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Tips, tutorials & inspiration for making slideshows

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dvd

Wrap Up Your Slideshow

gift that tells a story (2)

Admit it. It’s always nice when we receive a customized gift, such as a slideshow made with ProShow. Take this one step further and present your creative slideshow with some impressive packaging. Continue reading

Burn HD Video to DVD with the New AVCHD Feature

AVCHDHeaderGraphic1

With ProShow 8, we’ve introduced a new output format called AVCHD. Essentially, AVCHD is a lite version of the Blu-ray format that can be burned onto a standard DVD disc. This saves the cost (or inconvenience) of having to buy a Blu-ray burner and blank Blu-ray discs. The result is that you can create pristine quality video to play on your Blu-ray player, all on a readily-available medium that can easily be archived on your shelf. For those that already create standard DVDs for their clients, AVCHD may be a perfect opportunity for a free add-on or upsell.Continue reading

Burn HD Slideshows on a Standard DVD Disc

AVCHDgraphic4

With the release of ProShow 7, a handful of new video output formats have been added to the Video for Web, Devices and Computers window.  You may notice a category called High Definition Disc Authoring. The goal of these video presets is to allow you to create Blu-ray or AVCHD files that can be imported into a 3rd-party disc authoring program without the need to re-encode the video.

Today I’d like to show you how to create an AVCHD video file that can be burned to a standard DVD disc and played in a Blu-ray player. This effectively cuts out the need to purchase a Blu-ray burner or blank BD-R discs. [Note: AVCHD discs cannot be played on regular DVD players – only Blu-ray players.]Continue reading

ProShow Output: Flash Drives vs DVD Discs

Building slideshows is the hallmark of so many moments in our lives. One of the most important parts of the process is publishing the final product, and the most common medium is DVD.

While DVD is a great option for output, there is an alternative you can use that provides high definition, allows you to get creative with your packaging, and makes it much easier to share slideshows – the flash drive. Continue reading

Free Printable DVD Cover Template for Your Video Slideshows

Going the extra mile when packaging gifts makes a big difference in the overall impression one has on the receiving end. If you’re planning to give a DVD slideshow as a gift or as a deliverable for clients, fortunately, there are many tasteful options for packaging your discs.

If you’re looking for an affordable do-it-yourself option, try our FREE printable DVD cover templates. All you need is a color printer and a few minutes. Includes editable template options for Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Word (1997 and up). Download them today!

Free DVD Cover Template Download

Download: DVD Cover Template

Template Dimensions (designed for standard clamshell DVD cases):
Full Bleed Print Size: (11″ x 7.45″) | Final Trim Size: (10.77″ x 7.2″)

  • (.PSD) template is compatible with Adobe Photoshop* CS2 and up. (Due to the complexity, Photoshop Elements is not supported).
  • (.DOC / .DOCX) templates are compatible with MS Word* (97-current)

*For assistance on how to use either of these programs, please consult the software documentation

Download

Using the Photoshop Template (.psd)

The following tips assume a basic-intermediate proficiency in using Adobe Photoshop. Please consult Photoshop’s documentation for more in-depth instructions on using a certain feature.

Open the .PSD file in Photoshop. The editable layers will be grouped as shown below. (To see the guides & front-only / back-only previews, turn on the hidden layers within the ‘GUIDES…’ layer group).

Free DVD Cover Artwork

To edit text, select the ‘T’ type tool and click in any text placeholder to start typing. You can change the font and colors as you like. Colors for header bar, text & spine can also be customized.

Free DVD Cover Artwork Layout

To swap the existing sample photo with your own photo, double-click on the photo placeholder (it should read ‘Open/Add Image/Save’). You will see a (.psb) smart object window pop open. (You can also right-click on that photo layer instead of double-clicking and select ‘Edit Contents’ to open the .psb smart object window). Place or paste your own image on top of the original photo layer. Make sure you resize your photo appropriately to fit. Save and close the .psb file (but keep your DVD template .psd open).

