Apple iLife

Apple ComputerOne of the buzzwords of the technology movement over the past couple of years has been ‘convergence’.

It was a couple of years ago now that tech-savvy marketing geeks first waxed lyrical about Web TV — you know, you’re watching Sex in the City and you just loooove those shoes Carrie is wearing, so you simply click on them with your WebTV remote and order them with your credit card through Amazon.

It’s happened with small technologies that are already mainstream — like mobile ringtones, but a lot of the technologies media convergence promised are a long way off. Digital TV has become a pretty hot consumer item, but even now it’s hardly lighting the economy on fire — most of us are watching the same 20-inch sets we bought in the early 90s.

One area where convergence has become commonplace and successful is software, and as usual, Apple and the other creative marketing technology suppliers led the charge.

Adobe is one of the best-known examples. Recognising that publishing or design professionals use more or less the same group of software tools, Adobe spent the better part of ten years making them work together better, so it made sense to offer them all in the same package — which it did with Creative Suite, bringing InDesign, Photoshop, Acrobat, GoLive and Illustrator together.

And following Apple’s self-styled revolution to bring your digital photos, video and music together, the components they created to do so have been a part of the operating system for a couple of years, and more recently with iLife. Now they bring us iLife ’05.

Simply put, iLife is a blanket term for the collection of Apple’s basic-level media tools together in one place. You need a rudimentary knowledge of how to edit using a timeline to get the most out of it; iMovie and GarageBand are the video and music editing applications respectively, and if your knowledge of media on the Apple Mac doesn’t go much further than playing songs through iTunes (and have little need for publishing photography or video clips), it’s not really for you.

But if you want to get into those areas, that’s where iLife exceeds. It’s the best place to start learning about creating and mixing music, editing video or designing and producing DVDs as everything is drag-and-drop easy.

It assumes a lot of prior knowledge and doesn’t come with much documentation, so if you’re coming to iLife 05 completely cold you’ll need to do a little homework and a lot of playing around before you’re proficient.

Aside from the editing and creative applications, iPhoto is very similar to iTunes (the most recent version of which comes with iLife 05). It lists all your files in whatever order you like and in separate lists (albums), giving you a handful of tools to rate and identify them.

Like iTunes, the application does the work for you — you just drop all the picture files on your hard disk into the application and organise them there, rather than putting them in folders within folders in the Finder.

There’s a lot of potential in both iPhoto and iTunes but sadly much of that potential is wasted here in Australia. In the case of iTunes, the much talked about music store is almost two years old in the US and Europe and a release date for Australia still hasn’t been mentioned.

iPhoto also has what promises to be some great features, but they both have conditions. Click on the ‘book’ button and iPhoto can design a book of your album(s), and send it over the web whereupon Apple will produce a printed version of your work. Unfortunately, it’s a feature that seems to be available everywhere except Australia too.

There’s also a great-looking feature in iPhoto that helps you publish your albums straight onto a website, but you can only access it with a USD$99 per year membership to .Mac.

Despite these shortcomings however, each component blends with the others well, so at the very least it takes the headache of incompatible files out of the equation.

So for a good introduction into several area of media management, iLife is great value for money for beginner tools (you’ll no doubt get addicted and then be pining after Final Cut Pro or DVD Studio Pro, desires Apple are probably very happy to encourage).

iLife requires Mac OS X v10.3.4 or later, QuickTime 6.5.2 or later, a Macintosh computer with PowerPC G3 (400 MHz or faster), G4, or G5 processor, 256MB or more physical RAM (512MB recommended) and a 1024×768 or larger display.A 600 MHz G3 processor or faster is required for GarageBand. A G4 or G5 processor is required for GarageBand software instruments and advanced iPhoto editing.

An Apple SuperDrive or 733 MHz G4 processor is required for iDVD and a compatible SuperDrive is required to burn DVDs. High definition video requires Mac OS X v10.3.6, a 1 GHz G4 processor or faster, and 512 MB of RAM.

RAW requires Mac OS X v10.3.6 and a supported RAW compatible camera.

$119 inc GST each (RRP). Available through the Apple Store and Apple Authorised Resellers.