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One of the most common questions we get from readers is "How do I create a slide show from my digital stills that will play on my DVD player?" Digital stills are easy to snap, take up only a little disk space, are simple to edit and effortless to e-mail. Add a little background music and you have a show. The only problem is, DVD authoring apps can be a pain. From capture to show time, Ulead’s DVD PictureShow 2 Suite promises to take care of your images in style.
The Ulead DVD PictureShow 2 Suite consists of two primary applications: Photo Explorer 8 and PictureShow 2. Photo Explorer is one of the better digital photo management software tools around. It can transfer your stills from your digital camera (or scanner) and even capture video. Primarily, it is a manager for your ever-growing collection of photos. The searchable database is useful for anyone who has more than a few hundred digital stills. It also has some useful and simple editing tools including cropping, resizing and color correction and can generate slide shows for your computer. Or you can burn the slide show to a VCD disc for playback in your DVD player on your TV.
The DVD PictureShow 2 application is explicitly designed to create slide shows for your DVD player, in the VCD, SVCD or DVD format. If you have created a Photo Explorer slide show, you can import it into PictureShow, but starting from scratch is rather easy. The advantage to using DVD PictureShow is that it also allows you to import video and has a number of attractive menu templates you can use to customize your disc (more free templates are available online). Custom backgrounds, music, titles and printed labeling are all a part of the wizard-driven process. These are all standard features of any DVD slide show application.
Beyond the Basics
For simplicity, menu customization is limited to changing the text, background and frames: nothing can be repositioned. This means it will be tough to layout titles that are much longer than a few words, since they’ll start running into the video thumbnails, which you also can not move.
Beyond the basics, DVD PictureShow has some nice customization options. These start with the ability to add text to individual images, perhaps a note or explanation. You can also add voice annotations to individual images and even duck the music out under the voice over, although the effect is rather sudden and the music disappears completely. We found the entire process to be about as easy as it should be. As we were selecting and rearranging and modifying our show, we ran into one problem: very few actions can be undone. Fortunately, the app is so easy to use that an undo would be less a necessity than a convenience.
The only real limitation was that it was difficult to coordinate the timing of the music with the duration of the slide show. The program allows you to trim video, so it would be nice to see a similar interface used to let us trim the background music. It only takes a couple of clicks to calculate the duration of the slide show, based on the number of images and the duration of each image, but we would have preferred that this happened automatically. Likewise, song duration requires a click or two. In other words, the entire process of matching song length to slide show duration is a manual affair. How long will our 47-image show be if we change the duration from five seconds per slide to four? We’d love to see a "Match show duration to music" option in the next version, perhaps with a summary dialog box that displayed music duration, total number of slides and the resulting duration of each slide.
One advanced feature we would like to see is the ability to perform Ken Burns pan and scans across photos in our show. Of course this could complicate the program and make it less useable, but this is a hot feature right now.
Our favorite feature was the ability to include your source media files on the DVD discs you burn. This means you’ll have a DVD video disc that plays some video from your vacation, has an attractive slide show of your stills (with background music) and also contains the original, full-quality images, audio and video files. Of course, there is limited space on a DVD (4.7 GB), but you should be able to get 12-15 minutes of original-quality DV source video, plus 100 or so images and background music onto a single disc. If your vacation videos were much longer than that, we would highly recommend (for your friends’ and family’s sake) that you start editing a bit more aggressively.
You Just Need a Disc
This is a nice package for digital photographers, offering plenty of tools for managing your image collection. The limited DVD authoring options are the key to the simplicity and usability of DVD PictureShow.
If you have been frustrated with video editing, creating slide shows from your hundreds (thousands?) of digital stills may be more your style. Even for you professionals and wannabe pros out there, this package could be extremely useful when you don’t want to fool around with your high-end authoring tool, when all you really need is a disc. Yesterday. The one-click archiving feature is brilliant: we wish our pro app had that option.
D. Eric Franks is Videomaker‘s Technical Editor.
Operating System: Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP
Processor: PIII or equivalent
Hard Disk: 110MB
Other: disc burner, DirectX 8.1
Output Formats: DVD, SVCD, VCD
Demo Version: 15-day trial, 28MB
Printed Manual: 72 pages
DVD PictureShow’s effortless DVD slideshow authoring masks sophisticated management tools and a cool little archiving option.