DVD Cover Artwork Free download

Once the DVD template has been customized and you’re ready to print, make sure all optional ‘Guides & Previews…’ layers are hidden. Also check to see that the ‘Trim Marks’ layer group IS visible. You will want these to assist with cropping your DVD cover to its final trim size, once printed.

DVD cover artwork download

If printing directly through Photoshop, in the Print settings dialog, set the orientation to ‘Landscape’, with paper size set to 8.5 x 11″ or larger. Note: The template will flow right up to the edge of the sheet, meaning a small, but acceptable margin may get cropped off). Once printed, trim using the built-in crop marks.

Using the Microsoft Word Template (.docx)

The following tips assume a basic-intermediate proficiency in using MS Word. The template may or may not work correctly in other programs (such as OpenOffice, Google Docs). A .doc version of the template is also included for MS Word 97, though images will need to be manually added instead of using the newer ‘Change Picture’ feature (available in the .docx version).

Open the .DOCX or .DOC file in MS Word. To edit text, click in any text box and start typing. You can change the font, size & text color.

Free DVD Cover artwork download for Word

To change the color of the header background or spine, right-click on the area you want to change until you see an option for ‘Format Object’. (You may need to do this a few times until you get the right spot, since it is important that your cursor be hovering over the correct object and not overlapping boxes in the same spot). Under ‘Fill Color’ – pick the hue you want to use.

Free DVD Cover artwork template for Microsoft Word

To change a photo in the template, right-click on either photo placeholder (the template will have 2 sample photos, one on both the front & back). Select the option > ‘Change Picture’. Select a photo on your computer to use. (Note: In this template, landscape / wide orientation photos work best. Portrait photos will also work but you will most likely want to resize them after they are added).

Free DVD Cover Template Download for Microsoft Word

Once you have finished setting up your DVD cover and are ready to print, select the ‘Print’ option. The template is setup to print on 8.5 x 11″ or larger sizes of paper. (Note: The margins will be very narrow on the edges – if one of the edges of the trim guide gets cropped after printing, use a ruler or straight edge against the header background edge to draw any missing trim lines. Trim the edges with scissors or paper cutter and insert into your case. Voila! Your DVD is ready for gifting.

Got the right tool to build your slideshow?

Planning to make a slideshow for the holidays? With ProShow, it takes just minutes to create a beautiful slideshow video using the automatic wizard and instant effects. To get started on your slideshow, get ProShow 6 today. Upgrade or try it free today.

Make a slideshow for the holidays with ProShow


 

Optimize Your TV and DVD Player For Best Playback Quality

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Since we’re nearing the holiday season, chances are that you’ll be spending time with family and maybe even sharing your slideshow creations with them too. For me, this also happens to be the time when I realize how poorly set up some of my family members’ TV sets are. Whether it’s watching “stretch-o-vision” at my parents’ house or watching a DVD on a player that’s hooked up with a video cable standard from the 80s, it can be a little hard to resist the urge to try and improve their technology rather than spending time with them.

There can be many points of potential quality loss in your slideshow viewing setup. The factory settings on your TV, for example, are usually not the best. Your DVD or Blu-ray player can also be hooked up or set up in a less than optimal way. And finally, your DVD output settings may not be optimal for your slideshow. Today I’m going to show you how to make sure that your slideshows look as good as they can on your television.

DVD Settings

When creating a DVD in ProShow Gold or ProShow Producer, there are several options that can determine how good your slideshows look. In the Options tab of the Create DVD window, look for the following options:

