Quantcast Slideshow software reviews: Adobe Premiere vs freeware - digitalFAQ Forum
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11-11-2007, 01:25 AM
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When it comes to DVD slideshows, there are a few things to remember:

-- A slideshow DVD is basically a movie, it's not still images. It can have a menu and multiple audio tracks like any other DVD. It can even be authored as 4:3 or 16:9.

-- You're limited to 720x480 resolution on screen, so it won't be stellar high-res quality on an HDTV.

-- Slideshows are memories. Very often, they are memories of times long gone, maybe even of people who have passed. It's a great idea to narrate a slideshow DVD with a "commentary" track. It might be you, it might be the whole family or group.

-- Slideshows may be used for backgrounds at functions, such as family reunions. As such, consider a second audio track that is NOT narrated, and is simply musical Use music that is appropriate and neutral, such as classical or country. You wouldn't want heavy metal used on a family album unless it's relevant (Ozzy, is that you reading?).

-- You need to remember that, as video shown on television, it must stay with the "safe zone" of what stays on screen. You would not want your image to bleed off into the overscan, not on a slideshow. If it's a high quality set of images, such as a photography portfolio, you would not want your images cropped down evern further on screen.

-- Slideshow software cannot be allowed to butcher the clarity of images, either with a forced anti-aliasing filter or by resizing with a sloppy method that leaves blocks and jaggies.


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METHOD 1 - PREMIERE

My favorite method is probably the most expensive method, as it involves using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, audio software (my choice is SoundForge), and DVD authoring software (my choice is Ulead DVD Workshop 2). The learning curve is intermediate, mostly because I like to control every step of the process:

STEP 1. Correcting each photo to have proper color, contrast, sharpness, etc. I open them one by one in Adobe Photoshop CS3, correct the quality, and then resize down to the exact size I want to use in the video. A PSD template is made with a background of my choice, usually a neutral graphic that I create in a few minutes. I might even add text or picture-in-picture to a special slide. Then I drop the image in place on the template, center it, and save as a JPEG (Max 12).

STEP 2. After the photos are corrected, I open a new Premiere project, and then import all the images into the assets box. Then I drag them to the timeline one by one, adjusting the time on screen to whatever I think I'll need when I narrate the audio track. When that's done, I export the video to an MPEG file.

STEP 3. I create a quiet environment, and then watch the video while I (or whoever) talk into a computer microphone and record the audio while the watch the video play. When done, hit stop, save as a WAV, and then import that into Adobe Premiere on the audio timeline.

STEP 3 - OPTIONAL. Before importing the narration... Because I might want to watch the slideshow again and again, I may not want to hear the narration each time. So I'll pick a grouping of my favorite MP3 songs, import those into Adobe Premiere on the second audio timeline, and then export that second audio timeline for later on. Delete the second audio timeline when done. Then import the narration...

STEP 4. With the images and narration finished, I now export the full timeline to an MPEG file with the Adobe Encoder. I can also export a web version to FLV (format used by Youtube, Flash media) for online use on a website.

STEP 5. If I wanted a menu-less disc with only one audio track, I'd use TMPGEnc DVD Author and author a DVD. If I want a menu and/or two audio tracks, I'd use Ulead DVD Workshop 2. I'd create a menu in Photoshop, and then import one or more slideshows, any extra audio tracks, and the menu image or video. I'd author the DVD with my slideshows, and both a narration and a musical track.

Again, this method is the most tedious, but it results in professional quality output suitable for any situation.


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METHOD 2 - DVD SLIDESHOW GUI

This method is really good, with a few options (subtitles, safe-zoning of images, some transitions), and results in a menu-less DVD with one audio track. This method is 100% FREE. Well, it might cost $50 if you optionally correct your images in Adobe Photoshop Elements. DSG resized images properly.

STEP 1 - OPTIONAL. Open each of your images in Adobe Photoshop Elements, and correct the color, contrast, brightness, etc of the image. Save as JPEG (max quality) images.

