Slide into "Thin Streaming"

Someday soon Internet video-on-demand will democratize video distribution, allowing everyone the opportunity to distribute video to a worldwide audience without having a multi-billion dollar television-broadcasting studio. But what is there to do in the meantime? How can I put my productions on the Internet today? The answer lies in the slideshow.

I remember the first time I watched
video-on-demand via the Internet. "Amazing," I thought
to myself as I clicked on the button that started the video. Having
already downloaded and installed the utility that allowed this
technological miracle, I was ready to experience "click-and-watch"
video. What a letdown. The video was tiny, roughly the size of
a saltine cracker on my 17-inch monitor. The picture was barely
discernible, with large digital-artifacts appearing where the
software’s compression utility hadn’t quite done its math correctly.
The most obvious problem was the lack of motion. The video sputtered
along at two or three frames per second. I had almost given up
hope for Internet video, when I remembered how I was connected
to the Internet: through an old, slow, copper phone wire. Then
I imagined the super-fast connection the phone companies are promising
over the next couple of years. If they can transmit almost-video
over my ancient phone line now, full-motion, full-screen video-on-demand
will be a reality when the super-fast Internet connection comes.
Until then, I can distribute my work on the Web in the form of
a slideshow.

Internet slideshows are a fast and inexpensive way to get your ideas out to a mass audience, without having to resort to slow, chunky and tiny video. By using the basic story-telling concepts of a storyboard (see "Back To School Storyboard" in the February issue of Videomaker), you can easily turn any video into a multimedia web-based slideshow. Slideshows also play great on a television, opening your Web slideshow to a wider potential audience of WebTV surfers.

Making Slides to Show
There are two basic ways to create digital slides. First, you can use a still camera. Your still camera can be either a standard film-based camera, in which case you would have to use a scanner to digitize the photos, or a digital camera that saves stills on a disk in an Internet-ready format. Or, you can use a video camera, and take stills from video. The first method requires little or no special equipment, save a scanner if you are using a film-based still camera. If you have a Firewire-based digital camcorder it is easy to create stills that are transferable to your computer through a simple connector. If you want to use existing analog videotape taken from a standard camcorder, making digital stills requires a special piece of equipment called a digitizer. This can be either a special video-capture board that you install into your computer, or an external device like Play Inc’s Snappy, that plugs into the ports in the back. Either way, you can use these tools to capture "still frames" from your video. These devices will usually save the still frames in any of the standard digital photo formats including gif, jpg, bmp, and tga.

After you have selected the stills you want to use, you’ll need to put them in an order that tells a story. For example, if you are making a how-to slideshow about organic gardening your first slide could be of your untilled garden. The next could be a slide of tilling the garden, followed by slides of rebuilding the soil with compost, planting the garden, chemical-free pest control techniques, harvesting and so forth. After you have selected your slides, you can create an audio track that explains each step, and match the changing slides to your audio track.

Tools to Slide the Show
Now that you have slides to show, you are ready to put them on the Internet. For those of you who aren’t experienced in HTML Web programming, I’d recommend using an existing video streaming program like the RealVideo Producer (see sidebar), or a special slideshow program such as InMedia Slides and Sounds. To make a slideshow in Slides and Sounds, simply place your selected slides in order in the slideshow creation menu. Captions and sound effects can be added to each slide by simply clicking the "add sound" and "add caption" buttons. Transitions between slides can then be selected from the F/X menu. Blank slides can also be created to add simple titles at the start or finish of your slideshow. It’s that easy. To finish the slideshow, save it as a file that can be e-mailed to family and friends, or select the "save as HTML" option from the file menu. This will create a Web ready HTML file that will play on most browsers (in Internet Explorer, you might have to go to the "view" menu, "options" section, "security level" button, and select the medium security setting to permit a small file to be temporarily used to play the slideshow).

Getting your Slideshow on the Web
Now that your slideshow is ready for the Web, you’ll need to publish it to your Web page. There are numerous Web hosting companies, and each offers its own package of options for your site. Users of InMedia’s Slides and Sound who don’t want to host their own Web site can have a slideshow served by InMedia.

If you plan to use a video-streaming package to create your slideshow, make sure that the hosting company you choose supports the streaming package you plan on using. There are some sites on the Web that will even give you a free website to display your slideshow. Geocities (www.geocities.com) and Tripod (www.tripod.com) will host a small site for free as long as it is a not-for-profit endeavor.

Until the majority of the wired world has a high-bandwidth Internet connection that streams video full-size and full motion, slideshows are the low-bandwidth alternative of choice for camcorder enthusiasts.

Larry Lemm is Videomakers editorial assistant.

SIDEBAR: Making a Slideshow in HTML.
It is easy to make a series of Web pages act like a slideshow is you already know the basics of HTML. To perform this feat of coding magic, simply use this tag above of your HTML header (make it the first thing listed in an HTML source).

<META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" content="5; URL=http://www.yoururl.com/nextslide.htm">

In this example, the refresh call is the "slideshow" command, the content number (5 in the example) is the number of seconds the page will wait before cycling to the next page in the slideshow, which is the URL listed in the tag. To use this bit of HTML magic, replace the sample URL with the URL of your next slide, and replace the 5 in the content call with the number of seconds you want you slideshow to be displayed. Create your web pages for the slideshow with the images and text you want displayed, as you would create any web page. If you use an HTML generator such as Pagemill, you can create the pages normally, then add the Meta-Refresh tag above any other coding. An example of this style of slideshow is available at www.adventureliving.com/home/slideshow/index.html

B>SIDEBAR: Using RealVideo to make a Slideshow
Video streaming software such as VivoActive or RealVideo can also be used to make an Internet slideshow. The downside of this method is that viewers will have to download a special player plug-in to watch your slideshow. On the upside, the streaming packages allow for a continuous soundtrack of narration or music to be added to your slideshow. The RealVideo encoder, for example, has a pre-defined slideshow setting that will take a video clip, and stream it with high-quality sound, and a single frame from the video is shown every four seconds. This is the easiest way to make a slideshow from a video. Another way to use RealVideo to make a slideshow is to make an audio-only RealMedia file. Then you create a series of web pages holding the images you want shown in your slideshow. The next step is to make a text file that will list the web pages you want synchronized to the audio with a time marker next to each, and it will begin loading that page at that point in the audio file. As the audio file plays, the web pages are automatically displayed (For a complete explanation, go to page 81 of the RealMedia 5 content creation guide). A stellar example of a RealVideo slideshow is at www.starwars.com/dewback/index.html. Here you will see George Lucas explain some moviemaking magic while his Web site employs some Web-Jedi tricks.

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