Tech News on G4

iChat 4 - Video Podcasting, Instant Messaging & More

November 12, 2007

By Greg Gazin - Apple Gaziní - G4 Canada

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Mac OS X Leopard.  The World's most advanced OS.

Once upon a time, iChat was simply an Apple instant text messenger, Audio was then added and with the development of the iSight – Apple’s webcam, Video became part of the whole mix. iChat 4, included in the latest release of Mac OS 10.5 Leopard has taken personal desktop communication to a whole new level. The enhancements are so incredible (read: useful and tres cool), that it’s worth having a look at this application all by itself.

The first great new feature is Backdrop. You can customize what’s behind you and what your friends can see. For me, it’s nice to not have everyone see all the computers, gadgets, cables and clutter– that populate every square inch of my home office. But it’s more than that and not just solid colours. Drop in a photo of the beach so it looks like you having fun in the sand. And even better yet use video footage to make you look like you’re live on location – in Times Square or even at the bottom of the ocean. Your viewers will see the backdrop regardless of what version of the Mac OS they’re using.

The second feature is Photobooth effects. These are effects that originated with Apple’s Photobooth application. These change the entire look and feel of the window – special effects. In the iChat window, you can make yourself look like a pencil drawing a comic book character, or a reflection in the mirror where you can see two of yourself. Better yet see yourself in the 4-way split screen Andy Warhol style pop art effect. My two favourites are the light tunnel a special Dr. Who style effect and the twirl, where you face looks all twisted up – which how one feels on some days.

The enthusiasts have already taken this one step farther. New Photobooth effects are already popping up around the web. There is a Star Wars effect where you can appear like a Jedi Knight; How about a hologram or a ghost – just in time for Halloween. And folks the Leopard has only been out for a few days.


Like to Share?

Ever been on the phone when someone on the other end has been trying to explain to you what’s on his or her screen? Well that’s now been eliminated with iChat Screen Sharing. Two people can view and control one or4 the other’s screen so you’re both looking at the same thing. And what’s better, you can still talk to each other via iChat audio as an audio session automatically engages when you start screen sharing.

Wait, it gets better. Let’s say you want to show a slide show or video while chatting with your buddies; or you want to deliver a presentation to a client – remotely? You can now do this with iChat Theatre. And even if they don’t have a webcam, the can still see your presentation in one-way mode.


Instant Audio & Video Podcasts

As Steve Jobs likes to say at his keynote addresses – “Just one more thing”. Recording.
iChat can now record both your audio and video. The audio is saved in AAC format- what you’d find at the iTunes Music Store and video in the MPEG-4 format - high quality audio and video. Do you realize how fast you can now create podcasts and Video Podcasts? Make presentations for uploading to the web – done in real time. I find this pretty amazing.


Oh Yes – Text

I know there are still some of us that like to use text. Text can be handy when you’re not in the mood to talk, or having a bad hair day. Seriously, though, text messaging is still quite in vogue. And for those who do use it, I do, Apple has added a number of new features. Here’s just a few: You can make yourself invisible without logging out of iChat – you can see everyone else, but they can’t see you. This will allow you to actually get some work done during the day. Another is Tabbed Chats. Previously if you were chatting to more than one person you had to open additional windows. With tabbed chats, all conversations are in the same window, separated by tabs. You click the tab to move from chat to chat – a feature found on MSN, Skype and Adium. Other features include Multiple log-ins, File Transfer Manager, Animated Buddy Icons, SMS forwarding, Auto-Start and quite a few more. And Yes, Apple added new emoticons or smileys. For a complete list visit of features visit: - ichat


Final Word

While I was hoping that I would be able to share these iChat features with my buddies on MSN & Yahoo, I guess I’ll have to wait. iChat is only compatible with .Mac or AIM (AOL) users.

The list of new features, enhancements and the functionality that Apple has brought to iChat alone are worth the $129 price tag of the entire OS upgrade – and for PC users it’s a sure cause to switch to a Mac.


Greg Gazin can be reached at gadgetguy “at” telus “dot” net.

About G4 in Canada
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