STEP 2. Import your images into DSG. Select desired background image (and music, if not using narration) in project settings. Select duration and transitions of images either as a group, or one by one. Add subtitles to images. Export to DVD (folder or ISO). (1) Or if you want to export to MPEG, it can be used in place of Adobe Premiere in the 1st method. (2) Or if you want to make DVD with DSG, with a narration track, export to MPEG. The export process starts by analyzing your images, and it gives NO PROCESSING CLOCK of any kind. No timer, no status bar, nothing. Just wait a few minutes. It should finish that, and then pop up the HCencoder and other secondary software that it ties into to make this all work (DSG is not just DSG, but a package of a few freeware tools all together).

STEP 3 - OPTIONAL. Watch exported MPEG and record audio in audio software. While I prefer SoundForge, something that comes with your soundcard, or freeware like Audacity, also works. Then go back to STEP 2, and insert this audio instead of music.

STEP 4. Burn exported DVD folder or ISO with ImgBurn (freeware too!).


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METHOD 3 - PICTURESTOEXE DELUXE 5

This is a software I found through Google, and it looked interesting. It's very similar to DVD SLIDESHOW GUI, with an added ability to design menus from a limited template set.

It has two downsides: no safe zones (you must manually resize each image into a safe size), and then it costs $60 for the DVD burning edition. The images also looked a it jaggy, meaning the resize was not very good. Some of the options were a bit hidden, which I didn't really like.

I wasn't overly impressed. It worked, but the above two methods are better.


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METHOD 4 - MEMORIESONTV

This software isn't going to get much of a chance from me. I've been waiting about 5 minutes already for it to read a folder of images, and it pretty much is stuck doing that. The folder in question has about 600 images in it, all of them are 4-5MB JPEG-High images from a Nikon D200 camera at 10MP.

MemoriesOnTV is hogging up so much of my CPU and RAM that I can't do much of anything, actually. After 10 minutes, I hit CTRL-ALT-DEL and went to task manager and shut this one down. It fails on gluttony alone. Either that, or an inability to handle professional-sized 10MP photographs.

It was too expensive anyway, at $80. That's on a few dollars away from owning Adobe Premiere Elements, which is far more useful.


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METHOD 5 - PHOTODEX PROSHOW GOLD

This one impresses me with a large amount of features.

There are a lot of transitions, including some fairly impressive Ken Burns effects, such as zooming, panning, rotating, etc. Layered slides are allowed, and it even imports PSD Photoshop files. These effects are available in Premiere too, but it's so much easier in this software. Subtitles are available, safe zones can be altered as desired (I set mine to be 7% each), and there is a live preview function. There is even some limited photo corrections available, such as contrast, black point, and white point (and I think it has some color tweaks too). Integrated DVD authoring with some degree of control over customization (almost like TDA). I believe it can have some motion clips integrated too, but it's one of several options I didn't explore in my tests.

The only downside to this one is no second audio track, an intermediate learning curve for advanced slide shows, and a price tag of $70. Of course, that's not a lot of money. I think it's worth the money. I might get this one for myself.


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METHOD 6 - ULEAD DVD PICTURESHOW

This one didn't look to be much better than the other ~$50 slideshow software, so I didn't bother testing. The free DSG method or the high-end Premiere method look to be better. These $50 programs either don't offer much more (or nothing more) than DSG, or they fall far short of Premiere.


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METHOD 7 - SLIDESHOW MOVIE MAKER

This is a very basic utility that makes AVI movies, not MPEG or DVD, so I skipped it.


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I'm not aware of any more popular methods, but I'd gladly look at some.

In review, the top 3:
1. ADOBE PREMIERE = best, most control, professional quality
2a. PROSHOW GOLD = excellent choice, lots of features, good value
2b. DVD SLIDESHOW GUI = very good tool, covers all the basics, freeware

**** I can't decide if Proshow or DSG deserves 2nd place more. They both have merits, both are great at what they do. ****

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