Apple Releases iPhoto 8.1

iPhoto IconApple (s aapl) today released iPhoto 8.1, a free update to its consumer photo application. The update brings several new features for print products, including new themes and a larger book size. Consumers can now order “extra large” photo books, that start at $49.99 USD for a 13×10 hardcover.
This update for iPhoto also includes three new travel-related photo book themes: Old World Travel, Tropical Travel and Asian Travel. Each is based on the existing travel theme, but includes several unique backgrounds. Apple has also provided additional greeting card themes.
iPhoto 8.1 Themes
This free update is 161MB and can be downloaded automatically via Software Update or through Apple’s Support Downloads website.

Will Apple Ever Support Blu-ray?

Apple Blu-ray Disc

With the latest version of Final Cut Studio hot off the shelves, many are scratching their heads over what Apple’s (s aapl) take on the future of DVDs actually may be. DVD Studio Pro hasn’t received a major update since the 4.0 release at NAB 2005, and iDVD hasn’t been updated since 2007, so is the DVD dead?

Well, that conversation has come up plenty of times before, and it always seems like the pundits are waiting for the next version of Final Cut Studio or iLife before voicing their thoughts on whether DVD production is seeing its curtain call.
Many insist that optical discs are dying on the Mac. The supporting arguments are there. The Apple TV features no optical drive, and neither does the MacBook Air. Apple has referred to Blu-ray as “a bag of hurt” and hasn’t made any obvious plans to endorse the standard any further. The only mention of “next generation” technologies is some support for HD-DVDs in DVD Studio Pro (been there for ages) and limited Blu-ray support in the latest version of Compressor. Read More about Will Apple Ever Support Blu-ray?

First Look: iWeb ’09

iWeb

It’s been a heady few months. The updates to iWork ’09 and iLife ’09 have, for the most part, been as impressive and inspiring as we’ve come to expect from Apple (s aapl). I upgraded both suites the very second I could. I can’t tell you how much I love these products.

Except…iWeb ’09. (Liam looks to the ceiling, gathers his thoughts…tries not to get agitated.)

If you didn’t already know, iWeb is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) website authoring tool. It’s an end-to-end solution that makes it supremely easy to create a complete, sort-of-professional-looking website from scratch. Only, I have some issues with it. Where to begin…
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First Look: iPhoto ’09

I’ve spent several hours tinkering with Apple’s (s aapl) new iPhoto ’09 — part of the newly updated iLife ’09 suite of media applications — and I like what I’ve seen so far. The entire application is a strong step forward, and the exciting new features (facial recognition and geotagging) don’t disappoint. The following is a focused walkthrough of iPhoto ’09 and the interesting new features it boasts.

Faces

The most interesting (to me at least) of iPhoto’s new tricks is facial recognition. Immediately after firing-up the application, your library will be updated, and then analysis of all captured faces begins. The nearly two thousand photos in my library took around 30+ minutes to process. Once it was done, I named the members of my family and began training it for accuracy. After confirming about 20 photos for each person, the results were pretty accurate. I’d get an awful lot of utility from this feature in Aperture — fingers crossed that it comes sooner than later.

An unexpected side effect of Faces was an answer to the question my wife and I ask each other often — which one of us do our kids look like? It was interesting to see my oldest showing up, mingled amongst images of me, and our middle mixed in with photos of my wife — we always considered it the other way around. I’m no expert on how the face-matching algorithm works, but its accuracy is enough that I trust its take on the question.
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First Look: iMovie ’09

iMovie icon

iMovie ’08 was not considered one of Apple’s (s aapl) best releases — to put it mildly. In fact, the outcry of disappointment was so high, that Apple responded by re-issuing iMovie HD 6 (v6.0.4 to be exact) for those who were unwilling to embark on the new movie creation paradigms in iMovie ’08.

Well, fast forward 16 months and we now have iMovie ’09, newly updated in the iLife ’09 suite. As a humble yet reasonably confident videographer (I shoot with a Sony HDR-SR11), and having only real experience with iMovie ’08, I have been waiting impatiently for this new release.

