A DVD for Auntie Mabel

Digital photography is one of my passions and there has been plenty written about it in this column over the years.

One of the main themes has been what to do with the hordes and hordes of pictures that tend to accumulate after a while. I believe that one of the best ways of sharing pictures with others is to put them into an online photo gallery, such as Flickr (flickr.com). See my gallery here.

You can, of course, also share pictures by sending them here, there and everywhere via e-mail but those plans do fall down a bit when you come to the case of Auntie Mabel, who lives overseas, and has never even heard of the Internet.

One possible solution for keeping her updated with the latest pictures of the family, would be to trek down to the local photo lab, have a set of pictures printed out for her, trek over to the Post Office, stand in a queue for a long time, and post the pictures to her.

An easier solution, which I was reminded about recently, would be to take the pictures from your computer and put them onto a DVD disc which auntie can feed into her DVD player and look at them on her television set.

There are quite a lot of programs available which will do this including some that will allow you to get quite creative when putting your pictures together into a nice slideshow, complete with titles, narration and music.

One of the many available is Microsoft’s Picture Story 3, which you can get for free by visiting the Microsoft website and downloading it. I’m not too sure how long it is going to be available, however, seeing that it is one of the accessories for Windows XP, and seeing that XP is most definitely almost down and out.

The program is quite small and fairly quick to download, assuming you’ve got broadband, and it’s a matter of just a few moments to install it onto your PC. It’s surprisingly sophisticated, considering the price, and it manages to make the process of creating an audio-visual slideshow very easy.

When starting the program, you are presented with a wizard which guides you through the whole process of creating your slideshow. Your first task is to select pictures for your show from your hard drive and once that is done, Picture Story loads the pictures into a strip at the bottom of the screen where you can change their order.

At this point, you get the chance to edit the pictures and remove redeye, or apply special effects such as black and white or sepia to any of them. The next stage in the process is to add text to any of the pictures and you can choose the font, size and placement.

Recording a narration for any picture is very easy easily done by selecting the picture, clicking the record button, saying whatever you have to say, and then clicking stop. You can customise transitions, or how the pictures fade into each other, or tweak the settings for zooming and panning.

I didn’t bother too much at all with this last step, because I found that Picture Story did a very creditable job of choosing the right transitions to put between each of the pictures. You then add background music and, as a final step, choose what you’re going to do with the slideshow.

There are a number of different choices including whether you intend the slideshow to be played on a computer, and at what size, or whether you’re planning to create a DVD. You can then save your slideshow and, separately, the project as a whole, in case you ever want to come back and tweak the settings.

As I’ve said before, Picture Story 3 is surprisingly sophisticated and a lot of thought has gone into making it extremely easy to use while, at the same time, allowing the more creatively inclined to tinker with the settings. The only a slight snag that I can really say I found with it is that it cannot directly be used to create a DVD.

The file that you get out of it is a WMV (or Windows Media Video) file which can be played on any PC running Windows Media Player but which needs additional software before it can be burnt to DVD disc. There are many different solutions which will allow you to do this but the easiest of all, is a $19 plug-in from Sonic which will allow you to create a DVD directly from inside Picture Story.

As I’ve said before, there are plenty of software packages available which can be used to create slideshows and I may very well come back to the subject sometime in the future. In fact, you can probably bet on it.

In the meantime however, I’d recommend that you get your hands on Picture Story, or some other similar program, and get into making audiovisuals; it’s a whole lot of fun.

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1 thought on “A DVD for Auntie Mabel

  1. Tried PrShow Gold (photodex.com). Got good results for it – even asks for the size of TV the show is to be on and compensates by desaturating the image. Allows a DVD to be made that can be viewed only so many times – and via password.
    Cheers – always enjoy your column!
    Warthog Web Design

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