Stories by Jim Heid

IMovie: The Sequel

Sometimes the sequel surpasses the original. That definitely applies to iMovie 2, the latest version of the Apple Computer Inc. software that has made digital video editing easy for everyone. iMovie 2's star attractions include new editing capabilities, glitzy special effects and title styles, and a popcorn bucket full of tweaks and interface enhancements.

Portable MP3 Players

Advice:It's great to see (and hear) a growing selection of Mac-compatible MP3 portables. The Rio 600 is the best of the three tested here, sporting an attractive design, the most legible LCD, and an innovative expansion scheme. It's also the least-expensive device and has the fastest transfer times. The Nomad II is a solid runner-up; its built-in FM tuner and voice recorder make it particularly versatile. The lowly I-Jam, burdened by a cryptic LCD, separate Jam Station hardware, and a weak FM tuner, finishes in last place.

Audio Editor Is Sleek but Often Slow

Advice:If you use Digital Performer, you'll love Spark 1.5. Otherwise, you'll need to weigh Spark's superior interface against its inferior performance. If you work with huge files, you'll likely prefer Peak.

Web Graphic, Animation Tool Has Familiar Face

For better or worse, the Web has become an animated place. From buttons that mutate when you point at them to elaborate Macromedia Inc. Flash-based interfaces with pulsating soundtracks, motion and eye candy are all the rage.

Web-Cam Software Adds Streaming Audio

Set up a Web cam, and Web surfers can peer into your world. With NuSpectra Multimedia Inc's SiteCam 5.0.1, they can also hear it: the Mac's premiere Web-cam software now supports streaming audio. SiteCam isn't up to streaming high-fidelity feeds, but it's fine for voice and ambient sound. And visitors don't need a plug-in; SiteCam uses a Java applet for streaming. Other goodies include improved logging to help you track visitors and special tags that let you insert the current time and other information into the pages SiteCam serves. Poubelle Software's US$20 Oculus is still easier to use, however.

The Real Deal: Sampling Audio Plug-Ins

Of the many audio effects plug-ins and software synthesizers I tested in the course of writing "Make Some Noise," several stood out from the pack. To give you a chance to hear them for yourself, I created some short audio examples that you can download from these pages.

Free, Friendly DV-Editing Software

Want to test the waters of digital-video (DV) production? Need to create simple videos for business presentations or personal Web sites? Apple has a program for you, and it's free. IMovie is the video-editing software that Apple Computer Inc. bundles with the iMac DV and iMac DV Special Edition, which contain FireWire ports that can connect to DV-format camcorders. The combination of FireWire and iMovie makes it easy and downright fun to bring high-quality digital video into the Mac, edit it, then record it back to tape.

Designing for Other Impairments

Given the graphical nature of the Web, it isn't surprising that blindness presents the most accessibility challenges. But maneuvering through Web sites also can be difficult for users with less severe visual impairments or other physical disabilities. Here are some additional accessibility issues to keep in mind when designing your Web site.

LiveStage Professional 2.0

You might think of Apple Computer Inc.'s QuickTime as simply a way to watch movie trailers, listen to Internet radio stations, or explore 360-degree panoramic scenes. But QuickTime also lets you create movies with sophisticated interactivity-clickable hot spots that control playback or that branch to Web pages, for example. Much of QuickTime's potential has remained untapped due to a lack of capable authoring tools; the first offerings, Electrifier's Electrifier Pro and Totally Hip Software Inc.'s LiveStage, showed promise but were burdened by awkward interfaces and feature limitations.

MP3 Fans Get New Players, Services

You can tune into radio stations without going near a radio. You can wear 30 minutes of music on your wrist. And you can buy a CD on the Web and start listening to it within seconds.

Home-Movie Magic

Next to yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater, there's no better way to clear a room than to get out the home movies. It isn't that friends and family aren't interested in seeing little Mary battle gravity on her first bicycle-it's that the presentation often leaves something to be desired. Most home videos are seemingly endless series of unrelated scenes, their length made all the more painful by jerky camera movement and unintelligible sound. They're moving pictures, but they aren't movies. A movie tells a story, and any form of storytelling can benefit from planning and editing. Fortunately for home-movie audiences everywhere, today's desktop moviemaking tools can help. Apple Computer Inc.'s $1,299 iMac DV (the DV stands for "digital video") or $1,499 iMac DV Special Edition (800/795-1000,, combined with the iMovie software that comes with them, can make a terrific home-movie studio. You can bring video into the iMac DV; then you can use iMovie to remove the boring parts and add sound and special effects. When you're finished, you can export the final product to videotape, publish it on the Web, or e-mail it to others.