  • DVD Type: This determines what bitrate is used on your DVD, which in turn determines the overall quality of the video. To get the most quality and compatibility on your disc, choose “DVD HQ (High Quality – Safe)”. There is a tradeoff between the quality you set and the amount of video that can fit on a disc – High Quality Safe gives you roughly an hour – so if you have more than an hour total, consider buying a dual-layer DVD+R DL disc or spanning your project over multiple standard-capacity discs.  On the other hand, “DVD SP (Standard Play)” will give you 2 hours on a standard DVD and is not necessarily a huge trade-off in quality.
  • TV System: This will default to NTSC, which is the standard for North America, Central America, some of South America, and Japan. Please see this wiki article to see if you should be changing this to PAL. Failure to choose right video standard could mean poor playback performance or that your DVD simply does not play in your player.
  • Anti-Flicker: This option has a pretty significant effect on your DVD quality, but the setting you choose will largely be dependent on what type of slideshow you’re creating. Slideshows with mostly still images and still text will see a noticeable improvement in sharpness by unchecking anti-flicker.  On the other hand, if your images are doing lots of panning, zooming, and rotating and you have crisp text with motion, you’ll likely want to keep this checked to prevent distracting flickering on the DVD. For context, anti-flicker applies a slight blur to the video to counteract the vertical flickering that is inherent in interlaced video.
  • Desaturation: This option is largely a legacy concern for older tube televisions, though if your HDTV’s colors are oversaturated, it can be useful here as well. Still, I find unchecking the Desaturation option to be the most appropriate setting for a well-calibrated HDTV.
  • Video Clip Quality: This option determines the scaling method for the elements in your show when creating the DVD video stream. When choosing “High Quality” the benefits are often not noticeable and the rendering time is increased significantly. Choose High Quality if you’d like, but I tend to leave this setting on Normal.

DVDsettings

DVD / Blu-ray Player

The DVD player itself is where I notice most people lose quality. The DVD player you bought in the late 90s or early 2000s probably still works, so there’s no need to upgrade it, right?  Actually, many of the early DVD players were made for tube televisions, and they may be making your DVDs look worse than they should on your HDTV.

The type of cable that’s used to connect your player to your TV is very important. If possible, make sure your player is hooked up via HDMI, or perhaps component cables (red, green, and blue video cables with red and white audio cables). Hooking up via S-video or Composite (yellow video cable with red and white audio cables) is going to make your DVDs look bad. If your DVD player only has Composite or S-Video, it’s time to think about getting a new DVD player or Blu-ray player. A Blu-ray player should have both HDMI output and 1080p upscaling, so this is the safest bet, even if you are only going to play DVDs on it.

cablecomparisonchart

The settings on the DVD player can also have an effect on the quality you see on your TV. Here are some general guidelines:

  • If your DVD player supports upconverting to 1080i or 1080p, make sure this is enabled. You will at least need component or HDMI for this feature to work correctly (or at all).
  • Make sure your DVD player is set up for the right type of television. In your player’s setup menu, you’ll likely be able to choose whether you have a widescreen 16×9 television or a 4×3 television. Assuming you have an HDTV, set it to 16×9.
  • If there’s a progressive scan option, enable it.  This will not work if you are using composite (yellow, red, and white) connections.

 

Your Television

An HDTV exhibiting horizontal stretching and overscan

There are a few options on modern HDTVs that are on by default that negatively affect your viewing experience. Here are some things to check for:

  • Overscan: To hide bad areas at edges of analog broadcasts and video sources, many TVs will zoom the picture in slightly.  This means that your DVD slideshows are going to be cut off. I always recommend turning off the overscan, but the proper way to do this is different on every TV. Your best best is to do a Google search for ‘Turn off overscan on [your brand or model] TV’.
  • Aspect ratio: When viewing analog or 4×3 sources, some viewers quickly reach for the remote to zoom or – gasp – stretch the video so that it fills the screen. While this is largely a matter of preference, many users forget to turn it back to the appropriate aspect ratio setting when they’re on a 16×9 source.  If you have an aspect ratio or picture size button on your TV remote, press it and make sure it’s set to “Normal” rather than Wide or Stretch.
  • Sharpening: Sharpening is almost always a destructive option, and it’s usually enabled to some degree on HDTVs. Note that sharpness cannot actually be added, it can only be approximated – often poorly – by the TV’s software. Look in your picture settings and turn this down, if not all the way down.
  • Motion Smoothing: A common feature on TVs with 120hz or 240hz refresh rates is motion smoothing. This feature takes whatever signal you have coming in, then creates new video frames between the existing frames via interpolation. The problem is that it’s impossible to do this correctly, and so there are going to be side effects like the occasional jerk or loss of fluidity compared to the rest of the time. Not to mention, it gives many videos an unnaturally smooth look. Your favorite movie may look like a soap opera with this option enabled. You’ll need to figure out what this feature is called on your TV – see this article – and find out how to turn it off either via the owners manual or a Google search.

