I am writing this at my tech table at the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht, Netherlands, where I am in tech for a new production of The Wiz. On this show, I've had the opportunity to try out a few new gadgets and software goodies that I'll report about here.
First and foremost, I am using a new Apple Mighty Mouse wireless edition. The mouse (pictured, right) features a Bluetooth wireless interface and laser tracking, which Apple claims is more accurate than optical tracking. The multi-button mouse also has a scroll ball which allows you to scroll 360° around a window. Also new to the wireless Mighty Mouse is a scroll-zoom feature, which zooms into any portion of the screen if you hold down the control key while rolling the scroll ball. It requires two AA batteries and retails for $69.
The Mighty Mouse works as advertised. I find that all wireless mice tend to be a little clunky in terms of tracking versus their wired counterparts. While this one is no exception, I must say that the laser tracking works well on many more surfaces than optical tracking does; including reflective surfaces (bring on the fancy glass desk). The additional right and side buttons all worked very well, and Apple's built-in software driver provides many options as well as plenty of customization for assigning functionality to the buttons (you'll need to install the driver from the included CD-ROM. As they did with the original Mighty Mouse, Apple will probably include the drivers from the CD in the next point update to the OS). A strange but useful feature of the Mighty Mouse is that it works with a single battery installed, which makes it much lighter.
Another new gadget that has found its way into my kit is the LaCie Carte Orange flash drive. About the size of a stack of three credit cards, the little plastic and aluminum flash-based hard drive is available with either four or eight GB storage capacity. It has a built-in USB2 connection and retails for $99 and $139 respectively (cheaper prices can be found on the web). A six GB model should be available soon.
The LaCie fits easily into a shirt pocket and easily withstood a pocket full of change and car keys. The USB connector cable is built right into the rectangular gizmo. The Carte feels a little flimsy, especially the USB connector, but it is surprisingly tough.
On the software front, I've had the opportunity to play with some great new applications. Miraizon Cinematize 2.5 Pro is a major update to one of my favorite utilities. As I discussed in a previous edition of “The Toolbox,” Cinematize is a utility that transcodes DVDs to any flavor of QuickTime you choose. This new version is a universal binary, which means it runs natively on PowerPC or Intel Macs (a Windows version is also available). Version 2.5 also introduces a Pro edition. Additional features in the Pro version include menu extraction, subtitle decoding, multi-channel audio extraction, and custom Apple QuickTime output configuration. It also includes batch extraction, presets, and higher performance. I'm currently using it to make QuickTime movies of the rehearsal DVDs for the show I am working on so we can scrub through and work onstage without the cast in tech rehearsals.
Another very useful utility I've been playing with is Flip4Mac, a QuickTime plug-in that enables you to import, export, and playback Windows Media files right in the QuickTime player. It works so well that Microsoft stopped developing a Mac version of the Windows Media player and the company's website points to the Flip4Mac download site now.
Flip4Mac comes in a few varieties. There is a free plug-in that enables WMV playback in QuickTime (including in a web browser window). The Pro version enables encoding of videos as WMV files in any application that utilizes QuickTime (including Final Cut Pro).
Next time, I'd like to address a common question I am often asked: where do images come from?
Got a problem that you need solved? Found a cool trick that you'd like to share? Looking for a recommendation on a piece of hardware or software? Comments? Drop me a line at [email protected].
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS COLUMN:
Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse: www.apple.com
LaCie Carte Orange: www.lacie.com
Miraizon Cinematize 2.5: www.miraizon.com
Flip4Mac 2.1: www.flip4mac.com