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Output Like a Pro with iPhoto 5
Pages: 1, 2

Artistic Intervention

One of my complaints about iPhoto slideshows of the past can be summed with the phrase, "Lumbering Hippo." Slide after slide with the same transition, at the same pace ... it was more conducive to lulling your audience into a hypnotic trance rather than stirring their enthusiasm. First of all, I think many shows I've watched are too long. Five minutes is forever for these types of presentations. I prefer 1:30 to 3 minutes. That alone will help prevent viewers from nodding off, or at least from snoring out loud.



But you have some new tools in iPhoto 5 that can also stimulate the senses. Click once on any thumbnail in your slideshow to highlight it, then explore the options displayed beneath your picture. You can apply each effect individually to the picture you've selected. Any image that you don't change individually will use the default settings that you established earlier.

You can shift-click a sequence of images and apply effects and transitions to them as a group. This works fairly well, but the Preview button doesn't like the group selection, and just shows me the first two slides in the sequence.

The grouping is really handy if you're applying a special transition, such as the Cube, to a short sequence. For even finer tuning while the slides are selected, click on the Adjust button, and you get a handful of contextual controls for the specific transition you've applied. For example, if you're using the Cube transition, you can tell iPhoto which direction you want it to rotate by using the Adjust menu.

Figure 6. The Adjust dashboard is contextual. When you're creating slideshows, it enables you to refine the effect. Figure 6. The Adjust dashboard is contextual. When you're creating slideshows, it enables you to refine the effect.

The crown jewel in this treasure chest is the Ken Burns Effect. You can apply pan and zoom effects to individual slides by clicking on their thumbnail, then checking Ken Burns Effect box. It's very easy to use, and Apple has published a short set of directions for applying this effect.

I only use the Ken Burns Effect on a handful of slides per show. That way it stays fresh. Also, be careful how much you zoom in. If you don't have tons of resolution in the picture, you might discover that it begins to pixelate as you zoom in. especially when the show plays full screen on a 17" PowerBook. But used with restraint, I think this is a terrific addition to iPhoto 5.

You can preview the effect by clicking on the Preview button. Once you have all of your slides set, click on the first thumbnail in the series, and then hit the Play button. Sit back and marvel at how good your creation looks.

Exporting to QuickTime

In theory, you can easily export your completed slideshows to QuickTime and iDVD 5. In practice, I'm having better luck right now with QuickTime than iDVD. So I'll focus on exporting to QuickTime here, and I'll come back to iDVD when it's working a little better for me.

The QuickTime export is handy for showing your presentation on computers other than where your iPhoto library lives, such as Uncle Bob's Dell PC. The procedure is simple. Click once on the slideshow object in the Source window to highlight it, then go to Sharing > Export, and iPhoto 5 figures out that you want to save the presentation as a QT movie. You have three options for frame size: 720x480, 320x240, and 240x180. But you're not afforded any compression options, so pick your frame size and location, then hit the Export button.

Figure 7. iPhoto 5 provides three size options for exporting your slideshow to QuickTime, but no compression options. Figure 7. iPhoto 5 provides three size options for exporting your slideshow to QuickTime, but no compression options.

Once the file has been exported, having the Pro version of QuickTime comes in handy. Instead of viewing the movie in the (zzzzz) Player window, go to Movie > Present Movie, then choose "Normal" from the dropdown menu. Now hit the Play button. QuickTime will play your presentation in what I call movie theater mode, and it looks a lot better than watching it in the boring Player window. Try it!

Sharper Movies in Half the Size

When I exported my slideshow using the method I outlined above, the file size was 5.6MB for a 1:40 movie at 240x180. Not huge, but substantial in size. I started wondering if there was another way to export a more compact version. There is.

I went back to the custom album, "Pt. Reyes Picks," that I had created earlier (see the section titled, "Sorting Your Images"), clicked on its title once to highlight it, and clicked on the sideways triangle at the bottom of the Source window to get a dialog box (see Figure 1). This time I choose "Dissolve" for my transitions and indicated that I wanted each slide to play for 4 seconds. I clicked on the "Music" tab and selected the same song as I had been using. Then I clicked the "Save Settings" button.

Now when I go to Share > Export, I get the "old" dialog box that we saw in iPhoto 4 where I can set my frame size and duration for each image, as shown below:

Figure 8 Here's a different way to export your QuickTime movie in iPhoto 5, and with more control. Figure 8 Here's a different way to export your QuickTime movie in iPhoto 5, and with more control.

Once I click the Export button, iPhoto 5 creates a QuickTime movie and saves it in the designated place. How is this presentation different than the movie I exported earlier? Well, the file size is now 2.9MB for a 1:42 length movie with the same frame dimensions. That's almost half the size of my previous export! But it gets even better.

Method #1 (5.6MBs) used MPEG-4 compression, creating a video, tween, and audio tracks. Method #2 (2.9MBs) used Photo-JPEG compression to create its video tracks and just kept the original MP3 format of the song from my iTunes library. The upshot is, that the images in Method #2 are not only smaller in file size than with Method #1, they're sharper too. Look at the side by side comparison below:

Figure 9. Frame shot on the left was created with Photo-JPEG compression in Method #2, and on the right with MPEG-4 compression via Method #1. Figure 9. Frame shot on the left was created with Photo-JPEG compression in Method #2, and on the right with MPEG-4 compression via Method #1.

This isn't a knock on the MPEG-4 codec; rather, its implementation in iPhoto 5 when exported to QuickTime. You can view the movie exported via Method #2 on my .Mac site. Some of the bird shots suffer from the small frame size, but you'll get the idea. This slideshow was exported right out of iPhoto 5 without any additional adjustments. Feel free to download it and examine its construction.

Final Thoughts

iPhoto 5 gives you some great options for creating dynamic slideshows from your images, even if you originally captured them in RAW. The new slideshow editor is terrific for customizing your presentation, then playing it full screen on your Mac.

If you want to export to QuickTime however, I recommend you create your movie directly out of your custom photo album using Photo-JPEG compression. You'll get sharper images and a smaller file size. You won't be able to intermix a variety of effects as in Method #1, but the tradeoff of a more compact download and crisper pictures might be worth sacrificing a few special effects.

This is just one example of how iPhoto 5 lets you output like a pro. Fire it up and see what you discover.

Digital Photography Hacks

Related Reading

Digital Photography Hacks
100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools
By Derrick Story

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit www.thedigitalstory.com.


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