One piece is missing from iMac filmmaking

Wednesday, October 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tivo time travel

QMy brother-in-law just got a Tivo digital video recorder, and he tells me I need one. He makes Tivo sound like the best thing since sliced bread. Can you tell me why it would be better than my VCR?

– N.H., Rockwall

AI love it when I get to research new technology. I've been looking at digital video recorders for some time, and, in the interest of full disclosure, I do own a Tivo. So this answer is partly from my experience.

Tivo is the brand name of a service that runs on recorders sold by Philips and Sony. The recorders use a hard drive to store data instead of videotape. The recorders come with different size hard drives and can record up to 60 hours. You can pick the quality of the recordings – lower quality means more record time.

If Tivo were only a hard drive VCR, I would say it was pretty ordinary, but with Tivo, the real benefit is with the service.

The recorders have a modem that dials in to Tivo servers once a day to download program information, which is accessed on the screen in much the same way as digital cable or DirecTV. Users can scroll through lists of channels and descriptions, and select shows for recording.

You can also set up a "Season Pass" to record, say, The X-Files for the entire season. A cool thing is that Tivo records according to the program data, not a specific time slot. So if The X-Files comes on an hour early and is a two-hour special, Tivo records all of it.

A few minutes setting up Season Passes means you won't miss any of your favorite shows this fall.

Tivo also pays attention to what you record and, during its idle time, starts recording shows it thinks you will like to watch. You can also push thumbs up or thumbs down buttons to individual shows to teach Tivo what you do and do not like.

Because it records on a hard drive, your recorded shows come up in a list form for instant access – no fast-forwarding through tapes to find the start of a show. You can also fast-forward through commercials.

The hard drive recording also allows Tivo to buffer a half-hour of live TV. This means you can pause live TV while you answer the phone. The data are stored in Tivo's memory, and you can pick up where you left off. You can also rewind up to a half-hour of live TV for instant replays.

Tivo's service isn't free, which puts some people off. It's $9.95 per month or $199.95 for lifetime service, which in my opinion should be included in the price of the recorder.

Panasonic makes a similar unit called ReplayTV. Program data service is free with ReplayTV, but the units cost about $200 more than a comparable Tivo. ReplayTV features a 30-second commercial skip and many of the same features as Tivo.

There is a more to this technology than I can explain here. I encourage you to do your homework. Check the site AVScience Forum at The Web site will provide you with answers to all your questions. Also try and

Java jitters

QA problem regarding Java has me stumped.

I have downloaded Internet Explorer 5.0 for Macintosh and Java is enabled, but I still get a message that MRJ 2.1 is not installed.

I searched the Microsoft Mac site and cannot find any way to download any Java versions. And this MRJ 2.1 must be important because I can't do a lot of simple downloads. Sure hope you can help.

– B.N., Avinger, Texas

AMRJ is Macintosh Runtime for Java. It is the Macintosh implementation of Sun's Java Virtual Machine software.

It enables your Mac to run Java applets and applications, which are included in many Web pages to enhance interactivity and let your browser do all sorts of cool stuff. Basically, you've discovered you have to have MRJ to run Java in your browser.

Luckily, it's free. Go to and search for MRJ in the Macintosh library. Or go to and find it directly.

Read the instructions and run the installer. It should solve your problem.

The current version of MRJ is up to 2.2.3.

ISDN vs. satellite

QWhere I live, my only options for higher-speed Internet access are ISDN and satellite. ISDN costs $55 a month; satellite is $40 a month.

I know that satellite only provides higher-speed downloads at this time but is projecting to be both directions – upload as well as download – next year. What are the pros and cons of each, and which way should I go?

– K.H., McKinney

AIt depends on what you are using the connection to do.

If you are mainly surfing the Web and not hosting a Web site from your home, I would recommend the satellite option for speedier downloads.

If you plan on hosting a Web site and need the speed both ways, go with the ISDN, which stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. You will get a connection to and from the Internet at the same speed.

The satellite connection is really fast from the satellite to you but uses a regular dial-up line back to the Internet.

Also, it would be easier to move with a satellite connection.

You can take the dish down and move it to a new house almost anywhere, then get back online fairly easily as long as you can see the sky from your new house.

You won't be able to move to Australia, though, because the satellites serve only North America.

Check with your phone company to see if Internet service is included with the monthly ISDN charge. You may need your own ISP. The ISP is included with satellite service.QI just got an iMac, and it came with iMovie.

I am an old pro at shooting videos with my camcorder, but I can't seem to figure out how to get the images from my camcorder into iMovie. My camera has S-Video and RCA jacks, but the iMac doesn't.

What's the missing piece of the puzzle?

– R.B., Dallas

AYour puzzle is missing one piece, and you have a choice of which way to go to make iMovies.

You either need a digital video camera or a converter box.

Apple started bundling iMovie with iMacs last year, and you can now get it with any Mac with a FireWire port. The program lets you import digital video, edit the scenes and add soundtrack music or titles. It is really slick and quite sophisticated for bundled software.

The big sticking point for you seems to be a lack of digital video.

A while back, video camera manufacturers started offering a way for consumers to store video images as digital information on videotape. About the same time, computer manufacturers such as Apple adopted a new standard for quickly moving data to and from computers and peripherals. The new, faster port is called FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394 and i.Link.

Digital video cameras have a FireWire port that enables connection to a FireWire-enabled computer for the transfer of information. If you have a digital video camera and a FireWire port on your Mac, you can make iMovies.

What if you don't have a digital video camera, you ask?

Sony offers a $400 converter box to convert regular video to digital video. The converter has S-Video and RCA jacks and a FireWire connection. Other converters are available, but Apple's Web site lists Sony as the only supported converter.

Why would you spend $400 on a converter?

Well, digital video cameras are not cheap. Prices start around $500 and go way up from there. Conventional 8 mm camcorders, on the other hand, go for as little as $250. If you have a good 8 mm camcorder that you aren't ready to replace, you may want to go with the converter.

Users of older Macs are not left out. FireWire expansion cards are available for both desktop and laptops, and iMovie is available for $49 from Apple's Web site,

PC users are also in luck, as Microsoft Windows Me includes a digital video-editing program called Microsoft Movie Maker.{lt}/Body-reg_ptech{gt}{lt}/Body{gt}