a three-chip DV camcorder (under $4,000) you can have a basic production facility that delivers high-quality DVD-based content for under $10,000! To sweeten up the deal, Apple is selling packages of five blank DVDs for under $50.

Combining the power of nonlinear editing, the affordable quality of DV and the high-quality, low-cost delivery format of DVD into a single machine was a very smart idea that should place the Mac in a very special position with video professionals. Although Steve Jobs said that the new G4s are evolutionary, I'd say that they are in fact revolutionary.

For more information, please check our "More on Apple's SuperDrive, iDVD and DVD Studio Pro" story.

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