Treating users vaguely

So last night I’m playing with iDVD to make well, a DVD. So, long story short, you can choose to format your DVD for 4:3 or 16:9. I wish there was a way to gracefully support both, but that’s another rant. Anyways… so there’s this feature to show you the “safe area”, which is the area of the screen which is most likely to actually be displayed on someone’s TV; apparently iDVD isn’t a WYSIWYG tool.

Now some key things about safe area this:

  • No explaination why an NTSC formatted DVD on an NTSC screen won’t show the whole thing.
  • This is an approximation. iDVD doesn’t apparently actually know what is safe.
  • There is no hint like “after testing we found this appropriate for 90% of TV’s”, so I have no idea how accurate it really is.
  • It reduces the available screen area by like 20% WTF????
  • There’s no documentation telling you how you might go about determining the actual viewable area on a given TV.
  • Even if you figured that out on your own, you can’t adjust the safe area accordingly.

Now I suppose that if you’re using iDVD you’re not a DVD authoring or TV display area expert, hence I would appear to be iDVD’s target market. But I think this is a good case of treating your customers like idiots. I can understand hiding some advanced features by default (actually I think many applications like Word, Excel, Photoshop need an option to “Hide/Show Advanced Options”) so that non-power users aren’t overwhelmed by the vast number of options, but don’t dumb thing’s down so much that you’re only making things more confusing by your vagueness.

Of course what is most frustrating is that Apple knows what the resolution of an NTSC TV screen is… there shouldn’t be this issue in the first place. Sure, some cheaper TV’s may cut off a little at the edges, but not 20%!

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