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Pictures: Apple iLife '08

Apple releases new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb.

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CNET Reviews staff
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iPhoto adds handsome tweaks, iMovie is altogether new, and GarageBand provides a stage.
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The first time we opened iPhoto, it crashed. Only iTunes and the Screen Grab utility were running at the time, and there was no ongoing activity in iTunes. Later, with no other applications running, iPhoto crashed again.
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Overall, the interface of iPhoto is uncluttered and elegant.
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We wish that iPhoto had detected a folder of pictures on our desktop. Instead, we didn't know at first where to move the pictures to get them to appear in the Photos Library.
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With prior versions of iPhoto, you couldn't just hook up a camera or memory card to your computer and select which pictures to move there. Instead, iPhoto would move them all and arrange them into various hard-to-locate folders on your hard drive. But iPhoto '08 displayed our SD card pictures within the list of Devices, giving us the choice to import all of them or just selected pictures.
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iPhoto now automatically groups photos into Events, based upon the dates they were taken. This much-touted clustering feature sounds like a big time-saver. That's why we were surprised that iPhoto grouped pictures dated from May 29 through August 8 as one event, rather than breaking them down into smaller time periods. Yet this feature is supposed to be intelligent enough to detect if you've already organized your pictures, leaving them alone if that's the case. The Split button lets you divide Events with a quick click.
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We like the cool skimming feature that creates a micro slide show of the pictures in an album as you glide the mouse across Event thumbnails. Just press the spacebar to turn the current image into the thumbnail for that Event.
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Intuitive display controls, such as the size slider in the lower right corner, allow you to change from tiny thumbnails to big pictures.
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The Adjust button opens more controls for sharpness, highlights, saturation, and so on. The Enhance button fixes contrast and balance with one touch. Plus, you can copy and paste a set of changes from one picture onto others.
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It's easier to fix an awry Horizon line in iPhoto than with most other photo services. (Note: the error message in this image is unrelated to iPhoto.)
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iPhoto offers clever features for reducing clutter. The Hide button lets you tuck away lackluster photos that you neither want to delete nor show off. We weren't immediately sure where to find the hidden pictures, but it was easy once we spotted the "Show hidden photos" option in the top-right part of the interface. The Flag can mark notable pictures, but it's a bit small. You can rate pictures with a star and add keywords, too. The unified search helps to find images by name or tag.
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There are lots of templates for creating photo books and calendars available for purchase. The AutoFlow feature makes the layout process a snap. Plus, photo galleries uploaded from iPhoto to a .Mac account appear the same on a Mac or a PC. Your friends can send pictures to a specific e-mail address so that the gallery will instantly publish them there. You can also integrate your .Mac galleries with an iPhone.
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Garage Band '08 opens to four options, including the new Magic GarageBand stage.
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The curtain is closed when you first open the Magic stage, which offers nine music genres from which to choose.
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You can mix up instruments and play them live on the stage once you click the Create Project button.
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Once you choose Create Project, Garage Band gives you more controls for tweaking it. Each track is labeled so that you don't have to guess by glancing at the waveform.
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You can add your own loops and voice or instrument recordings.
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The new Visual EQ feature helps to optimize sound, with individual bands for bass, treble and other tones as well as presets for various instruments. Select a track and choose Details in the Track Info pane to see this feature.
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Drag-around mouse controls enable easy edits of arrangements and waveforms.
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You can play a virtual piano keyboard as you compose a song.
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Both the interface for podcast creation and for song editing can display a combination of audio, photo, and movie files for making rich media projects.
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The Share menu lets you instantly send a podcast to iTunes or iWeb.
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iMovie '08 takes a radically different tack to video editing than the '06 version. Apple has simplified the software for users who want to get in and out of an uncomplicated project as quickly as possible. However, those who want to roll up their sleeves and do more nitty-gritty editing might prefer to stick with iMovie '06--free for iLife '08 users--or check out a pro application, such as Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe CS3 Premiere.
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It took iMovie '08 about three minutes to import a 1GB MOV file. Luckily, however, now you can edit footage as-is instead of importing it first from a hard drive. iMovie supports AVCHD solid state cameras as well as HD. The application breaks down footage into chunks of Event thumbnails rather than a timeline. You can scrub the video, backwards and forwards, by dragging the mouse over the Event.
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To select footage to drag to your project, simply highlight portions of an Event with the mouse and then drag them up to the editing pane. The yellow box shows the current selection, while the orange underline shows footage already selected.
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iMovie comes with pre-built sound effects, such as that of a door shutting and various jingles. You can integrate audio from GarageBand or your iTunes library. However, iMovie's single-track sound editing is limited, which feels like a step back from iMovie '06.
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You can add photographs with narration to a movie to create what Apple calls the Ken Burns effect.
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Basic image adjustment tools are included. There's also solid control over fonts, although we wished we could first preview their appearance. And we felt left hanging due to the lack of graphical templates.
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It's a cinch to publish your movie to YouTube. You can add a description and topic tags before reaching a Web browser. We kicked back and waited some five minutes for our 45 second video to encode and upload.

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