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RIRS.ORG #16
Digital Slide Shows
Patsy Cunningham
July  2002

 

             Some of you may have quite a few photos of roses and gardens on your computer and would like a way to look at them more easily.  If you have a digital camera, you probably have many more photos than you’d ever want to print out in expensive color ink on your printer. Even without a digital camera, it’s easy to collect hundreds of pictures of beautiful rose varieties as you’re browsing or researching on-line.  Remember, when you see a photo you like on line, right click it and hit save.

            There are some standard ways of using digital photos, such as making a screensaver or using a photo as your Windows desktop decoration.  They can also be made into a “slide show” or Power point presentation that can be played on your computer, or even on a movie screen if you’re fortunate enough to have access to a digital projector. Two of the newest ways are to burn the slide show on a CD so that it will play automatically when inserted in a computer CD drive.  Newer still is to burn that CD with your computer CD burner using a specialized program so that it will play in your DVD player, to be viewed from the comfort of your living room.

            First, to use a photo on your Windows desktop, Right click anyplace on your computer screen where there are no program windows or icons, choose active desktop>customize my desktop>background.  Choose Browse and then browse to the directory where you saved the file you want to use and choose it.  Use center, not stretch or tile to avoid distortion.

            There are hundreds of free screensaver programs on-line, and I’ve spoken about finding them at zdnet.com in the Oct. 2000 RIRS.ORG article.  My present favorite is called ScreenPaver.  It’s a simple program, freely downloaded from www.screenpaver.com, with no fees.  It allows you to choose multiple directories of images to use as a screensaver.  The filename (which would usually be the rose variety name) can be displayed with each photo too. The feature that sets it apart is that the last picture shown when you run the screensaver, is automatically used as your desktop background.  So if you see a photo you like while it’s running, move your mouse or hit a key and that photo stays on the desktop.  If you do register the program, it is only $10.  Registration removes the occasional “screenpaver ad” slide and gives you an additional screensaver utility program.

            If you’re interested in making a CD on your computer that can be played in your DVD player as a VCD, there are 2 shareware programs available.  The first is ProShow, which can be downloaded from www.photodex.com. It can make a DVD of your photos and add music that is synched with the individual slides or to the length of the slide show.  There are 170 “transition” effects you can place between each slide to add interest. The filename or a caption can be added to each slide.  When you produce the DVD on your CD burner, you can tell the program to also make it playable on the computer CD drive and to add jpg copies of all the files on the CD for reference.  It can also turn the whole slide show into one large .exe file so it can be emailed to someone. Warn the recipient first, as it is likely to be a large file and most people, myself included, don’t ever open .exe files sent by email.  It costs $29.95 to register.  You can try out the fully functional program for free, but it puts a big “trial” banner across each photo until you register it.

The second program is called Xatshow, from www.xat.com.  Xatshow can be used in its freeware version for computer and web slideshows or a screensaver.  It also lets you use its CD/ DVD writing capabilities free for 30 days to try it out.  It has fascinating slide transitions, though they are quite limited in number.  Those special slide transitions worked well on the computer, but did not show up on the DVD I burned.  There appeared to be no way to add a caption to the slide.  It does have built in tools for cropping your photos to fit a regular or widescreen TV set.  It costs $39.

One advantage of using a DVD player and your TV, is that you do not need high resolution photos from an expensive digital camera.  A traditional analog TV set is a low resolution screen.  A TV uses lines of color rather than pixels.  The absolute maximum resolution usable from a computer image file would be 640 X 480, and can be as low as 544 X 372.  This means that even the cheapest of digital cameras can produce usable images for the TV.  They are best viewed from a distance, don’t stand next to the TV to watch.  The new and expensive HDTVs have a resolution of  about 1280 X 720 and also a length/width ration that is closer to a movie screen.

Always try a program before you buy it.  It is particularly important in this case, as you want to make certain your DVD will play VCDs.  The newer DVD models will do this easily, even many of the very cheap ones.  They do not always mention this on the box or in the instructions.  You can go {online} find out if a DVD player you’re thinking of buying is compatible with VCDs.  It also includes user comments about the quality of the DVD player. 

Of course, all of this information will probably be outdated by next year.  As more people buy DVD players, more features and compatibility will be built in and more user friendly programs will be written to take advantage of this.  One feature that should be on all DVD players but presently is on only a few, is the ability to read Kodak Photo CDs, the ones you can get when you get your regular film developed and put on CD at the drugstore.  That way even people without any computer could share their photos on a TV through their DVD player. 

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