I spent part of my vacation last week on recording the big event on video and digital camera. Last year, I compiled everyone’s digital photos on to a CD and printed a few group shots — one for each family. This year, now armed with a Mac, I thought it would be fun to outdo last year by producing a DVD.
It actually wasn’t that hard. The project probably cost about 20 hours worth of work (not including video recording or snapping photos), and at least 10 of those hours were spent trying to learn how to get iMovie, iDVD, and iPhoto all to play nice with the new external LaCie DVD burner I bought literally the night before we left. Little alarms were going off in the back of my mind because of all the untested technology, but I thought, “hey, it’s Apple — it’ll work fine.” To my relief, I was mostly right.
Loading up the photos into iPhoto and generating slide shows was pretty easy, stuff I’d done before. I essentially took everyone’s digital cameras and their connecting cables and connected them to the Mac. Every camera (at least three different brands and an external card reader) loaded flawlessly. Sweet. What took a lot of unexpected time was exporting them to iDVD. It’s simple enough (two clicks in iPhoto), but the export process can take 15 minutes for a 5 minute slideshow. And don’t think you’re going to get much multitasking done during that time, either, or you’ll chew up even more time. Still, for five slideshows encompassing 400 or so photos, I thought 2-3 hours wasn’t an unreasonable amount of time.
I also expected movie editing to take up a lot of time, but, actually, importing the video out of the camera was very time-consuming. As far as I know, iMovie will only import at 1:1 — meaning, for every minute of video you record, you’re going to spend another minute importing that video into the computer. Had I known this, I would have made an effort to import the day’s video each night, rather than trying to import 3 or so hours of video in one night. Once the video was imported, editing and transitions and deciding what was garbage was easy, provided I had enough hard drive space. I found that I needed to hook up an exteral drive in order to help with the demand. The DVD project was a good 10-15 GB of raw files. I actually had an older CD ROM enclosure and a 40 GB hard drive around, so I used those which, again, the Mac recognized without a problem. Nice.
Building the DVD in iDVD was too simple, and the menu templates helped a lot. I actually used scenery shots from our photos for the backgrounds, which looked great (after I touched up the color in iPhoto), and adding in menu music was as easy as dragging and dropping the song onto the screen. The end product didn’t feel too templated. I did manage to kill some crucial files in the project at times, though, thinking that I could save some hard drive space. Bad idea. Apparently, iDVD doesn’t duplicate your video into a project file. The iDVD project files are actually relatively small — maybe 300 MB — and probably contain pointers to the actual movie files. Only when it creates the image file or burns the DVD does it actually duplicate your project files. That cost me quite a few hours of having to re-import video or rebuild slideshows. Whoops.
Burning the DVD was easy, but not easy enough. iDVD ’05 reportedly “will burn to an external drive”:http://dvd.kentidwell.com/?page_id=79#external_writer, but I found that, even with “this hack”:http://homepage.mac.com/geerlingguy/mac_support/mac_help/pages/00152-burn_idvd_5.html, I still wasn’t able to get DVDs to burn without generating errors. I eventually ended up using iDVD to create an image file on the desktop — something you really want to let run overnight as it can take several hours — and then using Roxio Toast to burn the thing to a disc, which took all of six minutes per disc.
Ever since I saw ??Steve Jobs?? present the iDVD ’05 at MacWorld and claim with his usual panache, “You can *do* this stuff,” I wanted to take him up on it. Turns out, he’s right. I could totally see myself making DVDs of big, momentous occasions again real soon.