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Saturday, October 1, 2005

It's Showtime!

Share your images the 21st-century way

showtimeThe night my father pulled out the slide projector was always a special event for me as a young boy. As the eldest, I had the responsibility of retrieving the carousel from the closet and setting it up on the dining room table while he hung a white sheet on the wall. The whir of the fan and the sharp click of the projector were accompanied by my brothers' voices as they jostled for a good position on the couch. With the lights turned off, I'd hold the remote control, counting out the seconds in my head, as each image was projected on the makeshift screen. The photographs, large and vibrant with color, made the power of photography seem all the more magical.

Today, slide projectors have gone the way of the dinosaur and have been replaced with big-screen televisions, digital projectors, DVD players and computers. This not only has led to easier ways of creating photo presentations, but also has made them more personal and creative.

If you remember having to sit through a slideshow of every last photograph taken during a family vacation with nothing more than a droning narration, you'll appreciate today's creative options. Complete with music soundtracks, titles and dynamic transitions, slideshow software creates exciting and fun presentations for sharing your favorite landscape and wildlife photographs.

Features To Consider

There are dozens of software titles from which to choose. Along with presentation titles such as Microsoft Power-Point and Apple Keynote, image browsers such as ACDSee and Extensis Portfolio include slideshow capabilities. Simple Star PhotoShow Deluxe and Photodex ProShow Gold are applications created exclusively for making slideshows. Trying to decide which application will give you everything you need can be a challenge, but knowing what features to look for can help you make the best choice.

Organizing Images
Even before you begin creating your slideshow, it's important to collect the images that will be featured in the presentation. This is where image browsers such as ACDSee, Extensis Portfolio, iView MediaPro and Photodex Compu-Pic Pro make it simple. With easy-to-use thumbnails, the software allows you to select all the content in a folder or transfer select images to a folder specifically created for a slideshow.

Image-editing applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Ulead PhotoImpact and Corel Paint Shop Pro also offer integrated browser features, as do several slideshow applications.

Automatic Resizing
Most of today's digital cameras deliver more resolution than is needed for a digital slideshow. If a file from a 6-megapixel camera was used in a slideshow, it could take minutes for each photograph to be rendered on the screen.

Instead, it's important that images be resized for the medium in which they will be displayed. Slideshows intended for e-mail or as a screensaver can range in size from 640 x 480 to 1024 x 768, depending on the size and resolution of the monitor. If the slideshow is being burned to DVD for eventual display on a television, the resolution can be as high as 1920 x 1080 as in the case of HDTV.

Pre-existing templates allow you to create a complete slideshow in a matter of minutes. Ranging from dozens to hundreds in a particular software program, these templates only require that you choose the images to include in the slideshow and the software does the rest. Additional features include dynamic transitions, titles and even music.

Although these templates can be helpful when starting out, it's important that they're customizable. Whether it's changing a background color, text style or transition, such flexibility allows you to apply your own personal touch. Many applications make this easy to achieve with a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Duration And Timing

Basic slideshow applications display images for the same duration. While you may be able to increase or decrease that duration, it's applied across the board to all of your images. This certainly keeps things simple, but it may lead to a steady and monotonous pace. By varying the duration an individual image will appear, you can control the pacing during any point in the slideshow. This can be used to great effect when you're complementing your images with music.

Pacing and timing also can be controlled by panning across or zooming into an image. Named after the documentary filmmaker, the Ken Burns effect has been incorporated into many consumer slideshow applications and allows you to move within an image. In addition to being a fun feature, it can add a feel of professionalism to your slideshow.

Incorporating music in a slideshow can add a strong impact to your photographs. The careful combination of images, music and timing can elevate the slideshow from more than just a display of static images into a dynamic emotional experience. Whether the music is included in the slideshow software or chosen from a favorite CD, it can be one of the most important elements of your presentation.

A great feature in many applications is the ability for the software to automatically match the duration of the slideshow to the length of the song. This is a quick and easy way to determine which source music may be ideally suited for a specific presentation.

Be aware that most music is protected by copyright, however. If you're creating a slideshow for commercial or promotional purposes, you're legally responsible for acquiring a license for its use. Royalty-free music is available through applications such as SmartSound, which offers a large selection of music and sound effects that can be included in any slideshow or video presentation and made to a specific length.

Output Options

There are a variety of different ways for you to share your slideshows with friends, families and clients—via e-mail or a Website or displayed using a television or a digital projector. You can e-mail your slideshow on a VCD or DVD that's playable on virtually any DVD console player. Such recordable discs can come complete with an active menu screen, just like a Hollywood-style DVD release of a major motion picture.



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