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Tips, tutorials & inspiration for making slideshows

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Archiving Your Slideshows

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As a slideshow creator, your primary focus is creating the best-looking final product for clients, family, or friends. An equally important job is preserving those slideshows so that you can view, edit, or make copies of these shows at any point in the future. You can opt for a redundant storage solution that creates automatic backups, or you can invest in cloud storage which provides an extra level of protection by virtue of being offsite. But neither solution takes into account the fact that your hard drives are continually filling up with important data that you aren’t actively using. In fact, the slideshows you’ve created may be taking up many gigabytes of space. For this reason, you should consider archiving your shows and moving them off your hard drive. In this article, I’ll outline my recommended methods for archiving your shows and creating worry-free backups.

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Best Practices for Burning DVD Slideshows

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Burning a DVD of the finished product is commonplace for many slideshow creators. But along with burning DVDs comes the risk of burn failures. These often fall into two camps – either a burn that fails at some point during the writing process, or one that finishes successfully but does not play all the way through on a standalone DVD player.  There are multiple factors at play here, and it’s often hard to identify the true culprit. Today we’ll be looking at four possible factors for disc burning failures and how to avoid them.

Want to learn how to burn a DVD slideshow in ProShow? Click here for steps on how to burn a DVD slideshow in ProShow Gold & Producer. Click here to learn how to burn a DVD slideshow in ProShow Web.

Burn speed:

If you buy a new DVD burner today and a pack of blank discs, odds are that both are rated for at least a 16x burn speed.  Without going into the technical details, this means that a DVD can be burned 16 times faster than the time it takes to watch the DVD from start to finish. This relationship varies greatly depending on the DVD quality setting you’ve chosen, which makes it a less-than-ideal rule of thumb, but you can safely assume that the higher the x value, the quicker the discs can be burned.

The truth is, the stars have to align for you to have a good burning success rate at 16x. Not only does your burner have to be top-notch, but your system has to be able to consistently feed the burner data at that rate. More importantly, the manufacturing quality of the discs may not be up to par to allow for burning at 16x, despite what’s written on the label.

The easiest way to ensure successful writes is to lower the burn speed.  Assuming you’ve already inserted your blank DVD in ProShow Gold or ProShow Producer, the Burning tab of the Create DVD window will allow you to change the speed from “Max” to a lower value.  I generally recommend no faster than 4x, but if this isn’t available for the disc you’re using, try the lowest speed listed.

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DVD Media:

While a lower burn speed can increase the reliability of most blank discs, you’ll want to hedge your bets with discs that are manufactured at a higher quality.  The problem is that the vast majority of brands outsource their production to a number of factories with varying processes and quality standards.  A ubiquitous brand like Memorex, for example, may be decent quality in one batch and low quality in another (they’re usually never *great* quality though).

The two brands that get mentioned the most when talking about good quality blank discs are Taiyo Yuden and Verbatim.  You’re not likely to see the brand Taiyo Yuden in any of your local stores, so your best bet is ordering them online under one of their various brand names (JVC being the most common). Just do a search on Amazon for Taiyo Yuden discs. Verbatim is comparatively much more common to find in stores, but make sure to look for those that have the “AZO” label on the packaging (Link), which indicates that a superior recording dye is used in their manufacturing process.

Basic CMYK

One question that comes up a lot is whether to use DVD-R or DVD+R media. Though technically two competing technologies, in the modern era they’re almost equally supported by the vast majority of burners and DVD players.  Just make sure that your burner explicitly supports the type of media you’re buying.

Firmware:

If you find that you have a higher failure rate – perhaps even a 100% failure rate – with a certain pack of discs, it’s time to buy a different pack, right?  Not necessarily.  DVD burners have what’s known as “firmware”, which is a low-level set of instructions that tells the writer how to respond to the commands sent by the burning software.  Over time, a drive manufacturer may release an updated firmware that not only improves the reliability of the burner, but also improves the compatibility with certain discs.

Assuming your drive is burning your discs with no problem, you don’t need to worry about the firmware. But if you’re getting a number of coasters – or discs that failed to burn correctly – you’ll want to check your drive manufacturer’s site for an updated firmware to download.  Drives that come with pre-installed in name brand systems (e.g. Dell, HP, etc) will often have firmware updates in the drivers/downloads section of the brand’s website for your computer model.

