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Review: iMac DV SE
By Mike
Review date: 10/27/1999
Software Bundle
Intro | Apps/Game Performance | Benchmarks | Software Bundle | DVD/Movies | Specs | Summary
Software Included with the iMac DV SE

Software included with the iMac DV SE (pre-installed unless otherwise noted):
  • MacOS 8.6 (new builds may come with OS 9 now)
  • Quicktime 4
  • DVD player (beta version)
  • iMovie to create your own movies (with firewire DV support)
  • Appleworks 5 (word processing, graphics and illustration, spreadsheet, charting/graphing, presentations and database capabilities
  • Quicken Deluxe 98 (not preloaded)
  • A Bug's Life DVD movie
  • Bugdom game
  • KidPix Deluxe (image editor for children - not preloaded)
  • World Book Encyclopedia 1.0 (not preloaded - 2 CDs)
  • Adobe Pagemill 3.0 HTML editor (not preloaded)
  • Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator Browsers
  • Outlook Express Email client
  • AOL 4.0 and free 30 day EarthLink TotalAccess internet service offer.
  • CD set includes a Software Restore CD

The iMac DV has the best software bundle of any Mac model I've seen to date.

About iMovie: Although I have never used Final Cut Pro (which iMovie's interface is based on), within minutes I was capturing video from my Panasonic PV-DV910 Firewire equipped camcorder. Truly plug and play. Apple even includes a Firewire cable - a nice touch. (Apple's web page said the free Firewire cable is for a limited time only). Adding titles, audio and transitions were very intuitive compared to Adobe Premiere (my usual editor). Of course Premiere can do things iMovie can't - but for a home video enthusiast with a Firewire interface camcorder, iMovie is a great addition.


Importing QT Movies: It's important to note that in order to import Quicktime movies into iMovie, you must first convert them to DV streams according to this Apple TIL. I used the Quicktime 4 Pro ($29.95 upgrade) export feature to do this, creating a 161MB DV file from a sample Quicktime movie I had made in Premiere for the Fuse review last year. You must follow the directions in the Apple TIL exactly for this to work - "Move the newly saved DV movie into the Media folder of your project." before you launch iMovie. You'll then be prompted that a clip was found and allowed to import the movie.

I originally saved the converted DV file into a 'Movies' folder inside the iMovie 'Resources' folder and the File menu import option didn't show any files in the import dialog box for that directory. I'd like to see a revision to iMovie to eliminate this restriction, but it's a minor nit really.

Other Video Input Options: For those without Firewire Camcorders, a low-cost ($99 list) option for video input (320x240 movies, up to 640x480 stills) from literally any Camcorder/VCR is XLR8's Interview USB capture device. It even comes with a full version of Videoshop for making your own Quicktime movies. The Interview works with any Mac with a USB port or USB PCI Card.


I also wanted to note that I had no problems at all printing to video direct to my Panasonic PV-DV910 Firewire Camcorder - no need to use any of the workarounds noted on the iMovie pages. 100% plug and play.


Update: After this review was posted I received this mail from another DV/iMovie user on audio modulation issues during DV capture:

"Hi, Mike:
...Just thought you might be interested to know that several Mac sites (as well as Apple's own iMac Discussion Forum) have reported problems with the audio of imported DV material when using iMovie.

I've personally experienced this overmodulated audio issue on both of my iMac DVs (OS 9/128MB/VM off) every time that I've used iMovie. Just for the record, Final Cut Pro does not exhibit this problem on either of those machines (when running OS 8.6).

I've tried four different DV camcorders including our new Sony DCR-TRV8. All results have been the same: iMovie introduces audio distortion during the digitizing process.

If one uses the iMovie controller merely to drive the camera, audio remains clean. The overmodulation ONLY occurs when one imports DV video. It makes no difference if the camcorder records or plays back in 12 or 16-bit mode.

iMovie overmodulates 'peak' signals creating distortion not found on the source material... always in the same place, always forever embedded into the track. The only 'solution' I've found is to digitize the audio portion of the DV tape using a sound manipulation application and to 'drop' (import) that AIFF track into the iMovie document. Not exactly an elegant fix.

