The ProShow Blog

Tips, tutorials & inspiration for making slideshows

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Using the Color Picker in ProShow

ProShow's color picker. Click to enlarge.

If you’ve ever customized a slideshow in ProShow, you’ve probably run across the color picker. It is used in over a dozen places for everything from drop shadows to image colorization. It’s a simple little tool that can have a big impact. In this article, I’ll explain how to use the color picker and a few ways to get creative with this handy tool.

Picker Pieces
The color picker itself is quite compact. The currently selected color is shown in the top-right corner and is a key point of reference. This is the color that will be used when the Set Color button, found at the bottom-right corner, is clicked. You’ll also find a Cancel button at the bottom-left corner, which simply closes the color picker without applying any changes.

ProShow's color picker In the middle of the color picker you’ll see a rainbow of hues encircling a large triangle. Simply drag the node on that colorful circle around until the triangle in the middle shows the basic color range on which you want to focus. Dragging the node within that large triangle will further establish the intensity of the chosen hue, giving you a specific color.

Be aware that the top-left of that triangle is always white while the bottom-left is always black. If you’re looking for a color that is very slightly shifted from white / black, these are the regions you’re after. To get a grayscale tone, focus on the left edge of the triangle.

While dragging those nodes around you may also notice some values changing just above the Cancel / Set Color buttons. This is what you’ll use if you know the exact color you’re after. Colors can be specified here by their RGB (Red, Green, Blue) or HEX (hexadecimal) values, using the corresponding buttons to switch between the two modes. This is particularly helpful if you want to use a specific RGB or web-color. It’s even possible, from HEX mode, to set colors by name. Here is a list of color names that ProShow recognizes:

  • White
  • Black
  • Silver
  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Purple
  • Orange
  • Navy
  • Sepia
  • Photodex (gold)

At the top-left of the color picker you’ll find what may be my favorite option, the eye dropper. Click on that little icon and you’ll see the mouse icon change to an eye dropper. This allows you to select any color on your monitor by simply clicking on it, just that simple. ProShow samples the color you click on and shows it to you in the color picker, along with its corresponding RGB / HEX value. If you like what you see, click the Set Color button and you’re done. You can also make further adjustments to the sampled color before deciding if it should be applied or discarded. It’s a great way to match colors between objects or set drop shadows to compliment your images. It’s also very helpful when setting up a chroma key transparency.

That pretty much covers the color picker. It’s a straight forward tool that facilitates lots of other features. There are actually over a dozen places in ProShow where a custom color can be specified. Learning how to use the color picker can really make those other features easier to handle. Here is a quick example using image colorization.

Colorizing Images with the Color Picker

Using the color picker you can easily change the color of any photo or video in your slideshow, in an instant! Drop an image or video into a new show then double click on the slide you’ve just created. From the Slide Options dialog, click on the image layer and select the Adjustments tab. Look in the bottom-right corner of that dialog for the Editing Tools section. Click the checkbox next to the Colorize option then click the Set button next to the associated color sample.

You should now see the color picker that will let you colorize that image. Click on the HEX button in that color picker then replace the hex value, shown just below that button, with the word “sepia”. See that this immediately changes your image to a sepia tone. If you like what you see, click the Set Color button and your change is applied. You can also adjust that sepia tone from the large triangle in the middle of the color picker or use the Cancel button to discard this change.

ProShow's color picker. Click to enlarge image.

This is also a great way to make black and white versions of your images or video clips. Click on that Set button again to re-open the color picker. With your mouse, click-and-drag the node within that large triangle to the left side of the triangle. Drag the node up and down the left side of that triangle to see how your image moves through a range of grayscale values.

Setting the right custom colors in your shows can really bring things together to enhance the overall impact of your productions. Knowing how to use the color picker just makes this process easier. Whether you’re colorizing images or nailing down the perfect drop shadow, don’t be afraid to try on a few colors before settling on the right choice.