If your computer is not made by a name brand or has an aftermarket drive, you may need to look up firmware for the exact model number of the drive. To do this, you can open the Device Manager in Windows’ Control Panel to see the model number of the optical drive(s) is installed. After you’ve found this, do a Google search for [model number] firmware.  With any luck, the first few results should lead you to what you’re looking for.  Just make sure and follow the instructions listed on the website to ensure a pain-free update.

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Hardware:

There are a handful of brands that are synonymous with making good DVD burners – Pioneer, Sony Optiarc, Samsung – but not every drive model out there is a winner.  Likewise, the less-revered brands like LG or Matsushita will have their share of great models.  Your best defense is to read reviews (on Amazon, Newegg, etc) for a general consensus on quality.  Remember: a drive with 1000 reviews and an average rating of 4.5-out-of-5 stars is often a better bet than a drive with 50 reviews and a 5-out-of-5 rating.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, burning a DVD requires that your system be able to feed a steady stream of data to the burner.  Potential bottlenecks include slow hard drives, a slow CPU, or the type of data connection between your system and the drives, just to name a few.  The bottom line is that you’re regularly burning discs on an older machine, it may be time to look into purchasing a new computer.

What about Blu-ray?:

The same principles above apply to burning Blu-ray discs as well. You should burn at a lower speed than what’s advertised (2x or 4x for BD-R discs) and you’ll want to make sure your burner’s firmware is up to date.  When buying Blu-ray BD-R discs, you should avoid discs that say “LTH” or “Low-to-High” on the packaging.  These discs are manufactured using cheaper organic dyes that degrade over time.  I personally recommend using Verbatim BD-R discs.

Further reading:

If you’d like to get more in depth in the concepts mentioned above, the website The Digital FAQ is an invaluable resource. Here are a few recommended articles:

Blank DVD Media Quality Review

DVD Burning and Media Quality Concepts

DVD-Video Disc and Burner Formats; DVD-R vs DVD+R

Thread: DVD Burner Reviews for 2013

 

The Big Picture: Watching Your Slideshows in HD

After nearly 20 years on the market, there is no video format more ubiquitous than the DVD.  Regardless of whether the technologically-challenged members of your family can easily *operate* a DVD player, they probably have at least one in their house.  On top of that, most desktop computers and full-sized laptops purchased in the last 10 years have had the hardware to burn a DVD. Buy a pack of blank DVDs and you can be burning your slideshows in no time and playing them on your TV.  But is DVD really the format you want to be using?  Since the advent of high definition televisions, the shortcomings of a DVD have become easily apparent.

First, the maximum resolution of a DVD video is defined as 720×480 (or 720×576 if your country’s TV standard is PAL).  In other words, your super-sharp 15-megapixel images that you want to show off will be downsized to just over a third of a megapixel as part of the DVD creation process. DVDs don’t come close to the clarity that modern HDTVs can achieve.  Assuming you have a 1080p television, you are only using 1/6th of the available resolution.

DVD VS HD

Secondly, for all intents and purposes, DVD is an interlaced format. This means that at any given moment, you’re only seeing half of the vertical resolution.  Modern televisions and DVD players may do a decent job of de-interlacing – or combining the interlaced fields to create the full-resolution frames – but when there is motion in your shows, it will never look as good as video signal that’s not interlaced.

What are your options?

BLU-RAY:

If you want to get your slideshows onto your television in high definition, the most straight-forward method is creating a Blu-ray disc, the de facto successor to the DVD.  To do this you’ll need 1) a Blu-ray burner, 2) a blank BD-R or rewriteable BD-RE disc, and 3) a Blu-ray player to play it on your TV.  Blu-ray burners do not come pre-installed in most computers, so it’s highly likely that you’d need to purchase an internal or external Blu-ray burner first.

Internal Blu-ray Burners for Desktops

External Blu-ray Burners

Creating a Blu-ray disc is very similar to writing a DVD.  You’ll open your show in ProShow, choose Blu-ray from the Publish menu and customize your menu as necessary, then click the Create button.  After a period of rendering, the data will be burned to your disc, ready to be played on a Blu-ray player.  Still, there are a few options when creating your disc that are worth mentioning.

