It was about two years ago when Rob Heller mentioned that we should start offering Soundslides classes at the Institute of Newspaper Technology. He explained that it was the easiest way to get a high quality audio slideshow online with minimal effort. Not long afterwards, I was having lunch with Jack Lail and Tom Chester from Knoxville News Sentinel when the topic of Soundslides came up again. Sure enough, they said it was the only way they created audio slideshows for their Web sites.
Soon afterwards, we started offering Soundslides classes at the Institute and they were a big hit. Everyone seemed surprised at how easy it was to create an audio slideshow for a newspaper Web site. So now, almost two years later, it seems like a good time to kick the tires and take the latest version of Soundslides for a ride around the block.
First, some background information. Joe Weiss - whose resume includes stints as interactive producer at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., Director of Photography at The Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C., and multimedia producer at MSNBC.com - first began creating audio slideshows in 1992.
Working in Flash, Weiss would go through the painstaking process of creating audio slideshows. Over time, he created a utility that automated much of the Flash programming. It took more than two years, but Soundslides was born in 1995. At first, Soundslides was Mac compatible only, but recent versions are available on both the Mac and PC platforms.
In a nutshell, Soundslides is a simple application that allows you to take photos and audio and put them together into a Flash slideshow that can be placed on your newspaper Web site. Soundslides doesn't edit photos or create audio. It simply takes folders of photos and mp3 (audio) files and merges them together with excellent results.
After opening Soundslides for the first time, I created my first audio slideshow in less than twenty minutes. And that included creating the audio for the slideshow.
As mentioned, Soundslides doesn't edit photos or audio, so that's done in advance. Audio can come from any source that can be converted to mp3, a popular digital audio format. This includes most audio that would be recorded from a digital audio recorder or recorded on a computer. It's important to remember that the length of the audio slideshow is determined by the length of audio.
Using the software couldn't be much simpler. Upon starting the application, the user is instructed to select a folder. Jpeg (photo) files in the designated folder are distributed throughout the slideshow. Next the user is prompted to select a sound (mp3) file. In a matter of seconds, Soundslides imports the audio and opens the slideshow.At this point, the user could simply export the audio slideshow and upload the resulting folder of files to a Web site. However, there's a lot more that can be done in Soundslides. Timing can be altered to allow more time for some photos and less for others. Templates can be selected with different background colors, fonts and layout options. Photos can be moved, added and deleted. After all changes have been made, the audio slideshow never changes.Once you're happy with your results, click on the "Export" button and a folder of files is created that can be uploaded "as is" to a Web site. After creating a link on a Web page, the resulting audio slideshow will appear on its own page in your Internet browser.
For users wishing to build a slideshow directly onto a Web page, Soundslides provides a method for creating custom code that can be used on most Web sites. Mine worked perfectly. To see the results, visit kevinslimp.com and watch the slideshow on the right sidebar.
Soundslides comes in two flavors. The $39 (US) version does everything I've described. Soundslides Plus ($69) adds:
- pan and zoom (aka "ken burns" effect)
- the ability to use lower thirds
- full-screen playback mode
- the ability to create slide shows without audio
Sure, you could create audio slideshows in iMovie, Vegas or another video editing application. But it's so much easier in Soundslides. For more information, visit soundslides.com.
The Photoshop Manual You've Been Looking For is Finally Here
I was perusing the Graphic Design section at a bookstore a few weeks ago, looking in particular for a book related to iMovie '09. I found a great book by David Pogue and Aaron Miller titled iMovie '09 & iDVD: The Missing Manual (Pogue Press/O'Reilly, 2009). This led me down the shelf to several "Missing Manuals" from O'Reilly.
The one that grabbed my attention was Photoshop CS4: The Missing Manual (Pogue Press/O'Reilly, 2009), by Lesa Snider King. This might be the best Photoshop book I've read. And I've read a lot of them. What impressed me most is the attention to detail and colorful illustrations.
The book lists for $50 and is available from most major bookstores and online at missingmanuals.com.