- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

Nothing is simple these days, particularly when it comes to media: Video blends with photos, accompanied by music, and is then locked into slide shows, or loaded onto portable players, or played back in the living room as the 21st-century doppelganger of those hoary “look-at-my-vacation” slide shows from days gone by.

Putting everything together seems daunting, even for users of the oh-so-media-friendly Apple Macintosh. The ITunes program found on just about every Mac these days can only go so far, as can its “cousins,” IPhoto and IMovie. You can do a lot with these programs, but preparing a simple “mix” of all media can be a tad daunting .

One part of the answer could well be found in the recent release of Toast 8 Titanium, a $99 piece of media wizardry released by the Roxio unit of Sonic Solutions (www.roxio.com).

Toast is a name that’s almost legendary among Mac users for its ease in letting you create a CD, DVD and now a Blu-ray, high-definition, high-capacity disc of just about anything you’ve got on your computer.

Let’s start with some basics: You’ve got some television shows on your computer thanks to the EyeTV Mac-based recorder, or on your TiVO video recorder networked to the Mac.

Either way, Toast 8 can transfer these to appropriate DVD discs, or convert them for use on an IPod or Sony PSP device.

That’s neat, especially when your video-recording hard drives start to fill up. According to the program’s manual, a blank DVD can hold between two and five hours of video. Tracking recording progress isn’t difficult: Once the program starts recording, a progress bar is shown both in the program window and the system icon visible in the system “dock” of program icons.

Similar creating processes exist for data discs, which can back up a hard drive’s contents, or for photo albums (just how many snaps can I get on a DVD?), and for moving the aforementioned old vinyl platters into modern times (get the right “patch” or connecting cables to run from your turntable to the computer).

In short, as you might be able to guess, there’s a world of possibility here that is waiting for the right person to come along and use.

Apart from Apple’s multimedia programs, Toast 8 offers a lot in the way of melding and making multimedia recordings that can be truly useful. In some sense, it’s a “precursor” program to Apple’s applications, creating the kind of media that, for example, can be used in a presentation with Keynote, Apple’s answer to Microsoft PowerPoint, or with PowerPoint itself.

But there’s more. Because this software offers a bridge between several formats — you can create video in 13 different formats, for example — it’s possible to go from Mac to PC platforms, and back, without too much hassle. And because it works with several multimedia types, blending items is possible.

I mentioned a drawback, and it’s this: You cannot use Toast 8 to create discs containing music purchased through Apple’s ITunes online music store; that can only be done with the firm’s ITunes software.

Since Toast 8 seems to have a wide range of possibilities, this limitation is an annoyance and not a deal-breaker. If you work with media, and a Mac, you’ll want this program, and be glad you have it.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Tech blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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