I spent a big chunk of today finally exploring the integration features in iDVD, iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie. I’m working from a mixed base of assets representing the two most recent camping trips we went on (to Mount Baker in June and to the Olympic Peninsula this month).

As it happens, long-time MacWorld editor Jim Heid saw a prior entry on the topic of helping my Mom learn to use her new Mac, and kindly offered to send a copy of his book, The Macintosh iLife. We corresponded, and he sent a copy, inscribed to her.

I hadn’t ever really even attempted to use the apps as they were designed to be used (with the exception of iTunes), and before I sent the book on, I wanted to work through a demo project involving all the integration features with the book at my side, so I would be familiar enough with it to refer Mom to a chapter as needed. It’s been helpful, although my questions have been a bit more specific and technically oriented than the book is designed for.

For example, I did find a passing reference to the fact that iDVD only supports slideshows composed of up to 99 individual picture files, as I searched for reasons a folder of images was not generating the anticipated button upon drag-and-drop.

So, beyond the passing help the book’s provided, here are the issues I’m having that I think are failings in the suite of apps, speed not being considered (I’m using them on a G4/400 at the very low end of supported machines, and the speed is quite intolerable, something I cope with by time-slicing with household chores such as laundry and dishes).

The best feature that the suite provides is the ability to marry sets of images to selected songs from your music library. Unfortunately, each of the image-oriented apps – iDVD, iMovie, and iPhoto – provides this feature with a slightly different implementation, and thus far I have not found a good way to seamlessly combine the various implementations. iMovie, for instance, will render your stills into a sliding, cross-fading quicktime montage using the well-known Ken Burns Effect. Unfortunately, the various transitions available in iPhoto, for example, are unavailable (at least at first) in iMovie, and in particular in the attempt to create a Ken Burns extravaganza. Furthermore, selecting and previewing a song and transition sequence in iPhoto is easy, easy, easy. Duplicating that in iDVD, or iMovie, is not quite so straightforward.

(UPDATE: Yes it is. in iDVD, dragging an iPhoto album from the iDVD Photos selection pane will also bring iPhoto slideshow effects into the iDVD slideshow.)

iPhoto offers an ‘iDVD’ button, presumably to allow you to send your iPhoto slideshow to iDVD. I say presumably because each time I used it, iDVD would launch and then crash. If it launched, would it add the sideshow to an existing project, or close the current project, replacing it with the new slideshow? I can’t say.

iDVD disappointed me in ways that are similar to and reflective of QuickTime Pro, rejecting native mpeg files for drag-and-drop inclusion in menu-item playback. I’ll be experimenting with optimal ways to incorporate the variant mpeg formats generated by our cameras into iDVD, probably routing through iMovie.

As I noted about a month ago, Apple’s applications treat video and photos as truly disjunct, something which made sense prior to the prevalence of dual-media recording devices. This is something that Apple must change to retain the leading-edge cachet regained with Jobs’ return.