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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sound Practices III: Putting It All Together


Assembling your multimedia into a cohesive, finished project

This Article Features Photo Zoom

sound practices
Pilgrims attach prayer flags to a mountain shrine on the outskirts of Lhasa, Tibet.
In my previous two columns, I talked about the techniques and gear for gathering sound, and some of the software for editing sound. Now in this third and last installment, I’ll give you a few options for putting your sound and pictures together to make a multimedia slideshow.

You already may have software that can integrate sound and slides into a very presentable slideshow. In Apple iLife ’08, both iMovie and iDVD offer a slideshow program, and it’s also possible to put together slides and sounds in Apple Keynote, Microsoft PowerPoint and a number of other presentation programs. But these programs can be a bit limiting in your choices of techniques, transitions and timing.

On the other end of the spectrum, movie-editing software like Apple Final Cut Pro offers powerful and almost unlimited choices for creating dynamic slideshows, but they can be as expensive as Photoshop and far more complicated.

The ideal program is one that offers a wide range of techniques and features, several ways to output your final product, a price that won’t send you for a second mortgage and a learning curve that won’t bring you to your academic knees! Here’s where the list gets far shorter.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything available, just three programs that I’ve used with excellent results. And when it comes to mastering software, it’s almost a sure bet that if I can use it, then you can too. Without putting too fine a point on it, my long suit is being out in the field gathering images and sound. When it comes to massaging, manipulating and transforming those digital files into a multimedia show, I’m out of my element and would be only too happy to hand that over to someone else.

sound practices
Fortunately, there are legions of working photographers in the same boat, and it was for us that Soundslides (www.soundslides.com) was first developed. Written by photojournalists for photojournalists, Soundslides (and the more fully featured Soundslides Plus) makes it as simple as possible to combine slides and soundtrack and output it to a flash slideshow that’s self-playing and can be uploaded to a website.

Both Soundslides and the Plus version feature a media browser, as well as an audio and slide timeline, and both are dual platform. There are several customizable templates for your output, and you can pick your transition type for individual slides, as well as the timing and in and out point. You also can pick a smaller-sized output (designed for slower Internet connections) or a larger size for high-speed connections. Captions and credits are viewable on demand, a huge plus and a unique feature (as far as I know) among slideshow programs. The Plus version adds a Zoom and Pan feature, a choice of output sizes (up to full screen) and the ability to add captions and headlines in the lower third of the frame.

The interface for both versions is simple and easy to understand. The forums on the Soundslides are active, and most of the interchange is from professional newspaper and news-agency photographers who need to produce high-quality multimedia shows on deadline. The customer support is superb, and developer Joe Weiss answers most, if not all, queries, gripes and questions swiftly and efficiently.

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