If you've ever wondered if there's a product out there that lets you create a slideshow for a grandparent and burn it to a CD or DVD, you should take a look at Magix Photostory on CD & DVD 4. It brings some great 3D effects and lots of new features to give you the ability to make fun videos or slideshows. This software lets you manage a media library of images, movies, and audio and assemble them together into slideshows where you have a tremendous amount of control over transitions, effects, music and text. For around $39, you don't need to be a professional to pick up a copy.
Photostory can pretty much handle all of your images from multiple sources and it supports all of the common formats (jpg, bmp, gif, tif, etc.). You can add single images or directories of images that you've transferred to your computer from your digital camera. Photostory is also TWAIN compatible, so you can scan items directly into the program.
There are also many ways to fix, enhance, and manipulate your images. To optimize, you can adjust the auto-exposure/color, correct red-eye and adjust the white balance of images. If you're not quite happy with the image, you can adjust sharpness, change colors, adjust image detail and rotate images. There are 10 effects that can be applied with one click. Effects include softening, sharpening, and conversion to black and white. One nice thing is that even if you apply a whole slew of effects, the original files are left unchanged. Photostory just keeps track of the effects and edits and applies those to the original file. Photostory automatically adjusts the image resolution for optimal viewing in a slideshow and will warn you if the image has too little resolution for the display target (TV).
Plenty of on-screen help and tips pop up to help you with various tasks. While creating a slideshow, you can apply 3D effects (like a flying heart) to transitions (or any one of the other 60 presets). If you want to add some movement, you can zoom in to a region of the picture, zoom out from a section of the picture, or pan across the picture. If you want to apply text to a slide, Photostory includes 30 templates to get you started.
Adjust the horizon of off-kilter images
Dialog for "camera" movement during the slideshow
When you're ready to burn your slideshow (to CD, Video CD, Super Video CD, DVD, or miniDVD), you can use any of 50 templates for intros, menus, backgrounds, navigation buttons, and 3D titles. You can also build your own menus.
If you don't want to burn your slideshow to optical media, Magix provides a free site that lets you view the slideshow online with music. If you like a particular image, you can order a print, calendar, t-shirts, etc.
A "4 track" storyboard allows you to arrange your images, effects, text and audio along a timeline.
For a full list of features, see the Magix Photostory on CD & DVD 4 functions page.
After installation, I jumped right into the program without really taking a look at the manual. I find that it's a good test to see how intuitive it is. In a new project, the first step is to choose and import the photos that you'd like to use. If you can't find everything that you want to put in, you can always add it later.
The next step is to add your images to the Storyboard pane along the bottom. Feel free to add, remove, and rearrange. Once you have all your images set, you can start adding those touches that really make a slideshow. I started with some titles. You can access the Title Editor by either double-clicking on the slide or clicking the "Title Editor" button (see on screenshots above), or by clicking the "Text" button on the slide.
My next step was to work on transitions. You can again just double-click the slide, or you can click the "A/B" icon that joins each slide together.
Movement settings (zooming in or out on a section of the image, panning) and image optimizations/enhancements are applied in the same way.
Once you're all done, you're ready to output your slideshow. If you want to just export as a movie file, you can export as an AVI, Windows Media, Quicktime, Real Media, MPEG, or Magix video. These options are available in the File menu.
If you want to burn your slideshow and send it off to your grandparents, click the "Make Disc" tab on the top right of the interface. Your first step is to choose any menus (like you see on movie DVDs), and any other Text, Borders, Backgrounds, etc. Once you're set here, click one of the buttons on the right to burn for TV, PC, or High Definition Photoshow. The Burn Dialog is presented, and you're off to the races.
There were a couple places where the program needs a little polish, but nothing that affected the functionality. Don't worry if you see some misspellings or non-English words. For instance, when you click the "Make Disc" tab, there is a button on the left of the screen with the word: "Backgorund". If you click the "Advanced" button in the Quicktime export dialog, you will see a button labeled "Abbrechen" instead of "Cancel. Like I said, it's nothing serious, but just one of those things that happens with software.
As I was writing this, it dawned on me: I'm taking all these screenshots of the software, why don't I create a slideshow about Photostory with Photostory? So, I put together a show of 9 slides that lasts 1 minute and 18 seconds and exported them as a Windows Media file. It's surely no work of art, but I hope it shows how easy it is to use the software.
Photostory Demo - WMV file - 640x480 - approx 14 MB
Magix Photostory on CD & DVD 4 is a great program for transforming your images into fun slideshows. The software is intuitive to use, easy to learn, and the multitude of output options provides great value to someone who loves to relish in their ever-growing library of images. A slideshow CD or DVD also makes a great gift for new grandparents. The best part about the software is that it won't break the bank. For $39, Photostory is very reasonably priced for even beginning or amateur photographers.