January 2003|When EMedia editor Stephen Nathans bemoaned his frustration with attempting to create and burn a DVD on a PC in his September editorial "Too Many Crashes, Not Enough Burns," (www.emedialive.com/r8/2002/spin9_02.html) were hit with a deluge of emails, all of which said the same thing: "Get a Mac!"
We always knew Macintosh users were a rabid bunch, as passionate about their operating system as Bostonians are about their Red Sox. But we were unprepared for their unequivocal assertion that making DVDs on the Mac is a no-brainer. We were a bit skeptical, too; surely, DVD authoring on the Mac must carry with it some pitfalls, right? August saw the introduction of the dual-processor Power Mac G4, which Apple itself touted as a product that would make digital video and DVD creation easier than ever. Coupled with Apple's latest batch of television ads, aimed squarely at convincing PC users that once they go Mac they'll never go back (with a reported $45 million fourth-quarter net loss, they obviously decided to take the gloves off in the OS battle), the time was right for us to take a look at what Apple's latest offerings bring to the table. At press time, Jeff Sauer was also taking an in-depth look at how the Mac fares as a digital video editing platform, assessing Apple's Final Cut Pro and two third-party tools dedicated to the task (www.emedialive.com/r17/2003/sauer0103.html). Here, we'll look at the Power Mac G4 through a wider lens, seeing how it performs as an all-purpose desktop workstation, one that offers powerful digital video and DVD capabilities along with a slew of other features built into its much-vaunted Jaguar OS X 10.2 operating system. We think it's a winner, and plenty of DV pros agree. How come?
"The standard, and best, answer is ease of use," says Jesse Feiler, author of McGraw Hill's Making Movies, Photos, Music & DVDs on Your Mac. "There's no comparison, particularly for media authoring. Mac OS X memory management is particularly useful because you can run an almost unlimited number of applications simultaneously."
Out of the Box
We received a dual 1.25gHz Power Mac G4 ($3,299) for evaluation from Apple, equipped with a 17" Cinema Display monitor ($999). As promised, the system was virtually plug-and-play. I'd already made the migration to OS X on my 400mHz G3 iMac, and was thrilled with the system's performance. I'd become accustomed to frequent freezes—at least two or three a week, more often when I was multitasking in several applications at once; over the last decade, I'd just accepted that as one of the drawbacks—albeit a big one—of working on Macs.
It's hardly an issue on OS X, though, and it's even less of an issue with Jaguar. Even when doing something as memory-intensive as burning a DVD with iDVD, I'm able to continue my desktop publishing, graphics, and word-processing functions without a hitch.
That's even more impressive when you consider that most of those other applications aren't even OS X versions. I know people who've been hesitant to upgrade to the new system for fear of the hassle, not to mention significant cost, of also upgrading to new versions of all their software programs. Thankfully, Apple has made it easy to continue using System 9 versions by letting users run "Classic Mode" at the same time OS X is running; you can even boot from System 9 in the rare instances that an application requires it. (I've only had to do it once, and then only for a Web conferencing program that suggested doing so; it turned out I didn't even need to.)
All of the System 9 programs I use regularly—Microsoft Office, Quark Xpress, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator—run flawlessly on the G4, and I'm able to toggle back and forth between Classic and OS X so transparently I forget there's even a difference. That multitasking power comes directly from the efficient dual processors, combined with a 167mHz system bus and a Double Data Rate (DDR) SRAM L3 memory cache that provides memory bandwidth system-wide up to 2.7Gbps. For digital studio pros who don't want to have to let their workstations sit idle while they render video or burn DVDs, that kind of processing power and memory management is priceless.