At the Macworld Expo, I was honored to receive an in-person demo of iMovie ’09 from the iMovie Project Manager himself (names spared to protect the innocent). The demo was amazing, as I was able to see first hand all of the goodness that is iMovie ’09.

Because I am impatient, I went to my local Apple Store as soon as they opened yesterday morning (Bay Street over in Emeryville, CA) and picked up a copy of iLife ’09 just so I could begin playing with the new iMovie. After a few hours of playtime, here is what I have discovered…
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Serial No Longer Required for iWork ’09

iwork091

Interestingly, Apple has made the decision to no longer require a serial number for the retail copy of iWork. It doesn’t require any online activation, and — in the same fashion as iLife — would seem to have no piracy prevention as such.

Apple notes that:

iWork ’09 retail boxes no longer come with a serial number. Install iWork ’09 from the enclosed disc and you’re ready to go.

Obviously a serial is still required if you choose to download and activate the iWork trial via the Apple website.

Though retail versions of iWork ’09 no longer come with serial numbers, you will need a serial number if you are using the iWork ’09 trial version and decide to purchase the fully-functional version of iWork ’09

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Final Cut Pro-to-iDVD Chapter and Widescreen Woes

idvdFor goodness’s sake, will the people at Apple responsible for iLife go talk to the Pro Apps folks so that iDVD and Final Cut Pro actually works together? You’d think that Apple would ensure both their video applications work seamlessly together, especially when such interoperability is touted in the Help section of both applications. Well, you’d be surprised at how broken it is.

I learnt that the hard way earlier this week, when I had to master a DVD for a client. My intention was to export five segments from the timeline, each of which would have chapter markers, while the segment would itself become a ‘Play All’ clip. 

Having finished the edit in Final Cut Pro, I placed the necessary chapter markers in the timeline and exported each segment of the timeline as DV PAL 16:9 Anamorphic QuickTime clips. I chose this format since it was what the acquired footage was shot in. 
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iMovie ’09: Improved Editing, Maps & Stabilization

iMovie ’09 adds powerful, yet easy-to-use new features to let you create a movie quickly, or add refinements and special effects to your project if you have more time. There are a whole host of new features, each of which can aid in the quest to have family and friends gasping in awe at your home movie.

Advanced Drag and Drop

iMovie ’08 introduced drag and drop editing, and the latest version takes the facility to new heights. When you drag and drop one clip on top of another, you reveal new advanced editing options, including replace, insert, audio only, and even picture-in-picture or green screen. These new features allow you to make visually stunning movies, while retaining the simple drag and drop interface iMovie is renowned for.
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GarageBand ’09: Learn Like a Pro

GarageBand ’09, the updated version of Apple’s popular software used by millions to play and record music, now gives budding musicians a fun new way to learn to play piano and guitar.

Basic Lessons

Basic Lessons let you learn the fundamentals at your own pace with Apple instructors in beautiful HD video synchronized to animated instruments and notation. You’re able to practice either the piano or guitar, playing through nine different lessons which prepare you for playing an entire song. Speed and repetition can be controlled until you’ve perfected the stage.

When ready to play the entire song, GarageBand allows you to do so with the full backing band. The video shown in the Keynote presentation looked to be of excellent quality, though it was noted that the piano lessons appear somewhat easier to follow than the guitar counterparts.
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Apple Gives Desktop Apps an Internet Life

It wasn’t quite the same lively Macworld keynote without Steve Jobs, but it looks like self-deprecating Phil Schiller, Apple’s (s APPL) VP of worldwide product marketing, did an admirable job of introducing a whole slew of products, including the new Macbook Pro (17-inch version) and the new DRM free iTunes music store, without so much as mentioning Steve Jobs. Of all the product launches, I was most impressed with Apple’s new software – iLife ’09 and iWork ’09. In this day and age, when it is widely assumed that all apps are moving to the Internet, Apple has done the opposite and given its desktop apps a big boost. What I was impressed by is how the company has brought the Internet into these applications. Read More about Apple Gives Desktop Apps an Internet Life