 

Tips for Upgrading Your Computer for Slideshows + Video Production

Tips for Upgrading Your Computer for Slideshows and Video Production

When it comes to creating photo and video slideshows on your computer, the last thing you need are technical problems.  Slow frustrating components can really put a damper on the creative process.  If you find yourself at odds with your machine, it might just be time for some new hardware.

Whether you’re looking for a brand new computer or just want to upgrade a few components, here are some things to consider when prioritizing those changes.  You might be surprised just how big an improvement you can see without breaking the bank.

CPU

The workhorse in any computer is the CPU (central processing unit), which generally controls how quickly things happen on the system.  CPUs from the most recent generation often outperform previous models by a significant margin.  The key here is generation, not expense.  The best performance for your money is often found just below the top of the line model.  A quality Intel i5 CPU, for instance, can be a better buy than a more expensive Intel i7, especially if the latter is from a prior generation.

It’s important to note that newer CPUs may not be compatible with your current system.  Always check with your computer manufacturer, or motherboard documentation, to see if a newer CPU is available for your machine.

Many websites provide CPU benchmarks (performance evaluations) along with price estimates and can be quite helpful in determining which CPU is right for you. Here is one example: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/

RAM

Processing power, as important as it is, doesn’t mean much if your system slows to a crawl when running multiple applications.  While a program is running it resides in RAM (random-access memory), so it can be accessed quickly.  Run too many applications and your RAM fills up.  Run additional applications and the system has to start swapping data back and forth from RAM to the hard drive, drastically slowing things down.

The bare minimum amount of RAM for any serious multimedia work is 4 GBs.  For anything over that you’ll need a 64-bit version of Windows, which is fortunately very common these days.  I recommend at least 8 – 12 GBs of RAM in order to keep things running efficiently, although more is always better.  Unlike swapping out a CPU, which requires a bit of care, RAM upgrades are usually very easy.

Video Card

For certain applications, like ProShow version 6, the video card (GPU) is a key component in providing high resolution playback without sacrificing performance.  A modern dedicated video card, rather than an integrated GPU, is the key to a great playback experience and it may be cheaper than you think.

Modern video cards typically come in a tiered product line where the lowest-end (ex. GeForce 610) is appropriate for basic computer operations and the highest-end (ex. GeForce 680) is designed for intense tasks like video games. A video card from the middle of the pack (ex. GeForce 640, Radeon R7 250) is typically sufficient for multimedia applications like ProShow. Here is a resource to put these tiers, generations, and brands in context. http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/

Operating System

The key thing to keep in mind when upgrading your Windows OS is to get the 64-bit version.  A 32-bit OS is going to limit you to 4 GBs of RAM and that’s not a limitation you want.  It is also worth noting that support for Windows XP, including new security updates, has been discontinued.  This makes it a great time to consider making the jump to Windows 7 or Windows 8, both fine operating systems.

Storage

Hard drives provide long term storage for everything from the OS to photos.  They are also a common point of failure and frustration.  Getting the right storage solution for your computer can greatly mitigate these concerns and put you on solid worry-free footing.

Start by determining how much storage you’re likely to need.  For a lot of people, several hundred megabytes (MB) is a great start.  People with more demanding needs (prolific photographers, videographers, etc.) should instead be looking at storage in terms of terabytes (TB).  Assessing your current storage situation should give you a good idea of how much additional space you’re likely to need.

It’s also helpful to look at drive speed, as it can have a big impact on overall system performance.  A traditional (platter) hard drive (HDD) is relatively cheap but also a bit slow by today’s standards.  You’ll see HDDs rated in terms of RPMs where 5400 is slow (common in laptops), 7200 is faster, and 10000 is about as good as they get.  For a system with snappier response time, and lower power consumption, consider getting a solid-state drive (SSD).  Installing your main OS (i.e. Windows) on one of these drives can really help.  Add a larger HDD for general storage and you get the best of both worlds.

