Create stunning slide shows

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As the year winds down, why not gather your favorite photos for a retrospective slide show of the year’s most momentous events—that vacation of a lifetime, your child’s first day of school, the family reunion that got a little too wild. iPhoto ‘06 lets you add music, transitions, movement, and more to your slide shows. And when burned to DVDs, they make great gifts for distant loved ones.

iPhoto 6 has more slide-show horsepower than you probably realize. However, some of iPhoto’s most interesting slide-show talents are cleverly disguised as other features. Here’s how to master a few of these hidden powers and turn your favorite photos into an entertaining short movie.

Get organized

First place the photos for your slide show in a new iPhoto album. To gather photos quickly, 1-click on the images in your library to select them and then click on the plus sign (+) in the lower left corner of the window to assign them to a new album. Once you’ve added all the photos you want, open the album and arrange them in the desired order. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect; you can fine-tune the order later.

Add titles

To give viewers a taste of your slide show’s contents, add an opening title sequence. At first, iPhoto doesn’t appear to let you add text boxes to photos, but it is possible. The secret is to use the greeting card designs.

Find a horizontal image in your iPhoto library to use as a background for your slide show’s title image. Select it and click on the Card button. In the dialog box that appears, select Postcard from the top pull-down menu. Find a card design that you like, and then click on the Choose Theme button.

To add text to the front of your postcard, click on the Design icon, select a layout option that includes a text box, and then replace the placeholder text with your slide show’s title (see “A Proper Introduction”). To change the text’s size or font, click on the Settings button. To change the card’s background color, click on the Background menu. But don’t bother designing the back of the postcard—you won’t be using it.

Once you’ve designed the postcard to your liking, go to File: Print. When the Print dialog box appears, click on the Advanced button (if the button says Standard, you’re already in the Advanced view) and select the From 1 To 1 option in the Pages section. If you’re running OS X 10.4, open the PDF menu and select Save PDF To iPhoto.

Wait patiently as your Mac runs through the workflow. When the Import Photos Into iPhoto dialog box appears, click on Choose Album and select your slide-show album from the pop-up menu. Click on Continue, and iPhoto places a JPEG of the postcard in your album. (If you’re running an earlier version of OS X, click on the Save As PDF button and save the PDF to your desktop. Then drag the resulting PDF file into your slide-show album.) For an opening title, drag the new graphic to the front of the album. Repeat this process for any other titles you’d like.

Create your slide show

To turn your photos into a slide show, click on the album’s name—making sure no individual images are selected—and then click on the Slideshow button at the bottom of the iPhoto window. iPhoto creates a new Slideshow project at the bottom of the Source window and displays your first slide.

Click on the Settings icon to set your slide show’s parameters. Decide how long you want to play each slide. I recommend three seconds per image as a starting point (you can customize the timing of individual images later). Then choose a transition, such as Dissolve. Turn on the Repeat Music During Slideshow option and turn off all of the remaining options. That’s right—the key to stunning slide shows is not including any of these options in your presentation (see “Keep It Simple”).

Now choose the presentation format. I recommend 4:3 for playback on standard TVs, and 16:9 for viewing on wide-screen TVs. When in doubt, choose 4:3 because it’s guaranteed to work on all TVs. Once you’re done, click on OK.

Fine-tune slides

You’ve set the global parameters for your presentation, and now you can customize individual slides and transitions to your liking. Here are some possibilities.

Add Motion iPhoto’s Ken Burns Effect lets you direct the viewer’s eye by panning across a photo (for example, to focus on individual members one by one in a group shot) or by zooming in or out of the photo (for example, to transition slowly from a close-up shot of one person to a wide-angle shot of the entire group).

The secret to the Ken Burns Effect is to use it sparingly—a long succession of moving images can dis-orient viewers. To put one of your photos in motion, select it from the thumbnail bar along the top and then select the Ken Burns Effect option at the bottom of the window. With the Ken Burns Effect toggle set to Start, use the zoom slider (in the lower right corner) to determine how much of your image is visible at the beginning of the effect. Click and drag the image to reposition it within the frame. Click on End and set the final position of the image. iPhoto will automat-ically move from the Start to the End positions.

To preview your handiwork, click on Preview. If you decide you don’t like the effect, simply turn off the Ken Burns Effect option.

