Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Photo slideshows


Digital photography brings yet another way to annoy friends and relatives. Digital photogtraphy is convenient, and you do not have to buy or develop film, so you may end up, like me, taking (and keeping) many shots that are not that great.

Thousands of pictures pile up on your hard drive but they are not in a format you can easily share with your grandma (unless she is Internet proficient). Two online services I have found quite useful are flickr and Google's Picasa. They make easy for you to share your photos even when you are on the go.

However, if you want to create something oriented for people who at most are capable of playing a DVD then you need other tools. Some DVD burning programs can help you creating a simple slideshow of your photos. However my experience is that just a sequence of pictures without a soundtrack is not something people are going to enjoy.

Another problem is that even if you have sound, the pictures without any motion look boring and uninteresting most of the time. Remember that DVD resolution is 700x500 pixels aprox (it depends on whether you are using NTSC or PAL standard). This is far away from your camera resolution (or your computer's display resolution). It is no wonder why your pictures look so dull on a DVD.

In my quest for some software to spice things up when creating a photo DVD I have found several interesting programs. The most notable thing is that you do not have to show a static picture but you can pan and zoom across the image so you can reveal details that otherwise will go unnoticed. This effect is known as "Ken Burns" effect. And I am sure you have seen it on TV documentaries many times.

On the Windows front I've found this program to be quite nice. However, be warned that processing time can be very very long for a large photo set (several hours with a 2Ghz PC). This program allows you to create several collections as DVD chapters and also handles the creation of a DVD menu. Particularly interesting is the feature it can also handle you digital camera videos too.

On the Linux side this project looks good too, but I haven't tried myself yet.

Yet another nice commercial tool is this other program. They have cool samples on their website, check them out.

For OSX I tried iMovie, which comes included with any Mac, and I particularly liked the new feature that allows you to upload your movies to YouTube with a single click. Though the application is more like Windows Media Maker (video editing) it handles pretty well the task of creating a photo slideshow. However, I read somewhere that Photo to Movie was a better tool for the task. It is definitely worth a try and, contrary to iMovie, it is designed specifically for this task. Just be careful not to overlap two soundtracks. This latter tool I liked the most and it is also available for Windows.