Hybrid drives are also a great option, wherein SSD and HDD technology are combined into a single unit.  These drives tend to be faster for a lot of operations, relative to HDDs, but also provide a large amount of storage.

While you’re thinking about added storage, keep in mind that HDDs and SSDs can fail.  Keep your data backed up on another drive (typically an HDD) in order to prevent data loss.  External HDDs are a great option for this particular use.  Investing in a few TBs of external storage can really save the day when something goes wrong inside your computer.  Don’t be caught unprepared!

Laptops

When purchasing a laptop it’s important to make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for with the initial purchase.  Unlike a desktop computer, laptops can be tricky to upgrade and some components may not be user-serviceable at all.

Invest in a good CPU, lots of RAM, and storage that fits your needs (speed vs. capacity).  An SSD can really make a laptop much snappier, relative to the standard 5400 RPM hard drive found in most models, but you won’t get nearly as much space.  This may be an area where the faster drive, coupled with an external storage solution, makes the most sense.  It’s also a great place for hybrid drives.

Getting a good dedicated video card in a laptop often requires a premium investment.  If you’re looking to replace your desktop computer with a laptop, this upgrade may be well worth the cost.  For most people, the laptop does lighter work than their desktop so they can save a few bucks on this component.  One area you don’t want to skimp on is battery life, so be sure to know your options before heading to the checkout.

Using a Mac

If a Mac is in your future then you’ll need to consider how you want to run ProShow Gold or Proshow Producer, which are only available for Windows.  Fortunately, there are some very workable solutions.  Applications like VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop allow you to run a full (virtualized) installation of Windows on your Mac pretty seamlessly. Take a look at how this works in this Knowledge Base article.

Just make sure you have enough RAM, and storage space, to accommodate the extra OS.  It’s good to have 16 GB of RAM, so you can dedicate 8 GBs to Windows when it’s running, and 1+ TBs of storage.  Features like Unity mode (VMWare) and Coherence (Parallels) can even make ProShow looks like it’s running natively on the Mac, for an extra seamless experience.

Photodex does have a Mac-compatible slideshow tool called ProShow Web that creates dynamic photo and video slideshows directly from any Mac or PC. Visit the ProShow Web site to try it free.

 

Image Preprocessing for Photo and Video Slideshows

Image Preprocessing for Slideshows

When it comes to using still images in a multimedia production, people often wonder how much preprocessing is actually necessary. The truth is, not much. Slideshow tools like ProShow can handle just about any images you have on hand. There are, however, a few things you can do to make working with those images a bit more efficient. The key is knowing what to edit and what to leave alone.

Resolution

The most important thing to understand about preparing still images for the video slideshow world is that you’re dealing with limited resolutions. Every medium through which a slideshow is likely to be presented (Blu-ray, YouTube, DVD, stand alone video, EXE, etc.) effectively uses a much lower resolution than your average digital photo. The de facto standard in video resolutions right now is 1080p, which uses 1,920 pixels of horizontal resolution and 1,080 pixels of vertical resolution. That may sound substantial but it’s really only about 2 megapixels. Consider that most modern digital cameras support shooting at 10+ megapixels and you begin to see the disparity.

When preparing still images for a video slideshow, consider resizing those images to a resolution more in line with what you’ll actually need. Smaller images take up less space and are easier to process, leaving more time for you to actually work on your slideshows! I like to target about 5 megapixels when resizing my images. At that size I can work with just about any zoom factor without running into scaling artifacts. If you’re resizing by resolution, rather than megapixels, just make sure the longest edge of your image is restricted to about 2,800 pixels.

Format

ProShow supports a wide array of image formats, some more complex and difficult to process than others. If you’re going to resize your images anyway, consider saving them as JPGs. This compressed image format loads quickly, saves on hard drive space, and is more than sufficient for a quality HD slideshow. When asked to choose a JPG encoding quality, choose a value that is just below the maximum (ex. 10 out of 12). This will ensure that you get a quality image at a reasonable file size.

