by Tom Lee Published 01/11/2006
The desire to compile this section arose from a succession of pleas for help from SWPP members, who related a catalogue of disasters, ranging through expensive support calls, problematic refunds, variable reliability, jumpy shows, degraded images and, all too frequently, media that simply refused to run on clients' hardware. By way of a benchmark, we are told by the enthusiast salon organisers that 25% of CDs submitted in competitions fail to open and of the remaining 75% a significant proportion are scaled at the wrong size or are surrounded by glaring white, uneven borders.
An initial search of the options very quickly came up with 17applications for DVD slide show authoring. Excluding Adobe Acrobat products, everything cost less than $100 and some we found were freeware. Some of the software writes shows directly to your CD/DVD, others produce either an image file or an executable file written to your hard drive. The latter has some advantages in that most people will have their CD/DVDwriting sorted out at the time of machine installation. We know of too many instances where the installation of slideshowwriting software has resulted in crippling the existing CD/DVD writing system (although, to be fair, we have also had one instance of it reversing a fault!).
In some instances we have found that installing CD/DVD writing software has put more than 500Mb of garbage into the system. Interfering with file associations is another bugbear.
Our first port of call in searching was the 'top-ten reviews' at www.toptenreviews.com. Here we found they favoured ULead Picture Show, Proshow Gold and DVD Slide Show Builder (in that order). Of these only Proshow Gold will build an executable file and they appeared to have ignored PicturesToExe, the defacto standard for all enthusiast, audio visual-making software (which we will refer to as P2E). We have therefore taken top ten's skeleton information and added our own.
In our own tests, P2E built a show of 242, full resolution JPEG files in 19 seconds including automatic transitions. This was significantly better than the top ten review winner, ULead Picture Show which was initially headed for more than 100 minutes until we aborted and tried a simpler approach, which made a show in 5m 05s from the same files. With slightly more sophisticated transitions it took 10m 08s to complete a DVD show. This it seems is the price that you have to pay to transcribe into 'movie' format. So if all you need is an exe file, with music and transitions, you need look no further than P2E, especially as it has the ability to build in security in the form of 'die-by' dates, when a CD will cease to function and is also robust against copying. You can migrate from P2E into DVD format by using ULead Movie Factory. The subject forum was less than encouraging - some found it worked OK, others reported problems.
In addition many of the forum responses reported corruption of their computers and delivered dire warnings about ensuring that your 'system restore' was up to date. Such comments should fill professional users with dread; we would not entertain such software near one of our inservice workstations! Having said that, we managed to install the ULead program and keep the system running, although we did get an irritating little pop-up trying to send all data DVDsto ULead's player until we killed it in the Folder Options box of the Control Panel. Such tactics are second nature to geeks but will often flummox casual users; they really are the bane of this badly designed style of software and are all too common. There are a number of other options for creating an AVI file and then writing it to DVD; Nero will for example do the job.
Newcyberian lists eight programs for encoding data to MPEG and a further 12 for authoring and mastering at: http://www.newcyberian.com/dvdauthoring.html#dvdfeatures
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