Provides: Audio/video editing, burning, sharing
Format: Download or DVD
Minimum System Requirements: G4, G5, or Intel processor (G5 or Intel required for encoding/viewing HD content); Mac OS X v10.5; CD, DVD or Blu-Ray recordable drive; QuickTime v7; 800MB free disk space (15GB free temporary free disk space during usage); Internet connection for some functionality; high-def/Blu-ray Disc plug-in for HD video authoring
Processor Compatibility: Universal
Price: $99 ($149 Pro version)
Version Reviewed: 10.0.1
Sometimes when I observe the desperate struggle for relevance, it makes me sad. How can you watch a recent Madonna video, the latest Jim Carrey movie, or anything having to do with the Microsoft Zune and not be sympathetic to their plight? Don’t we all eventually come to fear that our time in the sun has past? (Or, in the case of the Zune, that we never even got to see the sun?) The answer to that, is no, because not everyone has trouble staying relevant. Case in point, Roxio, with their update to Toast 10 Titanium.
Toast originally made a name for itself as CD-ROM burning software back in the mid-90s. For a while, that’s all it did, but the folks at Adaptec (and now Roxio) have always understood that computer technology/media is constantly changing, and they’ve been there every step of the way. In fact, they’re often a few steps ahead. For example, Steve Jobs and Apple may still be terrified of the big, bad, Blu-ray monster, but Roxio is not. Toast 10 Titanium has the ability to copy and burn information to Blu-ray discs, while Toast 10 Titanium Pro adds the ability to burn HD video to Blu-ray via the High-Def/Blu-ray Disc plug-in ($19.99, included free with Toast 10 Titanium Pro).
I wasn’t able to test the Blu-ray functionality because I don’t a Blu-ray drive on my Mac, but I can say that Toast 10 did just fine with HD video content pulled in through my cable line, and burned some nice DVDs, menus and all.
But of course, Toast is no longer just about burning CDs and DVDs. It can now import DVDs, provided they’re not encrypted or copy protected, so you can back them up or format them for other devices. You get some basic functionality here, such as the ability to import specific chapters and audio tracks, but it’s too bare-bones to please those who do this regularly. You’re likely to still need programs such as Handbrake for serious DVD ripping, but it’s good to have the functionality built into Toast for basic jobs.
Once you’ve got your videos, you can export them to numerous media devices, with pre-formats for the iPhone, Apple TV, Sony PlayStation 3 and PSP, BlackBerry, Palm Treo, and more. For further manipulation or sharing online, you can also export video to DV, HDV, MPEG-4, H.264 and QuickTime. It’s all very easy to do, although Roxio should consider making the output device selector more than just a tiny gear icon on the bottom of the window. Also, as with DVD ripping, higher level controls would be welcome for those who know what they’re doing.
TiVO users can benefit from the ability to stream videos directly from Toast to their TiVO devices. I don’t have TiVO, so I couldn’t test this. I was, however, able to stream my videos directly to my iPhone, which was great. With the Roxio Streamer app, TiVO and (in my case) EyeTV recordings can be streamed directly from your computer to your iPhone, so you can watch movies/shows without taking up your iPhone’s drive space. This is somewhat tricky, as setting it up/connecting is oddly confusing, and you of course have to have your host computer on and awake. It’d be great if the Roxio Streamer had the ability to awake your Mac remotely, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In addition, you obviously need a WiFi connection for this to work. So, although it’s not completely practical yet, it is pretty cool when the conditions are met.
The final video portion I want to cover is the new ability to import and archive your home recordings. Toast 10 can accept video straight from your camcorder or VCR and burn them right to DVD for archival purposes. When one DVD fills up, you’re prompted for another. Catalogs with photo thumbnails are created as you go, so you can search for specific video segments without actually having the DVD in your computer. This is fantastic not only for archiving video, but for your iPhone images as well. I tend to back up my photos yearly to clear up the space on my hard drive, and Toast 10’s cataloging capabilities make it much easier to find the photos I want after they’ve been archived.
