ProShow Gold 4.1

A theme I come back to from time to time is what to do with the many digital pictures I take.

Making audiovisuals is one of the possibilities and I have written about a couple of tools that can be used to make them, including the free Windows Live Movie Maker.

This week it’s the turn of ProShow Gold 4.1, which I had heard many good things about, and which had been on my download and fiddle list for a while. The program is produced by a Photodex and is available for download from the website photodex.com for $69 and there is also a free 15-day trial version available.

The interface has a lot in common with other slideshow programs and has menus at the top, a toolbar giving access to the most commonly used commands just below that, a folders list on the left, a preview window on the right and, at the bottom, a timeline or slide list.

The idea is to find and display pictures, videos and sounds in the folders list and drag items from there onto the timeline in the order you want them displayed. You can very easily adjust the length of time that each slide is displayed for, and the length and type of transition between them.

Using the toolbar, you can add a number of different effects to slides including captions or panning and zooming movement. You can add a soundtrack to the whole show or you can add a sound or narration to any individual slide.

Movement and a wide choice of transitions allow you to create a dynamic-looking slideshow but ProShow Gold offers you some even more exciting possibilities. The program has a styles feature which you can apply to a picture, or pictures, and achieved the most amazing effects.

The program comes with 52 different built-in styles which allow you to quickly add borders, create montages of more than one picture at a time, create title slides and much more. The Photodex website offers a number of ad-on style packs which you can buy at $19 each, which contain a lot more of them.

Once your slideshow is complete, you can output it in a number of different formats including DVD, Blu-ray disc, CD-ROM, Adobe Flash, and any number of video formats. It can also upload completed shows to social networking sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook.

Talking of output options for a moment, I should probably mention Allan’s first rule of creating any sort of project, be it for print or screen. The thing to do is to first consider the desired outcome, and then to go about achieving it.

What you really need to think about when producing a slideshow for example, is the aspect ratio of the screen that you going to show it on. Is it a conventional 4:3 television screen, a 16:9 widescreen, or what?

A widescreen TV essentially has a picture that is wide but not very tall and you can encounter problems if your pictures are in portrait format and tall and thin. They obviously will not fit into the screen shape very well and you would either have blank bits at the sides, or the tops and bottoms will be cut off. (an explanation of aspect ratios)

The preferred method for preparing pictures for a slideshow would be to crop them to the same aspect ratio as the screen you are going to show them on. Any image manipulation program could be used for this but remember, not to crop your original files. Make copies of them first.

The good news is that ProShow Gold is a is and can be used to produce really great-looking slideshows relatively easily, with wonderfully smooth transitions between slides. The down side is that the Help is not that great and there were some features of the program that I battled a bit to get to grips with.

The Photodex website is not all that much help because, while there are tutorials that you can buy, the company clearly doesn’t believe in giving anything away for nothing and, apparently, very little for sixpence!

I must say that I am not a fan of folk that do business in that way, but the program is pretty good and I think I will probably end up buying it. I did find a couple of free information resources on the web including a couple of videos about how to apply styles to more than one picture.

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*** Photodex also offers the program ProShow Producer which is a professional-grade slideshow creation tool.

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