Slow Down If the effect moves a little too quickly, or if you just want to give viewers more time to appreciate a particular photo, you can adjust a slide’s timing. With the slide selected, click on Adjust and increase the Play This Slide For setting.

Crop Even if you’re not using the Ken Burns effect, you may want to zoom in on an image. To do this, move the zoom slider to the right until you have the desired amount of magnification. Click on the image and drag it into position. iPhoto will remember these settings for the slide show without altering your original photo.

Add music

Once you’re happy with the slide show’s visual aspects, it’s time to add music. Since iPhoto doesn’t offer any tools for editing audio, you’ll get the best results by matching the length of the song with the duration of the show. To get an accurate run time, use a stopwatch or software such as Apimac’s free Timer.

Once you know how much time you have to fill, click on the Music button and browse your iTunes library for a song that’s approximately the same length. To sort your music library quickly according to song length, click once on the Time heading.

Once you’ve made your selection, click on OK and play the slide show to see how closely the images match the music. You may have to add or remove a few slides to get perfect synchronization. You can also make minor adjustments by changing the play time for individual slides.

Share your masterpiece

Want to share your new slide show with family and friends? While iPhoto offers many options for saving your slide show, one of the most elegant—especially if you’re giving it as a gift—is to burn it to a DVD. The finished DVD will play on a Mac, a Windows PC, or, even better, a DVD player attached to a TV.

To export your presentation to iDVD, select Share: Send To iDVD. The process may take some time, so be patient. (If you used a song from the iTunes Store, Apple will warn you against using it in your slide show. However, the music will still play on the finished DVD.) Once the handoff is complete, you’ll see the default iDVD project template with a link to your slide show included.

Before you burn the disc, take some time to customize your project. Although there are many more options than I have space to cover, here are some of the most important steps to take.

Set Your Slide-Show Preferences The first thing you should do is go to iDVD: Preferences and click on the Slideshow tab.

TVs tend to enlarge slide shows, and as a result they may cut off the edge of your images. To prevent this from happening, select the Always Scale Slides To TV Safe Area option. To see the TV-safe area for your project, choose Show TV Safe Area from the View menu. The unshaded area is what TV viewers will see.

If your music runs longer than your slide show, the Fade Volume Out At The End Of Slideshow option can resolve the problem.

Add High-Res Files If you want your DVD recipients to be able to make prints from the images in the presentation, you’ll need to include the original files on the DVD. Select Advanced: Edit DVD-ROM Contents. In the DVD-ROM Contents dialog box, create a new folder to hold the images. Switch to iPhoto, open the album containing your slide show’s images, and press Command-A to select them all. Drag the selected photos into the folder in iDVD’s DVD-ROM Contents dialog box. Recipients will be able to access the high-resolution versions by double-clicking on the DVD icon that appears on their computer, and opening the DVD-ROM Contents folder.

Choose a Theme Next, choose a theme for your DVD’s opening menu. This is the first thing viewers will see when they pop in the DVD. With the Theme button selected, choose one of the options on the right side of the project pane (see “Just Like Hollywood”). Once you’ve chosen a theme and replaced the placeholder text, click on the Menu button to add photos or video to the theme’s drop zones, and to set the volume of the background music. Now click on Buttons and select the Free Positioning option. This allows you to reposition your slide show’s button anywhere on screen—just make sure it remains in the TV-safe area.

Test It You can check your work by pressing the Play button. Your Mac will simulate DVD playback, complete with a controller. If everything looks good, click on Exit to return to the project pane.

Burn the Disc You’re now ready to burn your DVD. Select File: Burn DVD and follow the prompts. Depending on how long your slide show is, the burning process may take quite a while—mine took about 20 minutes. When it’s done, iDVD will ask if you want to burn a second disc. If you don’t, simply save your project and quit iDVD.

[ Derrick Story is a professional photographer, author, and teacher. For more photo tips, listen to his weekly podcast. ]

A Proper Introduction: Use iPhoto’s tools for greeting card designs to create an opening title sequence for your slide show.Keep It Simple: Although the Settings dialog box offers lots of options for jazzing up your slide show, you’ll get the best results by turning off most of them and applying special effects individually to a small number of slides.Just Like Hollywood: Many of iDVD’s menu templates include sophisticated motion effects.
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