Review: Timeline 3D

Creating a timeline with three dimensional “fan-out” is easy with Timeline 3D. The export facilities are excellent — Bee Docs has video as well as Keynote covered. In two dimensions a timeline can only show you as many events as the “window” through which you are viewing is large. If you “skew” the timeline so that you’re looking at it from the side, and you fan out the events, you can more or less travel through time. That is what the 3D view of Timeline 3D is about.

It’s a simple concept, and it’s well designed and worked out by Bee Docs. The attention to detail is high, but Bee Docs didn’t stop at 3D. Instead, Adam Behringer, the brains behind Timeline and Timeline 3D decided to go an extra mile. The result is that Timeline 3D exports to Keynote, video (iPhone, iPod and Apple TV, and a number of other formats through the menu), and to e-mail.
On the import side, Timeline has gained Aperture import capabilities as well as RSS capabilities. The latter is great if you want to show a timeline with — for example — the entries in your blog. The export features are in my opinion, more important because they let you share a timeline with the world. For adding images to your timeline, Timeline 3D supports iPhoto and Aperture, but also simple drag-and-drop. If an event has already been created, it’s not even necessary to open the media inspector.

To add notes, you can either type them in the Event Editing box, or drag a snippet of text from anywhere else inside that box. Events can also link to files or URLs, and the way to link them is very simple.

The Keynote export feature is a great addition. Every event in the timeline is exported to an image format that has been properly cropped and positioned to fall within the limits of the slideshow measurements you selected. Unfortunately, the slides themselves — for obvious reasons — can’t be edited in Keynote, but transitions between them can be added.

The video export formats are well thought out as well. It’s a pity you can’t select the format from the toolbar button — right now, it’s hidden in the menu (a detail, of course). Timeline 3D does allow you to output to uncompressed PAL or NTSC video, enabling you to load the timeline animation in Final Cut Pro or iMovie — only anamorphic isn’t supported.
E-mailing your timeline is easy too, with the Mail button, although I must admit I don’t immediately see much use in having an e-mail message being prepared for you without the timeline already attached to it — in my case, that didn’t happen anyway.

The real power and reason why you should have a copy if Timeline 3D if you are interested in creating timelines, however, is the application itself. I don’t believe there is anything else on the market that allows you to create such beautiful and complete timelines in such a short time.

Timeline 3D still has the ability to add event rows, and it can go back in time up to about 1 million years. That’s not enough for geologists, but I wouldn’t be surprised mr. Behringer is working at that as well. What I am certain of is that Timeline 3D has outgrown the typical college project of an enthusiastic developer. It has become an important presentation tool that can make a boring historic overview a lot more interesting.

That’s also why I would very much like to see an update with customisable video export available. The Quicktime codecs that are ready to be used on every Mac user’s machine make it possible to go beyond the “classroom presentation” format Keynote presents, and enables TV makers but also videocast creators to use Timeline 3D as a tool to show events in a historical context.

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