Options let you select transitions between images, colors, fonts, and so on.
Microsoft's Movie Maker does a good job of illustrating transitions using icons. This illustration shows just a small potion of those that are available.
Apple's Garage Band lets you compose your own music. It contains over 2000 Apple Loops in a variety of instruments and genres with a wide selection of prerecorded musical performances. It's like having your own backing band. There are over 100 Software Instruments and with a USB or MIDI keyboard you can play and record using hundreds of additional instruments including a new grand piano, 12 string guitars, vibraphones, additional drum sets, new organs, electric pianos, synthesizers, and basses.
Click to display a slide show in the Flash format created using Photoshop Elements 5.0.
Click to display a PDF slide show.
Two title slides, one all text and one a photo shot during a trip.
No matter how you share your images on a screen, it helps if the show is compelling. In the old days, your father or grandfather would have gotten out the slide projector and a collapsible screen for one of the most traditional forms of showing images—the narrated slide show. Beginning with the magic lantern in the 1800s, projectors made narrated shows available to small and large groups. The old-fashioned slide show using a screen and projector disappeared overnight. In business its been replaced with PowerPoint/Keynote presentations. In the home it's been replaced by slide shows that can be played back on the computer or the TV. There are a number of differences between the old and new kinds of shows. In the old ones, the audience had to come to you because you had the equipment. Now you can also send the slide show to the viewer. Another big difference is that the applications you use to create a slide show make it easy to add background music, titles, captions, and sophisticated transitions between images.
Slide show applications are generally quite easy to use. Typically, you import the photos you may want to include in your show. They generally appear in an area of the screen serving as a light table, or on a timeline in the order in which you selected them. If they are not on a timeline you can drag and drop selected images there, and move them around, to set the order in which they will be shown. You can then specify transitions between each pair of pictures and drag sound files to the time line. When finished, you can preview your show on-screen and then output it in formats you can post on a Web site, e-mail, or burn to a CD/DVD so it can be played back on another computer or DVD player connected to a TV.
To assemble a show you select images or drag and drop them on a time line.
. Arcsoft's DVD Slide show
. Sonic's MyDVD
. Apple's iLife
. Adobe's Photoshop Album (free) and
. Ulead's DVD PictureShow
. Microsoft's Power-Point
. Adobe's PDF
. Canopus' Imaginate
Background Music—The Missing Ingredient
One recurring problem when creating slide shows is finding royalty-free or public domain music you can use to accompany your shows. You'd have to have been living in a walled off bunker for the past few years not to be aware of the widespread theft of music, often referred to as "file sharing". It may be fun to rip off music executives, and some of the ungrateful performers, but that doesn't make it right. If you are putting together a slide show to play on your home DVD player, you can use Madonna's songs without fear of the music industry breaking down your door. You can probably even safely carry your show to Aunt Ethel's house and play it there. But, things get a little sticky when you pass out copies to friends, sell your show as a fund raiser for your middle school or church, or show it at that large corporate sales meeting. As soon as duplicates are being made, audiences are gathering, or money is changing hands, you are almost certainly breaking the law. The widespread copying and distribution of MP3 music has made people less sensitive to copyright issues, but using someone else's work without their permission is always unethical and usually illegal. There are really only two kinds of music you can use without permission—royalty free or public domain music:
- Royalty free music has been paid for by someone, recorded by them, or collected from the world of public domain recordings. Use of the music is free, but there will be a onetime fee that pays the publisher for their time and effort recording or assembling a collection. Some sources let you preview music over the Internet and then purchase what you like on-line.
- Public domain music is free to use because it is no longer covered by copyright, or the performer, and everyone else in the chain of creation, has put it into the public domain.
It would be nice if there was an easy way to tell if something is in the public domain, but there isn't. No matter how well informed you are, you might still get it wrong. There is an entire segment of the legal profession devoted to this very aspect of intellectual property, and they're confused much of the time. Your best bet is to find a reliable, trustworthy source of music you can use
and put yourself in their hands.
. royalty free music
. public domain music
. slideshow software
It would be nice if there was an easy way to tell if something is in the public domain, but there isn't. No matter how well informed you are, you might still get it wrong. There is an entire segment of the legal profession devoted to this very aspect of intellectual property, and they're confused much of the time. Your best bet is to find a reliable, trustworthy source of music you can use and put yourself in their hands.
Generally there are sound loops and full-length pieces. Sound loops are short and repeat over and over again until everyone watching your show is driven mad. For long slide shows you need full-length music that creates a mood but doesn't overwhelm the show.
Be sure you read the license agreement before you buy. With Shockwave-Sound.com you get what they call a Total Buyout Synchronization License. This means that the music must always be used together with images, text, or other visual/audio content, in such a way that the music is in a supporting/
secondary role, and is not the main content of the product. The Total Buyout part means that you may use the music as many times as you want, in as many different projects as you want without paying any further fees. Their limitation is that you may only make up to 499 physical copies of any product containing the music. To make more than 499 physical copies of a product containing their music, you need a Mass Production License.
