Photography Articles

This article is published in "Canadian Camera", Official Publication of "The Canadian Association for Photographic Art", Spring and Summer 2007, Canada.

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"Digital AV", A Great Way to Share Your Images!"

Leona Isaak

Canada, 2007

Many years ago I saw a show done with two projectors, in which the images blended into each other and were accompanied by music: I was hooked! But it was many years later that I convinced my camera club to purchase the equipment to do slide shows. I was then able to begin putting shows together. I had the images, could borrow the equipment from my club and was on my way!

Doing slide shows became such as addiction that I needed to buy my own equipment (which, by the way, was all pre-owned). The process to create a show was tedious and the setup at a showing took at least an hour. The equipment was heavy to carry. My audiences were family at first. Then came presentations to various groups, and then instructional workshops.

About four years ago, when I visited my CAPA friends, Joyce and Bill Demeester, in Kelowna, Bill introduced me to Pro Show Gold, a computer software program for creation audio-visual shows. Hooked again! Now came the challenge of scanning slides and learning the software. Wal-Mart's reasonably priced scanning service took care of the first task, and learning to use Pro Show Gold was a piece of cake.

Then came the issues of the equipment . Again my club was my equipment initial source, but I soon acquired my own (this time new). What a difference in the amount of equipment to carry, the length of setup time, and in the number of things that can go wrong!

My first show, of course, was on flowers, and since then I have produced many shows on a wide range of subjects. Let's look at what is required to produce the type of show that will elicit that WOW from your audience.

Software Tools
You will require software to organize your images. Music editing and photo editing software are optional, as Pro Show Gold has these features built into its program. My back-up music editing software is Audacity (a free download), and for photo editing I use Adobe Elements. Next you must choose your show production software. Look for ease of: importing/editing images, importing music, adding special sound effects, and synchronizing images. All important is the program's capability of producing DVD's/CD's and executable files. And of course cost is always a factor. Pro Show Gold has been the software of choice for me (cost: about US$79.95).

You will need a computer with a CD/DVD player/writer. For sharing your show on the road, you need a laptop, a digital projector and amplified speakers. A word about laptops: If you are intending to purchase one, get one with a good graphic card, which has its own memory. This will give you a smoother running show.

Show Considerations
You have the software and equipment; now need to address preparation issues. Determine the purpose of your show. You may wish to tell a story, create a family album, explore a theme, or share your travel memories, and you want to do this, while keeping the interest of your audience. After you determine your theme, determine the length of your show, but keep it short! Leave your audience wanting more! Your show can be as short as two minutes but no longer than ten (and even that is pushing it).

Show Production Procedures

Image Selection: Substantiate your them, consider the suitability of each image to blend into the next, and avoid going from extremely light to extremely dark (or vise versa). Abrupt changes from horizontal to vertical are bothersome, so keep your verticals and horizontals group together.

Image Preparation: Adjust color brightness, resize 1024x768 (horizontal) or 768x1024 (vertical). Saves your files as JPEG: medium quality at 72 dpi (dpi is not relevant for projection), and put them into your "slide show" folder.

Music Selection: Make sure your chosen music complements your theme. Keep it lively, and synchronize images to music. If the music has words, match the images with the words without being too obvious. Edit the music by shortening or splicing two pieces together.

Narration (optional): Prepare a script, keep it simple, and use a voice that is easy to listen it.

Transitions: Keep them smooth, and vary the times between images to keep in time with the music.

Special Effects: You can add interest by using motion/panning/zooming, but limit these: your purpose is to share images, not to demonstrate special effects. They should also be suitable to the images and the theme and pace of the show.

Title Slides: The title of the show, music credits, should be simple, short, and legible. Don't forget to consider using maps, travel folders and signs. Display them long enough for the audience to read them.

Final Step: Save as show.psh (if you are using Pro Show Gold), then create your executable CD/DVD attractively and share it with your friends and family.

Your finished show should be as good as the images in it!

Putting It Together
In this article we are going to cover the basics of programming a digital AV show, but eventually you can make your shows as complex and customized as you like.

We have decided on the theme, the images and the music. Now we need to take the steps to build the finished product. We are going to make a folder (e.g., Slide Show - Flowers) containing all the images we are going to select from.

Open Pro Show Gold (You can download a trial version from PhotoDex) (and they also have great tutorials). The layout of the opening window is simple, and going through all of its features is a good way to get a feel for what the software can do. There are three main areas: choosing your images (Folder List), previewing the image and show options, and determining the number of slides used and the length of the audio. Keeping your eye on this helps to ensure that your slides and music end at the same time. The main page is where you can select your images for a show, arrange the sequence of the images using the light box feature, and customize the timing and transition effects.

Selecting images is easy: simply select all the images from your folder or just the ones that will make an effective final product. Just drag and drop. Later on, in the "show bar" (or using the light-box features), you can arrange the images in the sequence that works for you.

I prefer to start and end with a blank black slide. It makes for a gentler start and finish.

Once you have chosen your images and they are in the sequence that you want (you can change this at any time), you are ready to select the transitions and the timing. Click on the A/B tab located between any two images, and it will open the window containing over 200 transition effects (too many in my opinion). Be careful here! Using too many different effects in the show will take away from the real intent, which is to showcase your photography. Use the KISS principal!

Now is time to insert the music that you have carefully chosen to accompany your images. ProShow has made it so easy to do. Go to "Show Options", select "Soundtrack", then "Save Music from CD". Insert your music CD, select the soundtrack you wish to use, and follow the instructions. Your music is now in your show. Notice the indicators on your Main screen - showing the number of slides in your show and now the length of the audio.

You can ProShow's default to make the music and slides end at the same time, but with a little extra work you can sync your images with the music. Just use the little box in the show image thumbnail, change the default setting and keep working at it until you have the music and images synced to your liking.

Just a reminder that you must save your work periodically; everyone knows why, right?

Your show now can be prepared for sharing. Using the e-mail show option is not always a wise choice, as the finished file is very large, and could take a long time to download on your friend's computers. You don't want to be blacklisted by your friends, so if you use this option, at the very least let them know the show will be coming.

My preferred method is to save the show as an .exe file and writing it to a DVD or CD. Under "Create", select the output option you wish to use. Here you can use the provided menus (which are the instruction to your show) or you can customize your menu using images that you have in the show. You can save several shows on one DVD or CD. If you are saving to a DVD/CD it is a good thing to use a menu - especially when you are using a laptop. it seems to run a bit smoother. Label your DVD/CD attractively. You can purchase a printer (optimum method) that can print directly on your DVD/CD (An Epson with this feature costs about $175). Alternatively, many newer computers have Light Scribe, which can etch a custom label onto DVD/CD's. Be careful with paper labels - they need to be affixed correctly or they can cause a malfunction in the player.

ProShow has the feature allowing you to share your shows online for free.

So folks, that is relatively painless way of creating your very own AV shows. The software is located with other features, which I will let you discover on your own. If you have any questions, email me at and I will be happy to assist. Better yet, put your show online, let me know, and I can have a look at it.