Remember burning CDs? So does Roxio. Toast has always been a significantly better option than iTunes, offering functionality that iTunes lacks (such as the most basic but necessary ability to individually set track audio levels). The problem has always been that iTunes purchased music could never be burned with anything but iTunes. Now that Apple is pushing towards DRM-free downloads, Toast becomes a better option. The traditional functionality (such as the ability to import/fix vinyl recordings, create crossfades, tag your music, burn MP3 discs, etc.) remains, and has been supplemented with the ability capture and tag Internet audio, or pretty much anything playing on your computer. Toast will automatically capture it, split the audio into tracks (surprisingly accurate, here; it only made mistakes where I expected it to), and even identify the tracks.
Using audio fingerprinting, The CD SpinDoctor component of Toast 10 can identify your unknown tracks and assign the proper tags: artist, title, genre, etc. In short, you can record music directly from Pandora, for example, and have it properly split, tagged and dumped into iTunes. I was impressed with what it was able to identify and properly tag, as only my more obscure indie and J-Rock tracks went unclassified.
The last new audio feature I’ll cover is the ability to convert audiobook CDs for playback on your iPod or iPhone, complete with individual chapters and pause/resume support. Again, I have no audio books in my collection, so I was unable to test this.
Oh, and I would also like to point out that Roxio has done a good job with the entire user interface. One of my complaints about Toast 9 was that the interface appeared blurry and dark. Toast 10 is a bit sharper and cleaner, although some text in the interface would clip or overlap when cycling through options, and the animations are not necessary.
For $50 more, Toast 10 Titanium Pro comes with extra software that can enhance your media creation/formatting. I can’t imagine users will get a decent amount of use out of all of these apps, but using just a couple of them regularly will justify the additional cost. Each of these programs deserves its own review, so I won’t go into detail on them here. However, here’s what you get for the $149 pro version (in addition to the previously mentioned High-Def/Blu-ray Disc plug-in):
Create your own copyright-free music on the fly. You select the tempo, pitch and mood, then adjust the length and arrangement to fit your movie. It’s a decent option for those looking to burn DVDs free of music licensing issues, but the tracks do end up feeling quite generic.
Remove unwanted audio/noise from your recordings. You use the software to isolate a small section of the unwanted sound (such as camera hum or wind), then the program will will go through the entire audio file to pull out the offending noise. Some audio degradation will occur, but you can fine tune your settings to adjust the balance between the loss of bad and good audio. It can’t work miracles on bad audio, but it’s a good start.
This is simply a fantastic application all around. It sort of combines the presentation functionality of Keynote with the slideshow capabilities of iPhoto, but increases the functionality of each to create a program that’s better than both in every way. It, alone, is worth the extra cost of Toast 10 Titanium Pro.
I’m not entirely sure why this one’s here. It can correct or add effects to your photos for more dramatic slideshows, but the results are subjective (photos are more dynamic, but can look less natural). Those who care about this sort of thing will use PhotoShop or another program that offers better control. Those who don’t care are likely not interested in using LightZone. That said, it does a decent job, as long as you’re not too picky.
One thing to consider about these bonus apps, too, is that they’re not actually a part of Toast, as is CD SpinDoctor. Roxio gives you the serial numbers, but updates will be at the control of the individual developers, and that includes update pricing.
Regular or Pro? Doesn’t Matter.
Overall, I feel this is the best Toast update since they merged Toast and Jam into one program. The new video capabilities are outstanding, not only making Toast more useful to a larger number of users, but also indicating that the good folks at Roxio are well aware of the current usage trends, and are working hard to stay on top of them. If you’ve been putting off upgrading your previous version of Toast, stop. If you’ve never used Toast, start. This is the version for which you’ve been waiting. The digital hub Steve Jobs spoke of a few years back has grown well beyond Apple’s control (indeed, they seem to fear it, now), and Roxio’s Toast 10 Titanium manages to keep it all within reach.