Details

In most cases, preprocessing images to correct for orientation, aspect ratio, composition, and other image attributes is not necessary. ProShow does a great job with images in the standard 3:2, 4:3, and square aspect ratios while using metadata to adjust for things like orientation. It is also very forgiving of minor compositional flaws, where the subject of an image may not be in the optimal frame position. Save time by letting ProShow make automatic adjustments and using the extensive settings in Slide Options to make any other necessary corrections.

If you have Lightroom, still image preprocessing is nearly automatic. Just get the free ProShow Plug-in for Lightroom, which supports ProShow Producer, ProShow Gold, and ProShow Web. This plug-in provides automatic image resizing and JPG conversion as part of the export process. It’s quick, easy, and designed to streamline your workflow.

Make your slideshow creation experience as easy and efficient as possible by using only the image data you need and letting ProShow handle all the other details. The goal is to import quality content that is quick to process so you can focus on the business of making slideshows.

 

ProShow Video Importing Basics

Video importing tips for ProShow

ProShow Gold, ProShow Producer and ProShow Web support a wide array of video formats, as you can see from this list for Gold + Producer and this list for ProShow Web. Almost everything from 3GP to MPEG-4 can be dropped directly into a show, or added through the Wizard, without installing any additional software. It really makes working with video in ProShow a snap. An internal video decoding engine, leveraged against locally installed codecs, allows ProShow to greatly simplify the process of using videos in a slideshow.

Adding a video to a show is as easy as adding an image, albeit with a bit of additional overhead. Processing all that frame data takes time after all, especially with large or complex videos, so it’s important to remain patient. To keep on top of an import process, look to the progress meter located just under the File List. When that green bar disappears your video import is done. At that point you’re ready for playback and any additional editing you may want to apply.

Should you run into a video that ProShow cannot immediately import, here are some tips that may just save the day.

  1. Start by making sure ProShow is operating as expected. A good way to do this is to re-import videos you’ve previously used in ProShow. If ‘known good’ videos can still be imported properly then it’s a safe bet ProShow is working as intended and you can move onto other tests.
  2. Check the problematic video in other applications. If that video cannot be viewed in something like Windows Media Player, QuickTime, or VLC (a great little player) then the file might actually be corrupt. Try getting a new copy of the video file from its original source to rule out possible file transfer issues.
  3. Toggle the “Video Importing” option, located under the Playback section of the Preferences dialog within ProShow. This option controls the internal video decoding engine and should generally remain enabled. However, in some cases it’s necessary to disable this option so that ProShow is forced to use only locally installed codecs. If you’re unable to import any videos into ProShow with this “Video Importing” option in either state, it might be time to reboot your system or even look into reinstalling ProShow.
  4. Try importing other videos that use the same codec to see if the problematic video is an isolated case. There are a variety of programs out there that can tell you exactly what codec a given video is using. I prefer the lightweight application MediaInfo. When in doubt, look at videos from the same source (camera, video editor, etc.) to locate something with a matching codec. If other videos using the same codec can be imported properly, then you know ProShow has access to the necessary codec, which is most often the case.
  5. When all else fails consider re-encoding the problematic video to a standard format like MPEG-4, WMV, or something of that nature. Your favorite video conversion program should have plenty of options. It may even have the ability to rewrite just the video container, leaving the video data itself untouched. This type of conversion is a bit more advanced and doesn’t always resolve the problem. However, it’s also a lot faster and avoids the generational quality loss associated with re-encoding.

The one thing you don’t want to do when trying to resolve a video import problem is install a codec pack. This may seem like a great idea but it rarely helps and often leads to more trouble. Focus on the individual video causing the problem, rather than attempting system-wide changes that could have unforeseen results.

You may never run into a video that ProShow doesn’t like, but if you do just remember to stay calm and take it one step at a time. There is a solution out there for every problem. And don’t forget, we’re always here to help! Give us a ring at 1-800-377-4686 or email us.

