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From early on, Apple's Macintosh computer has earned a reputation as the multimedia machine. Artists, designers, and digital media professionals use Macs in their work with digital media. And now, recent advancements in computer hardware and software make it possible for you, the home user, to get in on the act.

The purpose of this book is to help you make the most of the Mac's digital media capabilities. We'll begin with the basics you'll need to know in order to use your computer, including information about the Mac OS X operating system and working with files and applications. We'll then go into detail about five specific digital media applications. In the last few chapters, we'll return to a discussion of the operating system as you learn techniques for managing and protecting your computer system and files.

While we've included tips that even seasoned users of Macs and digital media can benefit from, this book is especially written for the following:

  • People who have recently switched to the Mac who want to learn the basics, as well as some of the best digital media programs available.

  • Long-time Mac users who want to learn the new Mac OS X operating system, as well as work more productively with digital media.

  • People who are already familiar with Mac OS X, but want to make the most of iLife—Apple's integrated suite of digital media applications.

Digital Media Applications

Because the Mac is such a fabulous machine for multimedia work, there are a number of computer applications available for it that can be used for various purposes.

In this book, we'll be focusing our attention on four digital media applications created by Apple especially for the Mac. Those applications, available as a collection under the name iLife, are

  • iTunes stores music as MP3 files and helps you burn custom CDs as well as listen to Internet radio stations.

  • iPhoto helps you import and organize digital photographs as well as adjust photo quality and share your work.

  • iMovie enables you to edit digital video. It also includes features that let you add titles and visual effects to your movies.

  • iDVD enables those with DVD-writing Macs to create their own DVDs containing video, still photos, and music.

We'll also discuss a popular program from the Adobe company called Photoshop Elements, which is used for editing (and creating) digital images.

Necessary Tools

As I mentioned earlier, this book's purpose is to give you the knowledge you need to make the most of the modern Mac's digital media capabilities. Before we begin, we need to make sure you have the right tools for the task ahead.

To start with, you'll need the current versions of the Mac operating system, at least Mac OS X 10.2. Why? All the wonderful digital media software listed above requires (or will work best) under that system.

What do you do if you don't have that version of the Mac OS installed?

You need to determine if your computer can handle it. According to Apple, Mac OS X runs on all original G4 computers, all iBooks and iMacs (including the Bondi 233), all PowerBooks (except the original Powerbook G3), and all beige desktop G3s.

You also need to consider if your computer's processor can handle this operating system. Mac OS X runs on a wide range of processors, but the minimum requirement for decent performance is considered by many to be at least a 350MHz G3.

Finally, you need to make sure you have enough hard drive space and RAM to operate Mac OS X and all the applications you'll want to run. Mac OS X needs 128MB of RAM and 1.5GB of available storage.

If you are serious about working with digital media and your computer doesn't meet these requirements, you'll need to consider upgrading your computer to a newer model. (While this may sound like a drastic measure, it is a necessity. Audio and image files are very resource-intensive.)

Beyond these system requirements, there are also some other hardware needs to consider:

  • For making your own CDs (containing data, music, photographs, etc.), your computer must have a drive capable of writing CDs. Alternately, you could use an external CD-burner that is compatible with Mac OS X.

  • To get full mileage from iPhoto, you'll need a compatible digital camera.

  • If you want to use iMovie, you must have a digital video camera that uses FireWire technology (also known as IEEE 1394 or i.Link) and your computer must have a FireWire connection port. (FireWire allows very large digital video files to be transferred between your camera and your computer. Without it, there is no feasible way to work with video on your computer.)

  • To create DVDs with iDVD, your computer must be equipped with Apple's SuperDrive, which can read and write both CDs and DVDs. (Please note, that while external DVD burners are sold, they will not work with iDVD.)

Once you know what your computer needs in order to do its job, we're ready to begin! (If this list of requirements leaves you with unanswered questions, don't worry. We'll be talking about all of these topics in great detail later in the book.)

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