Summer is almost here and I'm sure most of you are already thinking about the places where you would like to spend your vacation. Needless to say that, regardless of the destination you choose, you'll take loads of photos to remind you of the places you have visited and, of course, to share them with your friends and family. When you present your photo collection, you can either choose a common photo viewing application like the one included in Windows - or any other modern operating system for that matter - or you can play the "extravagance" card and create a slideshow using your own image files.
This second approach, besides being more elegant, also has the advantage of taking off your shoulders the task of periodically switching back and forth between various images and thus letting you concentrate on the actual pictures. Plus it makes a good impression on the audience.
There are numerous software utilities on the market nowadays designed for this specific purpose and today's topic is a lightweight application named PhotoStage Slideshow Producer designed by NCH Software.
PhotoStage Slideshow Producer presents its users with a clean and highly intuitive interface making it extremely easy to use even for those who have little to no experience in working with computers. In order to create a slideshow, all you have to do is insert the media files into the desired location. One thing that pleasantly surprised me just as I started testing this software was the fact that it supports both graphic and video files. Most popular file formats can be used with PhotoStage Slideshow Producer since it instantly downloads the necessary encoders for the video files. The application also allows you to preview the created slides as thumbnails for a better management of the sequence.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder so, while adding the slides, you might want to customize them a little bit, in order to make them more conclusive or more appealing to the eye. PhotoStage Slideshow Producer provides you with various options to edit your slides. Probably the most interesting one of all is the ability to add narration - simply click on the Record button and start talking. In case your recording exceeds the duration of the selected slide, the slide will be stretched to match the duration of your recording. If you don't feel like talking when creating your presentation or you simply cannot think of something appealing to say, you can let any audio file do the job for you. This turns out to be a very useful feature to have when you are putting together a slideshow that is intended as a backend for a presentation or conference.
Besides adding narration to your slideshow, PhotoStage also supports other useful editing features. The next one on the list is "zoom effect" that can be applied on a section of the slideshow by selecting the start and end points. At any given time, you can preview this action to see how it will appear on your slide. Moving on, we find that PhotoStage Slideshow Producer also allows you to crop the selected slide, modify the default colors - by adjusting the brightness, contrast and gamma parameters - as well as to apply filters. Last, but definitely not least, is the text caption feature, which is helpful if you want to add a description to your slide. This too can be customized by selecting the desired font, alignment and text position. In case you are not satisfied with the results, you can always reset the changes and stick to the default settings or try editing the slides once again.
Assuming that you have finished adding the slides and customizing them, if you want to make the presentation friendlier, you can add sound files in different formats so you can listen to them while watching the slideshow.
When everything is finished, all that's left for you to do is build the slideshow, which is as simple as selecting the output medium that will host the generated slides and clicking a few times. PhotoStage Slideshow Producer allows you to choose the output medium where you want to store the slideshow from the following options: the hard-drive, CD, DVD, portable devices like cell phones and PDAs, as well as Mac computers. For users who find these selections somehow restrictive, the "Other Media" tag allows them to directly select and edit a number of lower level options, like the file system's type that will be used to store the data, the file format that will encapsulate the newly created slideshow and the playback resolution in pixels. When it comes to the file system type, PhotoStage Slideshow Producer is able to write your slideshows on a CD/DVD using the venerable ISO format and going up to the newly introduced, high performance Blu-Ray.
For users who need to pack their slideshows in a specific file format, this software utility comes equipped with the ability to create and write video files with the following extensions: AVI, WMV, ASF, MPG, 3GP, MP4, MOV, FLV. When it comes to resolution of the video, this depends on the desired output medium and it varies from the low and old 640x480 to a maximum of 2000x1500 supported by professional presentation devices. The framerate can also be modified, a higher value being translated into greater accuracy of the slideshow.
As miscellaneous options, you have the possibility to adjust the default slide length, transition effect and length, as well as narration sample rate and channels, all these being found in the Options window.The Good
PhotoStage Slideshow Producer is extremely easy to use in creating presentations using media files stored on your hard drive. The slides can be customized using a myriad of options that guarantee professional results. The fact that the slideshow can be stored in a variety of formats can only come as a plus. The Help file is also well developed and ready to assist you.The Bad
As far as my testing went, I only need to complain about two things: that there are only 3 transition effects, a wider variety being more than welcomed, and that that you have to wait for a couple of minutes in order to create a compilation that contains more than 15 media files.The Truth
Given the fact that PhotoStage Slideshow Producer is completely free of charge and it comes enhanced with many useful features, it makes for a perfect alternative to the standard Movie Maker found in Windows operating system. If you want to bring your photos to life, my suggestion is to make full use of PhotoStage Slideshow Producer.Here are some snapshots of the application in action: