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My Tests on Software for Creating Slideshows - Part 1
Comparison between six softwares for slideshows

Introduction

For a while, I have been using Windows Movie Maker to create slideshows from my photos, so I could share them with family and friends, in some cases adding also videos and captions. Results were ok and I kept using this solution. Prior to that, I had done slideshows using Power Point and used a software that coverted them to an EXE file, but that software isn't free anymore - and very costly now - and adding video isn't very practical.

Having seen videos using the Ken Burns effect for zooming and panning photos, I was enchanted by the dynamic presentations obtained with it, so I started looking for a software that would allow me to create such presentations. A bit of internet search took me to many sites, some with demo versions available.

I decided to try those that looked more promising and this report is a summary of my tests, with a comparison of the main features I was interested in. I am also including videos created with them for a comparison of the final results. In the examples I show here, I did not aim for the best clean presentations I could build, but for testing a variety of transitions and features, what resulted, for my own taste, in somewhat cheesy videos.

All software was tested on a PC running Windows XP SP3.

The softwares I tested are listed below, with links to the description and comments about each of them.

PhotoStory 3 - Movie Story 4.5.0.1 - Corel MediaOne 2.1 - DVD Movie Factory 6 - Memories on TV 4.1.1 - ProShow Gold 4.0.2549

After that, I present a comparison table, emphasizing the features I was interested in, and my conclusion about the tested softwares.

Disclaimer: The tests performed by me and the conclusions presented herein are not personal endorsements nor invalidations to any of the products. My tests were not meant to be a deep analysis of all the features available in these softwares, and I may also have missed some important ones. Whenever I had some difficulty, I contacted the software publisher to see if there was a solution I was missing, but I do not guarantee that all my statements are correct.

Photo Story 3

Microsoft Photo Story is great for photo slideshows - it doesn't however handle videos. The program sets pan-and-zoom effects automatically when you start, but they are fully customizable. There are also a few edition tools to apply, but all with preset values that I didn't find really useful. There is an application to create music from some preset rythms and a choice of instruments - a very fun tool - but you can also insert a regular sound file and narration - a featue shared by most of the testes programs. A fully free solution is to create photo slideshows with it and then merge the videos in Movie Maker, as I did in the present example - a bit time consuming however. But if all you want is a photo slideshow, this is perfect - and free.

Movie Story 4.5.0.1

Wondershare Movie Story is very easy to use. Good edition tools, with custom settings (saturation is one I find very important), and video can be cropped in size and rotated (both rather unusual options that can be useful on occasions). Also frames and clipart can be picked from a extensive list. The choice of file outputs with fully adjustable settings is also a plus - I would say they are the best at this aspect among the tested programs. The lack of configuration in the pan-and-zoom effect however was a big disadvantage for my purposes - you can add pan or zoom effects, but there are no controls to set initial and final frames. For those wishing to create DVDs, you can prepare a series of tracks to be selected from a menu.

One severe problem I encountered: I saved the final version of my project. The next day, when I opened it, it did not find the videos and did not have the "title" and "credits" slides I had created in it. However, the reason may be that the evaluation version had expired.

Edited on Nov. 17th 2009: Wondershare released a replacement for Movie Story called DVD Slide Show. I downloaded version 5.0.019 it and took a brief look. The pan&zoom effect is now customizable, including rotation. In my test however, the customization was lost when I saved and re-opened a project! No pan&zoom is allowed in the videos, but cropping and rotating were maintained. There is one bug in the transitions pallete: in many cases, you pick one transition and get another. Text is still attatched to the image, therefore moving with the pan&zoom. I didn't find any frames and clipart anymore.

Corel MediaOne 2.1

Corel MediaOne came for free when I purchased PaintShopPro X2, but it can be sold as a separate application. In the "Enhance" area, it has some simple but effective tools to adjust images (brightness, saturation, etc) even crop and rotate them (as I have PSP, I can call it from MediaOne to edit images), add borders and text. Changes however need to be saved to the file, and no "save as..." tool is available. In the "Show" area, where you create slideshows, you can also add a caption to the image, however there is no control about text size, color or position. There are no choices for the output video, although the setting is very acceptable, but I found the photo pan&zoom animation a bit murky. And although I wasn't using a trial version, it keeps a watermark on the corner of the video. MediaOne seems a neat choice for making scrapbooks and decorated images, however it doesn't fit my purpose.