As iMovie affords users the flexibility to regulate few parameters (certainly not sound input levels), there is no evident method currently available to circumvent the situation - beyond a patch from Apple.

I bought the Grape DV and Special Edition DV for the sole purpose(s) of my wife using iMovie in the classroom with her students. Final Cut pro is a bit beyond most 3rd graders, I would think -- and it doesn't get along very well with OS 9, either.
Best Wishes,
Huck C.

[He later replied to my comments that I've not seen this here so far with my PV-DV910]

Try a burst or two of louder audio... such as a yell or laugh. It's that kind of 'peak' signal that seems to generate the distortion. The camcorder handles the louder moments but iMovie doesn't. The audible 'crash' is identical to that heard when a DAT machine is overloaded/overmodulated.

One of the cameras I borrowed and tried was a DV910. Weird, huh? "

Huck's latest mail summarizes his findings after more testing:

"Hi, Mike:
Last night I decided to exhaust every solution I could think of in an attempt to fix the iMovie audio distortion problem I (and many others, it would seem) are experiencing.

Here's what I discovered:

1. The version of the OS (9 or 8.6) makes no difference
2. VM off or on makes no difference
3. Base extensions set/any suitable set makes no difference
4. CD/DVD in drive makes no difference
5. AppleTalk on/off makes no difference
6. File Sharing on/off makes no difference
7. Any and all camera audio settings make no difference

The most important thing I did learn was that the distortion is evident at ALL times when the camera is connected via FireWire. If I just used the camera and its mic without any tape -- and monitored the image/sound via iMovie the distortion was present (I used headphones to avoid feedback.).

So, the problem has nothing to do with iMovie's digitizing process. If I connected the audio out of the camera to my Graphite iMac's audio in... the overmodulation was not evident. So, it appears to be a FireWire/iMovie problem.

Moreover, it seems to be a sound-specific problem. Normal speech (with louder moments) didn't seem to cause any trouble... but loud/sudden SIBILANT sounds are more than iMovie/FireWire can handle.

For example, if i open a bottle of club soda about three feet away from the camera's mic, there is no distortion when monitoring the sound via the camera's headphone output. However, if I listen at the iMac, the audio overmodulates.

Thus far, I have been unable to lower the level of the audio that is outputted via FireWire on any camcorder that I own or have been able to borrow. I can adjust the "normal" mini-jack output level... but, as I said, there isn't any distortion to my DV iMacs using that method at ANY volume.

To complicate matters, I tried recording portions of a TV broadcast on my Sony DV... and imported/edited/exported the information with no problems whatsoever. I've got to think that broadcast television is pretty darn loud. I wonder why there isn't any problem? Weird.

Oh well, maybe Sony can advise me on how to lower/adjust the level of the on-camera mic.
Thanks for your help!
Huck
"

My test movie was an outdoor shot and a noisy museum shot (NY) - both noisy with poor audio quality to begin with (wind noise, crowds etc.) but after this report I retested with an indoor shot with moderate audio (voice) and didn't notice any clipping or audio problems (at least with the iMac's speaker volume at normal levels). I printed the movie back to the camera and to a Quicktime movie (web size, 22KHz audio) and did not see any clipping issues on either one. Granted there were no shouting or extremely high audio levels on my source tape. If this is a common issue with others, hopefully there will be an iMovie update to address this but so far in my home movie tests I've not seen any real problems.

To learn more about iMovie, visit the Apple iMovie web site.

Overall I'd have to rate the iMac DV's software bundle a 10. It has a wide selection of software for most every home computing need and interest.


The next page of the review covers DVD and Movie playback performance.


Index of iMac DV SE Review

Intro | Apps/Game Performance | Benchmarks | Software Bundle | DVD/Movies | Specs | Summary

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