You light up my iLife

Like every square with a nickel in his pocket who’s about to have a baby, I just bought a DV camcorder. But how will I convert the mind-numbing hours of infant gurgling, kicking, and fist-clenching I’ll soon record into edited, watchable videos and burn them to family-gift-ready DVD?

Simple. I’ll follow the instructions and tips in Jim Heid’s eminently readable The Macintosh iLife ’04.

This lavishly illustrated reference book covers the ins and outs of Apple’s iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and GarageBand and includes two hours of DVD video training. Even if you think you know these products (like, how complicated is iTunes?), you will be surprised by tips and tricks explaining their less obvious features.

Although the book is beginner-friendly, it skillfully guides the reader into the world of semi-professional audio and video. I used to own a recording studio and was pleased to see how many aspects of audio production Jim Heid was able to discuss clearly and helpfully — things like proper microphone placement to improve audio quality in your iMovies. The discussion avoids the twin hazards of crude oversimplification on the one hand and dull, overly technical detail on the other. That’s partly because author Heid has a deep background in multimedia (it runs in his family), and partly because he has long years of experience teaching technical things to non-technical people. As Eric Meyer does with CSS, Jim Heid knows how to explain things so people understand them.

Updated and revised from a popular previous edition, the book can be turned to when you need to look something up, or it can be read straight through for pleasure, thanks to the conversational clarity and low-key charm of its prose. Jim Heid is the kind of writer whose warm, California-by-way-of-the-Midwest wit sneaks up on you. He also lectures on some of the same circuits I do, and I’ve sat through one of his talks five or six times — same talk every time, but I kept going back to hear it. This book is like that, too. You can reread it and keep learning from it and I doubt you will soon tire of it.

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