In the Options tab, the Blu-ray Type is set to 1080p by default.  While this will give you the maximum resolution possible, 1080p on Blu-ray is hampered by being limited to 24 frames per second.  This may look natural, if not good, for a feature film, but this comparatively low frame rate can make a slideshow seem choppy or jerky during pans.  I prefer choosing 720p because it allows frame rates up to 59.94. In my opinion, the smoother frame rate of 720p is a much more noticeable improvement than the extra resolution that 1080p provides.

Blu-ray Options TabBurning a Blu-ray disc means that you’ll be dealing with significantly more data than when creating a DVD.  Because of this, it’s very important that your burn speed is not set higher than what your system is able to consistently send to your burner.  Once you’ve inserted your blank disc, you’ll be able to change the burn speed from Max to a lower value in the Burning tab.  I would recommend either 2x or 4x for a BD-R, and 1x or 2x for a BD-RE.

Blu-ray Burning Tab

APPLE TV VIA AIRPLAY:

Of course, Blu-ray isn’t the only option for getting high definition video on your television.  If you happen to have an iPhone or iPad as well as an Apple TV, you can use Apple’s Airplay service to wirelessly stream any video saved on your phone or tablet to your television.

With version 6 of ProShow Producer and ProShow Gold, you can automatically publish your shows to your Apple device with the free ProShow Remote app.

ProShow Remote screenshot

Tutorial: Sending your slideshows to your iPhone or iPad via the ProShow Remote App

While playing the video on your device, click the Airplay icon at the bottom right and choose your Apple TV.  If all is working as planned, you should now be able to watch your slideshow on your television in high definition.

Airplay Icon small

If you do not have ProShow version 6, you can still achieve the same goal by using the ProShow Devices plugin to create a video that’s compatible with your Apple device.  Next you’ll use iTunes to sync the video to your device, and during playback you can enable the same Airplay option as described above.

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Tutorial: Adding a show to an iPhone or iPad via iTunes

When considering the multitude of ways to watch your high definition slideshows on your TV, this article is just scratching the surface. New devices are emerging every day (Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, etc) that either allow wireless streaming from your mobile devices or direct playback of files stored on your network.  We hope to cover these other options in an upcoming article.

How to Add Multiple Slideshows to a DVD

Let’s say you want to burn a DVD but you want to include a series of slideshows on the disc instead of just one. This is easy to do in ProShow slideshow software. I’ll show you how!

To add multiple shows to your output you first you need to select an output format that supports multiple shows like Blu-ray, DVD, EXE, Web Shows and/or Autorun CD.

Known as ‘Chaptering’ in ProShow Gold and ProShow Producer, you have the ability to include multiple shows that you have created and include them together on one disc. These shows are then accessible from the menu included on the disc when you playback the show on your television or computer.

To add multiple shows to output:

  • Select the publishing option of your choice (Blu-ray, DVD, EXE, Autorun CD or WebShow)
  • Then click on the Shows tab to bring up the included shows list for this output. (Notice that your currently loaded show is already present in the list.)
  • To add additional shows click the ‘+’ sign on the top right-hand side of the shows list
  • Browse to the location where your show(s) is saved, select the file and then click Open
  • Now you should see the additional show that you loaded appear in the list right below the first show.

That’s it! Now you are ready for output.

Once you have your shows loaded into the included shows list, you can move the order around if necessary by using the up and down arrows.

Saving and Loading Custom DVD Menus in ProShow

Creating a custom built DVD menu in ProShow is a great way to add a polished touch to your slideshows. But did you know that you don’t have to go in and create one from scratch each time? For Producer users, you can save and load menus you’ve previously created. Then just swap out your show title, thumbnails and you’re done!

Here’s how to save and load a custom menu in ProShow Producer.

Let’s say you’ve just finished creating a spectacular custom menu for your DVD. Don’t lose all that work and have to recreate a new menu from scratch for your next project.

Save your menu layout by clicking the small disc icon towards the top right of the Create DVD dialog. You’ll be prompted to give your menu a name and save it. Be sure and save your menu in a place you know you’ll be able to find it and hit OK.

To open and load a menu you’ve previously saved, hit the open folder icon towards the top right of the Create DVD dialog. You’ll be prompted to search your computer for the menu file you’ve saved (.mnu), once you find it hit Open and it will appear as your DVD menu.

A few changes and you’ll have a polished menu and you’re on your way to burn your DVD! This works for all menus you create in ProShow including Blu-ray, Autorun CD and more!