Magix PhotoStory 2004; Create Slide Shows Like Never Before, On CD & DVD

Drag a folder (or individual files) to the Storyboard (mode shown) or Timeline and watch each slide take its place in succession. Reorder images by dragging them into position. Video clips can also be added to a presentation.

Further Information
MAGIX PhotoStory 2004
http://www.magix.com

You can't turn around these days without bumping into a software package that purports to be the ultimate slide show creation tool. Still, there are a few that stand out, and Magix PhotoStory on CD & DVD 2004 ($39.99/Windows only) is among them. PhotoStory 2004 provides a platform for the creation of some very entertaining presentations. What it doesn't do is let you create screen savers, which, in my book, is an oversight.

What makes the selection of Magix software different is that their applications integrate musical accompaniment in a much more controllable fashion than available in other programs. And the reason for that is simple: At its heart, Magix, as a company, is involved in the music and audio industry. And since I'm also involved with digital music, I stumbled upon this company's music software a short while back, using it to create some very interesting compositions. But more to the point, that technology carries over to the creation of photo albums, with totally controllable cross fades and effects unlike anything I've seen elsewhere, and certainly not with this depth of user involvement.

Add titles by clicking on Text in Storyboard mode. A dialog window opens with numerous choices, including the option for scrolling text. Note one of the effect patterns on the opening image.

Some Interface Concerns
The one familiar element is the tape recorder-style console panel and the controls used to play the show or overdub audio. Horizontal scroll bars let you navigate to different parts of the presentation.

Beyond that, things get more complicated and you have to get past the PhotoStory interface, which can be confusing at first. The program doesn't employ standard Windows menus and at first may appear to be stubbornly working against your best efforts and instincts. In fact, it is anything but intuitive. Another problem is that individual modules are treated as independent programs, requiring each to be opened and closed in turn, and they don't necessarily always speak to each other, so those modifications in one are not necessarily carried over into the other--at least not automatically. And what is truly annoying: The software development team continues to overlook words in German (unless someone over there is just a really bad speller), letting them stand as is (I've found instances of this in every Magix software package).

By clicking on Effects in the blue window (upper right), a selection of dynamic, often animated effects come into view. Click on an FX to see it displayed on the video screen to the left. Then drag the effect over the slide to implement it. The effect is often apparent in the image on the Storyboard.

Create Your Own Slide Show
Still, with all the above in mind, a little patience will pay off. Here's a typical workflow for creating your own slide show.

Step 1. Assemble the images in a dedicated folder. You can do this in PhotoStory, but I find it easiest to use Windows Explorer. Don't worry if the images need to be re-oriented from horizontal to vertical, cropped, or otherwise edited. You can do that inside PhotoStory.

Step 2. Drag and drop the folder or individual images into the "Timeline" or "Storyboard." You can choose to view the presentation in either of two ways. The Timeline view is essentially a more detailed, graphic representation showing cross fades, audio, text/titles, and music clips in a way that makes it easier to edit each directly on the screen. The Storyboard view is simpler and less involved. All the frames are presented linearly. It's also easier to move frames around on this screen first. I prefer to start in Storyboard mode, then finesse the presentation in Timeline view.

Text, effects, and audio can be added at any time. One does not affect the other, although adding lots of audio, while adding texture, will weigh heavily on your system and add considerably to the size of the final presentation.

Acceptable image file formats include JPEG, TIFF, Windows Bitmaps, ZSoft Paintbrush (PCX), Adobe Photoshop, and Photo CD (PCD). Photo Clinic, the image editor, also reads GIF, but can export to a format usable in PhotoStory. You can also add video clips.

Right-clicking with the cursor over a frame on the Storyboard results in a pop-up menu, with additional menus to follow. Effects other than those dragged over the frame are available here.

Step 3. In Storyboard mode, click on "Text" to enter a title or other text, such as copyright information. You can do this individually for each slide. For the Las Vegas show I created, I added a title and byline on slide 1, closing with a shot of the slot machines at the airport, with text reading: "Leaving Las Vegas." Fade out.

Step 4. While still in Storyboard mode, click "FX" to add effects. These could range from transitions to effects that actually modify the original image, such as Kaleidoscope. But be careful, since the effect may surprise you in unexpected ways. If you don't like what you see (and this applies to any action), click on Tools, then Undo. Undo is virtually unlimited. (Timeline mode adds Undo/Redo buttons.)

You can select from the effects on the pop-up window, or move over to the Effects screen, and drag and drop transition effects onto the individual frames. They're not entirely the same, so a little time getting familiar with this aspect of the program is time well spent.

Timeline mode is where you exercise tighter control over faders and placement of voiceover clips and music. Borders are an additional effect available, and can be selected in either mode..

Step 3. In Storyboard mode, click on "Text" to enter a title or other text, such as copyright information. You can do this individually for each slide. For the Las Vegas show I created, I added a title and byline on slide 1, closing with a shot of the slot machines at the airport, with text reading: "Leaving Las Vegas." Fade out.