Hopefully these tips will help you get the most out of your setup. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Proofing Your DVD Slideshow Before Burning to Disc


Proof Your DVDs Before Burning to Disc

No matter how cheap blank DVD media gets, it’s always a bit defeating to throw away a disc after realizing the DVD you’ve just created isn’t quite perfect. Perhaps your disc menu doesn’t look exactly like you want it, or maybe you used the wrong image in a particular spot in your show – either way, you now have to re-render and burn another disc. I’ve always felt it’s a good idea to have a rewritable DVD-RW disc around for instances like these, but those discs have slower write speeds, which can make testing out your DVD a longer process than it needs to be.

Fortunately, both ProShow Gold and ProShow Producer allow you to skip the disc writing process and create an ISO image file. This file contains the entire DVD disc structure, and with the right software, you can use this to proof your final product before you actually commit to a disc. There are several ways to do this, but today I’ll be focusing on using the free VLC media player.

Creating an ISO image file in ProShow Gold or Producer

When you’re in the Create DVD window, click on the Burning tab at the top. The “Disc Writer” option will show the name of your burner by default. Click this box and choose “ISO Image File” instead. Next, click the Create button at the bottom as you normally would. When prompted, choose a save location for the ISO image file; you can choose the same folder in which you saved your slideshow. Once it’s created, now you’ll need a way to view this ISO file.

CreateISOFile

VLC Media Player

VLC is a free multimedia player that supports playback of almost all common video and audio formats. It also supports playing both DVD discs and DVD ISO image files. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Download the software here: http://www.videolan.org/
  2. During the installation, you’ll be given the option to make VLC the default media player for certain file types. I prefer to use the original media players for most formats, so I like to set it up by choosing the “Minimum” configuration then checking the “Context Menus” box” at the bottom of the list.
    VLCSetup
  3. Once installed, open the VLC player by clicking on either the desktop shortcut or the Start Menu entry that it creates.
  4. By default, the player is not fully optimized for DVD playback, so we’re going to change a few of the playback options. Go to Tools > Preferences, then click on the Video section on the left. We’re going to uncheck “Use hardware YUV->RGB conversions”, then set the Deinterlacing to “Automatic” and the Mode to “Bob”.
    VLCsettings
  5. Click the Save button at the bottom of the Preferences window, then close and reopen VLC player.
  6. From VLC’s Media menu, choose “Open File”, then find the ISO image file you created with ProShow.

You should now be able to play your full DVD in VLC player and make sure it’s set up just like you want it.

One thing that is important to note is that menu highlights will disappear after 5 seconds in VLC, even though the areas are still clickable/selectable. When the menu loops (typically 30 seconds), the highlights will be restored.

Burning Your ISO File

If you’ve proofed your ISO file and want to go ahead and burn your slideshow to disc, you can easily burn the ISO file without having to go back into ProShow. For Windows 7 or Windows 8 users, simply right click the ISO file and choose “Burn disc image”. This will bring up Windows Disc Image Burner. All you have to do next is click the Burn button.

BurnDiscImage

If you’re using Windows XP or Vista, Windows Disc Image Burner is not going to be available, but there are other free options. Instructions for using the free ImgBurn application can be found here.

 

TIPS

  • If you’d prefer to watch your DVD in Windows Media Player or any other player, you will need to mount your ISO file as a virtual disc first. This can be done with Virtual CloneDrive, Daemon Tools Lite, MagicISO, and various other programs.
  • Unchecking “Use hardware YUV->RGB conversions” in VLC’s preferences works around a problem with Nvidia graphics card drivers that makes some videos look washed out, however, performance may suffer after it’s unchecked. It may be better to leave the option checked in VLC and address the problem in your Nvidia Control Panel instead (see this post).