Learn more about using video clips in your ProShow slideshows here >>

The Anatomy of a ProShow Slideshow

We make a lot of slideshows here at Photodex, I mean a LOT! With all those creations you can quickly find yourself with a pile of unorganized show files. Let’s take a closer look at the files that make up a ProShow slideshow, including which are safe to delete and which you should keep.

The PSH File
The basic element of any ProShow Gold and ProShow Producer slideshow is the PSH file. This is the file that defines your show. Without it you don’t have a slideshow. Do not delete PSH files unless your intention is to wipe shows off your system. If you’re working with ProShow Projects, which contain multiple slideshows, then you’ll also have PPR files. These are the files that reference your shows in a project.

Show Content
An equally important part of any slideshow is your content. The image, audio, and video files added to a show constitute its ‘source files’. You want to make sure these source files are in a good, permanent, location before adding them to a show. ProShow uses these files from their original location on disc, rather than creating a duplicate each time one is added to a show. Moving source files around can cause missing files in existing shows.

If you should find that files in a show have gone missing, don’t worry. There is a “Find Missing Files” feature in ProShow to help recover lost content, and it’s really easy to use. If you need to move an entire show to a new location, use the Tools > “Collect Show Files” feature. This puts a copy of everything you need for that show into a single location of your choice.

Show Backups: BAK, B01, B02
Perhaps the next most important set of files for most people are the automatic PSH backups. These lifesavers can be found in the same location as the associated PSH file. They have the same name as that main show file but use extensions BAK, B01, B02, etc. and so forth.

If you ever find that a particular show cannot be loaded, or you simply want to restore it to an earlier variation using Tools > “Revert to Backup”, these little gems will make that recovery process quick and easy. They’re typically very small, like the PSH file, and should only be removed when completely deleting a show from the system.

PXC Cache File
One file that can become quite large is the PXC cache file, which shares the same name and location as the PSH file with which it is associated. Cache files work behind the scenes to help you open and access your shows more quickly. Once a show has been archived or is no longer being worked on, you can delete the cache files to save room on your hard drive.
 
Generally speaking, a show that is still being worked with should not have its PXC file deleted. That said, deleting a PXC file will not damage the associated show. You’ll just find that it takes longer to open that show next time you’re ready to make changes or create new output. If you’re working with ProShow Projects then you’ll also have PXP files, which should be treated similarly.

These are the main files associated with any show. You may also notice Slide Style (PXS), Transition (PXT), and other supporting files or folders in a variety of locations on your system. To avoid undue complications, these files should not be manually moved or removed. Use the Tools > “Manage Effects” dialog within ProShow if you need to delete a slide style or transition.

Have any other questions? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Projecting Confidence: Tips for Presenting a Photo Slideshow at an Event

Whether you’re presenting a photo slideshow at a camera club meeting, conference, rehearsal dinner or wedding, we’ve got some great tips to help make sure your presentation plays perfectly.

Looking for a great tool to create your own photo + video slideshows? Check out ProShow >>

The Set Up: Laptops and Projectors
In most cases, you’ll be projecting your photo slideshow from a laptop to play for your audience. Projectors provide a great vehicle through which to display slideshows to any size group. Depending upon the set up of the event, you may or may not be using your own laptop to playback your slideshow. That’s why the key to making this process picture-perfect is starting with good source material.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you output shows for this medium.

Choosing Your Output Format: Embrace the Video Revolution
Output your slideshow as a video file. Video is the best option for presenting in front of an audience at an event. The format is efficient, reliable and most importantly portable. You’ll find that most video files play well on the average Mac or Windows machine, making them a great cross-platform choice. Sometimes you just don’t know what type of computer is going to be hooked up to that projector. It’s best to have a video in those cases.