If you are going to air your slide show on the local public access TV station, you will need additional rights. It might be easier to compose it yourself or just ask the viewers to hum along.
Choosing a Slide Show Program
There has been an avalanche of slide show programs—so many it's impossible to evaluate them all. They come both as stand-alone applications and as features integrated into other applications. Even if you aren't aware of it there may already be one on your own system. Slide show programs come in a variety of forms:
- Video-editing applications can create very sophisticated slide shows and give you the most control especially when synchronizing music and using special effects. A slide show is much like a movie but with the frames played back more slowly.
- Stand-alone slide show applications such as PowerPoint/Keynote, Ulead's DVD PictureShow and FlipAlbum offer most of the possible features and are generally easy to learn.
- Integrated slide show features are found in many photo-editing programs
such as Photoshop Elements, iPhoto, Aperture, and Lightroom. Acrobat Reader is also able to display a PDF file's pages as a slide show and even has a Read Out Loud command that robotically reads captions or other text.
When evaluating the many slide show applications now available, here are some things to consider:
- Input formats. The image formats supported by a program determine what image, sound, and video formats you can use. If it doesn't support the ones you use, you'll have the extra step of converting your files into a format it does support.
- Image selection can be partly guesswork if the program only displays small, hard to evaluate thumbnails. A program that lets you enlarge selected photos for a closer look is helpful when assembling a show. If this option isn't available, first select your images using a program that lets you enlarge them,and copy them into a folder of their own before importing them into the slide show program.
- Image sequencing is easiest if you can drag selected pictures to a storyboard
or timeline that shows the order in which they will play.
- Music. Can you sync the slides to the beat? Can you make the music loop so it doesn't end before the show does? Can you fade it in and out?
- Transitions between images can range from simple dissolves to dramatic special effects such as one image shattering like breaking glass to reveal the next photo behind it. Some programs force you to use the same transition throughout a show. Others let you specify transitions anywhere so you can vary them and keep things more interesting. One interesting transition duplicates the experience of paging through a real book. As you click a page, it turns on the screen, looking much like a real page turning.
- Backgrounds are what surround your images on the screen. These can range from simple black or white to the matic images. Not to be a killjoy, but black, gray or white are usually good choices because they set off images without distracting from them.
- Titles let you identify the beginning of a show or sections of it, much like a
title page and chapter openers in a book. Some programs have special effects that do things such as animate, fade, or scroll the title.
- Captions let you enter text to label or describe each photo.
- Narration lets you add your own sound track to the show using a microphone
connected to your computer.
- Templates provide a consistent theme for the show and include elements such as backgrounds, buttons, and menus.
- Editing is often built-in so you can crop, rotate, and remove red-eye without
having to leave the program as you assemble a show.
- Panning and zooming lets you add motion to still images just like Ken Burns does in his popular documentaries. He did this so effectively, it's often called the "Ken Burns effect".
- Image sizing is usually done automatically so you can use images of various
sizes and the application will resize them as needed.
- Output choices let you select how the final show is distributed and viewed. In most cases these include burning the show to a CD/DVD. When you make one of these choices you are actually selecting one of the file formats discussed in the next section.
- Archive originals saves the original full-size images on the same DVD as the slide show so they are protected from loss, and can be printed or used in other projects by the recipient.
With Apple's iLife you can create a slide show in iPhoto or iDVD. For more sophisticated effects such as pan and zoom, you can use iMovie.
Producing a Slide Show
Technology can make it easy to put together a slide show, but it takes more than technology to make it interesting.
- Decide what story you are telling. What is the theme that ties things together?
- Keep the show short—certainly not more than 20 minutes or so. If each image is on the screen for 5 seconds and there is a 2 second transition between images, you can show about 170 pictures in 20 minutes. Even Ansel Adams would have been hard-pressed to show more.
- Use title slides or slides you've taken to show locations. When shooting, keep in mind that title slides might be helpful so photograph city, state, or park welcome signs or well-known scenes that indicate a location.
- Use your best photos to start and end the show.
- Integrate sequences that tell mini-stories.
- Don't use too many different types of transitions. They can make the show the equivalent of a ransom note and give viewers vertigo. Simple dissolves from one image to the next work best.
- Use a black background to show off the images.
- Add background music but keep it low and its mood should match that of the show.
- You can add narration, but most shows work better if you do the talking in person. A canned narration is best when doing the show for broadcast or remote playback. If you are going to record the narration, it's best if you work from a prepared script rather than just winging it.
One thing to think about when creating a slide show is the different aspect ratios of the screens on which it may play. Here the aspect ratio of a typical computer screen (XGA 1024 x 768) is compared with all of the possible TV formats.