|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.
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.
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.