Best Secret DVD Utility Yet

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I spent last weekend finishing up the comprehensive DVD of my family's home videos for the year 2002. (Yes, I'm a year behind.) And as a part of that process, I discovered a remarkable piece of software that nobody ever seems to talk about.

I wanted to add some slide shows to my DVD. And none of my options -- i.e., the slide tools in iDVD and DVD Studio Pro or the Ken Burns Effect in iMovie -- really gave me the level of control and the out-and-out snazziness I wanted in my slide shows. (Well, Ken Burns gave it to me, but it would've taken me forever to build the slide shows and sync them with a soundtrack. No thanks.)

On a whim, I tried Motion Pictures, a utility that's included with Roxio's Toast Titanium. And it worked amazingly well. With Motion Pictures, you can create Ken Burns-style moving-picture effects. You set the beginning and end points of your photo, all in an interface that's really easy to use. I was able to motor thought my hundreds of photos in no time. Then you drag on a music track (or multiple tracks), tell Motion pictures to adjust the length of your movie to fit the soundtrack, and blammo -- the program builds a DV file, ready for dropping on iDVD or compressing with Compressor.

If you've been unsatisfied with the results of your DVD slide shows, Motion Pictures (via Toast) is worth a look.

( UPDATE: Several people wrote in or posted on the forums to recommend two other utilities, Granted Software's $25 Still Life and LQ Graphics' $50 Photo-to-Movie. Both of them are impressive, and any would-be Ken Burnses out there should take a look at the free demo versions. How I wish I'd had a tool like this back in my journalism school days, when I was creating long-form TV reports! However, in my opinion they're much too complicated for the purposes of making slideshows of home movies, unless you're far more of a control freak than I am. For those who are just interested in going beyond iDVD's basic slide show features, I still recommend giving Motion Pictures a try.)

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