Step 4. While still in Storyboard mode, click "FX" to add effects. These could range from transitions to effects that actually modify the original image, such as Kaleidoscope. But be careful, since the effect may surprise you in unexpected ways. If you don't like what you see (and this applies to any action), click on Tools, then Undo. Undo is virtually unlimited. (Timeline mode adds Undo/Redo buttons.)

You can select from the effects on the pop-up window, or move over to the Effects screen, and drag and drop transition effects onto the individual frames. They're not entirely the same, so a little time getting familiar with this aspect of the program is time well spent.

Step 5. Let's pause for a moment, and consider which images may need to be edited. You can access Photo Clinic, the image editor, in either Timeline or Storyboard mode. In Storyboard, click on Tools, then Photo Collection--or use the Photo Collection button. Timeline permits a more direct route. Right-click your mouse over an image, scroll down and select Edit Picture.

Photo Clinic, as far as image editors go, is okay: It lets you use plug-ins that may already be installed elsewhere on your computer, but is selective about which ones it talks to. If you have Photoshop or Elements, that would be my first choice. By the way, it may appear that the editor disregards any effects previously applied in PhotoStory. Not so. They're still there when you return to PhotoStory. But you first have to save the changes for them to be carried over to the slide show. Then close the editor, or otherwise find your way back to the main application (they're treated as independent programs).

There is a second, less complicated editing option called Picture Restoration. You may find this is all you need for a quick fix.

If you're in Photo Collection, you have to exit this screen before continuing.

Step 6. In Timeline mode, add audio. This can be done as a voice overdub (WAV format)--on the designated timeline. But let's just skip to the music, which goes on a separate timeline. (And in case you're confused, the program intuitively drops them onto the correct timeline--visuals/text/audio, but it's up to you to position them under the right slides.) Drag and drop or double-click on the music clip (under My Music). I brought in my own MP3 composition, although I could have used the tunes provided in the software package (in the proprietary Magix format).

By grabbing the object handles (those rectangular shapes superimposed over each timeline clip) you can control various aspects of visuals and audio. The music faders overlay the line of audio. Grab the one on the left (with the mouse) and push to the right to fade in; grab the one on the right and move it to the left to fade out (note the horizontal line is now a diagonal, indicating the fade). Fades can be long or short, and usually, the music should extend past the last slide, for a well-synchronized fade out, beginning before or after, or coinciding with, the first image--all dictated by content and taste.

Step 7. Optional. You can export the presentation to a video movie format (MPEG, AVI, Windows Media, and Real Media) on the hard drive, if you don't want to devote an entire disc to your creation. Or you can take the plunge and...

Click on the Burn Disc button under the Make Disc tab. A dialog window opens up. Choose the video format. Then click the red disc icon to begin
the process.

Burn The Movie To Disc
You can burn a DVD, Video CD (VCD), Super Video CD (SVCD), or Mini DVD. This could take a while.

Step 1. Click the Make Disc tab at the top. You're now in new territory.

Step 2. The specific steps to follow will depend on what type of disc you're burning. Essentially, after loading the slide show/project, just hit the Burn Disc button to open a dialog window. Now follow steps 1, 2, and 3, under Create Your Own Slide Show and click the disc icon to complete the process. Now, sit back with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a magazine.

There are a few things to watch for when burning a disc. First, disable your screen saver, as this could seriously interfere with the process. Second, I found that, when burning an SVCD and VCD on my Dell Pentium 4, under Windows XP Professional, Roxio Easy CD and DVD Creator 6--specifically the Drag to Disc component, proved disruptive.

Still, when all is said and done, I had fun. You bought a digital camera or scanner so you could share pictures. Magix PhotoStory on CD & DVD 2004 lets you do just that--and do so in an entertaining fashion. There's no longer any need to load up a tray and sit everyone down in front of a slide projector to view your vacation slides. Send out a disc they can view at their leisure.

Magix Movie Edit Pro 2004

PhotoStory treats each slide show as if it were a movie, even to the point of letting you add movie clips to any presentation. However, if you'd like to work with actual movies, then Movie Edit Pro 2004 ($99.99/Windows) may be the way to go.

Movie Edit Pro lets you transfer and work with VHS and digital movies, as well as video clips recorded on a still digital camera. The interface on the movie editing program is much like that in PhotoStory. Transitions and effects in this application, however, are far and away better and more seductive, exceeding anything you could possibly need. They include time reversal (action moves forward and backward), chroma-key, retro-style scratchy cinematic effects, image stabilization (in case you forgot to activate this feature on the camera, or it wasn't available), picture-in-picture, title effects, and much more.

Moreover, there is a Song Maker that composes original musical accompaniment--perhaps not the most accomplished compositions, but certainly usable and better than a lot of the canned stuff you'd get off the Internet. (And you can use the $59 Music Maker 2004 Deluxe if you're really serious about your music videos--no musical background or instruments required.)

Considering its modest price, Movie Edit Pro 2004 is fairly robust--and it is certainly fun to use. It may not make you the next Steven Spielberg, but you'll get a good spiel out of it.

Contact
MAGIX Entertainment Corp.
(305) 695-6363
www.magix.com


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