The Old-Fashioned Slideshow…Via DVD
* DVD Slideshows
* Lossy Vs. Lossless
* Image-Organizing Software
Q) I love to travel around North America; I have many prints and slides. What I’ve wanted to do for a long time is create photo slideshows from my negatives and slides, then show them on my large-screen, high-resolution TV set. The only software I could find offered low-res television shows on VideoCDs. I love the concept, but the quality is missing. What I really want are two things: the ability to record to DVD and the ability to record in high resolution. It seems the ideal way to share my travels with others.
A) A lot of photographers are asking for the same thing. They’re looking for the replacement for the ubiquitous 35mm slide projector.
For years, photographers have been frustrated while waiting for the technology to catch up with their needs. Now, finally, there are affordable products to help you display a decent image without gathering your family and friends around your computer screen.
First, let me address what you’ve been doing so far. The only way to display an image on your TV was to connect your digital camera directly to the video input of your set (provided your digital camera had a video out). While this worked, it was cumbersome because it took time to switch between images and you had to edit your images in the camera.
Then came the DVD player. Here was a quality, moving-image, playback device that offered decent image quality on a noncomputer CRT. The problem was that it was very expensive to create DVD discs. So, until recordable DVD drives and discs came down in price, software manufacturers took advantage of the VideoCD-playback capability of most DVD players.
VideoCDs use the MPEG1 compression standard to put files on a regular CD. Since CD-R burners and discs were inexpensive, this was the main way of putting together slideshows. Unfortunately, MPEG1 compression, while remarkable technology, doesn’t do a great job with images. The actual resolution of the file put on the VideoCD is 352×240 pixels. The DVD player then increases the display size of the image. Some people have described it as VHS on a CD.
It was only a matter of time for two advances to help replace the slide projector: stand-alone digital image viewers and affordable DVD recordable drives.
Stand-alone digital image viewers allow you to display pictures right from your camera’s media card. Like a single 35mm projector, they’re not a full-fledged multimedia playback device, but they can create transitions and allow for zooming and rotation of images.
DVD recordable drives originally cost $40,000; now, they sell for around $300. The discs, which once sold for $50 apiece, are now priced well under $10.
DVD uses MPEG2 compression, which is significantly higher quality than MPEG1. The image size is 720×480 pixels, or twice that of VideoCD. And instead of a simple slideshow, there are several software packages that allow you to create a true high-quality presentation.
You might check out Ulead DVD PictureShow (www.ulead.com), Pinnacle Instant PhotoAlbum (www.pinnaclesys.com) and Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator (www.roxio.com), and there are other slideshow software programs that are coming on the market all the time. On the Mac, take a look at iPhoto/iDVD (www.apple.com).
To get picture resolution beyond 720×480, you’ll need to hook up your computer directly to a high-definition monitor or data projector.
Lossy Versus Lossless Photo Files
Q) As a subscriber to your magazine, I enjoy the articles in it very much. You had discussed what lossy means when I save a photo that has been reduced in size in a photo program. I’m unable to find that information in a back issue. Could you please tell me how saving to a lossy file affects the saved photo?
Fred R. Kudym
A) When you mention lossy, you also have to consider the opposite—lossless—in order to understand what’s happening when you compress any data file.
Lossless compression algorithms remove redundant information from a file and allow you to compress a file without losing any information. In other words, after compression, you’re able to retrieve all of your original data. If you’ve ever downloaded a Windows “zipped” file (one with a .zip extension) or a .bin or .sit on the Mac, you’ve experienced a file that uses lossless compression. This type of compression is needed for text files like spreadsheets, where losing one zero might affect the bottom line.
Lossy compression, on the other hand, throws some data away. JPEG, for example, is typically a lossy compression scheme. It takes advantage of the limitations of human vision to eliminate “perceived” redundant data. But make no mistake—it’s throwing away data that you’ll never get back. That’s why we recommend not saving your original files in JPEG format.
Obviously, digital cameras do save images in JPEG format in order to maximize storage on media cards, but once you offload them into your computer and start to edit them, save them in a noncompressed format such as TIFF or the native image-processing software’s format (.psd in Photoshop). If you were to “resave” the file in JPEG, you’d be throwing away more data.
Most digital cameras also allow you to shoot and save your images as RAW files or TIFFs. These are uncompressed formats that yield maximum image quality. Although they’re completely lossless formats, we don’t usually advocate that you shoot in RAW or TIFF unless you know you’ll need that kind of maximum quality. There’s always a trade-off in photography, and the trade-off with shooting RAW or TIFF comes at the expense of memory space and speed. Because the files are so large, your camera can be slowed down dramatically as the files are written to the memory card.
Q) Although this is PCPhoto Magazine, I’m hoping you can help me with a question about the Mac platform. What kind of software programs would allow me to store and organize my catalog of photos on my iMac? Can I actually use software to create a slideshow of my images?
A) Before I answer your questions, let me take a moment to clarify the name of our magazine. Most people assume that since it’s PCPhoto Magazine, it’s a Microsoft Windows-centric magazine. In fact, since PC stands for “personal computer,” and your iMac is a “personal computer,” you should know that we use both systems on a regular basis. (Last month’s HelpLine column was written on a Windows XP machine; this column is being written on a Macintosh PowerBook G4.)
Your options for your iMac vary from a couple of Apple-built software packages to upgrading the operating system (the following programs also have Windows versions and usually have free trials available from their websites).
As far as photo-organizing and browsing-software applications,
iPhoto from Apple (www.apple.com) will get you started. Ulead makes another easy-to-use program, Ulead Photo Explorer for Mac (www.ulead.com). It works with OS 8.6, OS 9.x and OS X.
FotoStation from Fotoware (www.fotostation.com) is designed specifically for photo organization. Its 4.5 version runs on Mac system software from OS 8.0 through OS 9.2. It will run in “Classic mode” under OS X. iView Multimedia’s Media Pro 2 (www.iview-multimedia.com) offers a complete set of image-management tools and even includes a slideshow program feature.
A more advanced system is Portfolio from Extensis (www.extensis.com). Extensis has developed products for the professional imaging industry; Portfolio is a very powerful organization program, but it’s also harder to use. It has a Mac version that runs on OS 8.6 through OS X.
Lastly, you could consider upgrading just your operating system to OS X. OS X comes with iPhoto, which will allow you to organize and store your photos. Upgrading to OS X is certainly a big step (like going from Windows 3.1 to XP for you Windows users out there), but it might increase your options for other software applications that you can use on your iMac.
And remember—it’s PCPhoto, not WindowsPhoto!
If you have any questions, please send them to HelpLine, PCPhoto Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.