Videos come in a variety of formats and subtle variations, from AVI to MOV. Picking the right options can be a little daunting but it doesn’t have to be. ProShow provides many HD video presets from the “Video for Web, Devices and Computers” dialog, available from the “Publish” menu. Just look under the “Video File” section within this dialog to find many 1080p, and other, profiles that will work across a range of Windows and Mac computers. You’ll see options for QuickTime (MOV), Windows Media Video (WMV), and others all designed to help simplify the process of video output so you can get back to business.

Your Best Bet: Two solid video types that will play across any operating system (Mac or PC) are MPEG 4 720p or 1080p and QuickTime h.264 1080p or 720p. We use these formats to play looping slideshows at many live events and ProShow outputs directly to these file types.


HINT: Once you’ve created your video in ProShow, save it to a flash drive to easily copy it to your laptop for playback.

What About EXE?
The EXE format has in the past been a great way to present high-quality shows and remains useful for certain situations. When playing back a slideshow at an event, video files offer a more reliable playback experience than EXE’s across a wider range of systems. You’ll get smoother playback with a video no matter what computer you’re using. The intensive part of processing video is done during the initial output, not playback, minimizing the chance for complications at crunch time. If you want a super-reliable version of your slideshow to playback at an event – output as a video file, not an EXE.

Match Resolutions for Best Results
All videos have a resolution, which details the number of pixels that make up each frame. The same is true of projectors, where the ‘native resolution’ defines the number of pixels through which output is shown. Matching the resolution of your video output to the ‘native resolution’ of your projector is ideal and will provide the best viewing experience. If the projector resolution is not known, or will vary, then output your show to HD. It’s better to scale that video down during playback than to scale it up. Ultimately, a quality 1080p HD video is going to look best when shown on a 1080p projector and this should be your goal.

Projectors are a commonplace presentation tool these days. A bit of variation exists between these devices but with a little preparation you can be ready for any setup, avoiding crunch-time complications and undue frustration. For the over prepared among us, consider outputting several videos at various resolutions so you’re never caught in a tight spot. Flash drives make a great vehicle for keeping these variations handy.

Looking for a great photo + video slideshow tool?

Download a free trial of ProShow >> It’s easy to use and creates spectacular videos! Perfect for wedding slideshows, birthday slideshows, portfolio slideshows, family slideshows, anniversary slideshows and more!

 

Tips for Creating a Custom Wizard Theme in ProShow

If you’ve ever used ProShow’s wizard to create a slideshow then you know just how easy the process can be. Add some images, maybe a few captions, then put in your music and away you go. You’re just a theme away from a quality slideshow.

What you may not have realized is that you have a lot of control over how the wizard creates your slideshows. By customizing and creating your own wizard themes you can dramatically alter the resulting shows. Themes tell the wizard what pool of effects it can pick from when creating your show and a well designed theme can really bring a composition together. It’s all about picking the right effects.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when customizing or creating your own wizard themes in ProShow

1. Know your effects.

This is the most basic necessity when modifying or creating a theme. You want shows that contain styles and transitions which work well together. When the effects in a show are too disparate the progression from slide to slide can be jarring to the viewer. By creating a theme with a cohesive set of effects you’re ensuring that the resulting shows will be a pleasure to watch.

2. Organize your effects.

Categorizing your effects is a great way to keep track of what can end up being hundreds, even thousands, of slide styles and transitions. Keep in mind that effects can have multiple categories and will show up under each one. In this way you can separate out your favorite styles and transitions into logical groups that will make them easier to find later. Use the Effects dialog (Tools > Manage Effects) to see and alter those categories.

3. Start small.

A good theme results in a show that is enjoyable to watch. Interestingly, this can often be done with relatively few effects. Try not to add too many styles or transitions to a theme on the first pass. Use your new theme with just a handful of effects and see what happens. You might be surprised at the results. If the resulting shows are not diverse enough then return to the theme and build on what you liked about the show, removing what you disliked. Pretty soon you’ll end up with a theme you can use over and over again.

Watch the video below to learn how to create your own, custom wizard themes in ProShow.