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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sound Practices III: Putting It All Together


Assembling your multimedia into a cohesive, finished project

If Soundslides has a weakness, it originates directly from one of its strengths: the ease of use. To keep it simple, Soundslides has a somewhat limited array of templates and fonts for your output. And outputting to Flash is your only option; if you want to burn a show that’s playable on a DVD player, for instance, you’ll look elsewhere. This doesn’t bother most working shooters who need to publish to the web and are more concerned with the quality of the pictures and audio and not the varieties of typefaces. At $39.95 for the basic version and $69.95 for Soundslides Plus, it’s a choice that won’t break the bank.

While Soundslides is simple and designed for professionals, Photo to Movie (www.lqgraphics.com) is an incredibly powerful, dual-platform program that’s designed for amateurs, but full of professional features that rival movie-editing programs like Final Cut Express, but are much easier to use.

One of the hallmarks of this program is the incredible array of different transitions, as well as the almost infinite variety of panning and zooming options (with multiple stops, spins, curved motion paths, etc.). These moves require a little more thought and involvement than the simple start and stopping points of Soundslides and other basic programs, but once you get the hang of using motion paths, the effect can be stunning.

The developers of Photo to Movie recently have introduced web-based training videos to help explain the powerful features of this program. The first year or so that I played with it, however, it was almost impossible to find out anything that explained what terms like “kern” and “ligature” meant in terms of these moves (and, truth be told, I’m still not sure myself), but at least I have video tutorials to explain it all to me now!

Photo to Movie won’t output a Flash show, but it will render high-resolution movies that are perfect for burning onto DVD using Roxio Toast, iDVD or one of the other DVD-authoring programs. Photo to Movie’s rendering capabilities are always being updated and improved, and now include outputs for iPhones, iPods, Apple TV and the web. The new addition of multiple audio tracks and updated media browsers that interface with libraries in programs like Aperture make it fast and easy to access your content, and the ability to output in different formats, like 16:9, will be appreciated by widescreen TV owners. Support is excellent, but probably the most amazing thing about Photo to Movie is the price. At $49.95, it provides a ton of bang for the buck.

FotoMagico 2 (www.boinx.com) is a Mac-only program, but deserves mention for its ease of use and wide range of output options. Designed in Europe specifically for Mac OS X, the interface is intuitive and elegant, and has a choice of outputs, including HD. Often, when you use a sophisticated slideshow program to assemble a show and then try to output it to another format so anybody on any computer can view it, you lose quality. FotoMagico 2 solves this by offering a player function that you can attach with the show so anybody on any Mac computer can see the show in full resolution and with all the bells and whistles and transitions. FotoMagico 2 comes in two versions, Express and Pro, and offers a sliding license fee for the software from $50 to $129, depending on how many functions you need.

If FotoMagico 2 has a weakness, it’s the lack of a built-in media browser for ordering the sequence of your slideshow. The Express version interacts with the iPhoto media browser, and the Pro does the same with Apple Aperture and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. But it boils down to the fact that you have to order the sequence of your slideshow images in another program, renumber them and import them into FotoMagico 2. The import isn’t as smooth as it should be (I often find my slides imported in descending order, with the higher numbers first), but I’m told the developers are working on this, a flaw in an otherwise excellent program.

There’s no doubt about it, we’re in an era when the lines between media—stills, video and sound—are being blurred. This offers us a myriad of new ways to share our vision with the world and loads of new learning curves to deal with. But it has never been a better time to be a visual storyteller, and those learning curves, once negotiated, will be nothing but a speed bump!

For a schedule of Bob Krist’s workshops and seminars, check his website, www.bobkrist.com, under the “Teach and Talk” heading.

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