DVD Movie Factory 6

Also from Corel, although actually a ULead product, DVD Movie Factory may be a good choice for those wishing to create DVDs, but not for my purposes because you can not join videos and photos. You can make photo slideshows, but the pan&zoom custom effect is applied to all images, what is not adequate for most cases (the auto random effect varies from photo to photo, though). You can export slideshows as videos, so if you are patient you can add these videos to the other videos and make a single one. That's what I did in this example, but apart from the text edition flexibility, there is no advantage over the PhotoStory+MovieMaker solution - too much effort for a paid software. Photo edition tools are nice, with auto and custom settings (I reduced saturation in some photos), and text edition is very flexible. WMV output is limited to 320x240; AVI allows larger sizes.

Also from Corel/ULead, CD & DVD PictureShow 4 is less flexible and shares the problem of not adding video and photo slideshows together. Given that, I did not try it further.

Memories on TV 4.1.1

CodeJam Memories on TV has two versions - Home and Pro (comparison here). Although I installed the Pro trial version, for the test I only used features from the Home version (Pro was tested later in Part II). Pan & zoom effect is fully customizable, although not easy at first, with a very good animation quality, and with adjustable speed (constant, smooth, accelerate, decelerate) that can also be used in videos. Photos, videos and sound files can also be cropped. Caption texts can be added in any position and with effects and delays, very powerful, and texts don't follow the image's pan & zoom, what I prefer. Caption slides can also be created with the same options. A series of functions can be extended to all slides (for instance, same type of transition), but everything can be set for each video/image also, giving us full control. Photo enhancement is limited to brightness and contrast adjustments and an auto correction that gave very poor results, and no enhancement at all is available for videos. You can not add narration directly on the presentation - you can however record it separately and then insert it in your project. MPEG output file has only one setting (size), but with very good quality. AVI, which is available in the Pro version only, has quality options for video and audio (more than I understand). You can also upload the video directly to your YouTube account. For those wishing to create DVDs, you can prepare a series of tracks to be selected from a menu.

There is a free version called Memories on the Web, which has basically the same features but generates small resolution videos only (320x240). This is not advertised by CodeJam anymore, but can be still downloaded. I have not tested it so deeply, but it can be a good choice if this output size is enough.

ProShow Gold 4.0.2549

Photodex ProShow Gold has a very neat interface. It has a complete pan & zoom tool, with adjustable speed (linear, smooth, accelerate, decelerate), and it can also be used in videos. Caption texts can be added in any position and with effects (custom enter/stay/exit) but no delays, and texts don't follow the image's pan & zoom, what I prefer. Photos, videos and sound files can also be cropped. Caption slides can also be created with the same options. A good set of edition tools are available, but I miss saturation. Rotation, even for videos, is part of the edition tools, but also of the pan & zoom control - in the latter case, you can add effects to it. There are some preset layouts for multiple images (photos and/or videos) in the same frame, but they are fully customizable; however, it lacks a pause before transition to the next slide. Testing the outputs, I only achieved reasonable quality in MPEG or very large MOV files; WMV suffered in quality and the audio was mono. There is a choice to upload the video directly to a YouTube account, but then it lets you instead save it to your PC instead in AVI - no full settings control, 16:9 view ratio only, with choices of 1280x720 or 640x360, but very good quality.

An even more complete version ProShow Producer is also available, but too expensive. Is allows output in AVI format.

Comparison Table

Feature Windows Movie Maker Photo Story 3 Movie Story 4.5.0.1 Corel MediaOne DVD Movie Factory 6 Memories on TV 4.1.1 ProShow Gold 4.0.2549
price US$ free free 49.95 49.99 49.99 59.99 (Home)
89.99 (Pro)
69.95
Ken Burns effect
(pan and zoom)
N Y, auto and custom N Y, auto and custom Y, custom but not individual to each image Y, auto and custom
Y, auto and custom
Y, auto and custom, also rotates
transitions Y, 60 options Y, 48 options Y, >100 options including 3D Y, 10 options Y, >40 options, but not individual to each image Y, 56 options Y, >250 options
caption text Y, many options, limited positioning Y, fixed positions Y, free positions Y, auto Y, free positions, multiple texts Y, free positions, multiple texts Y, free positions, multiple texts
caption slide Y, many options, limited positioning N Y, free positions N Y, free positions (multiple texts?) Y, free positions, multiple texts Y, free positions, multiple texts
photo retouch Y, presets (weak) Y Y, custom, frames, clipart Y, custom, frames, decorations Y, custom only brightness/contrast, frames, decorations Y, custom
video retouch Y, presets (weak) - Y, custom, frames, rotate N N only frames and rotate Y, custom, rotate
video trimming Y - Y Y Y Y Y
music MP3, WAV WMA, MP3, WAV WMA, MP3, WAV WMA, MP3, WAV WMA, MP3, WAV, OGG, CDA, MPA WMA, MP3, WAV WMA, MP3, WAV
narration Y Y Y N Y N Y
watermark as caption text N as caption text N N N
(Y in Pro)
N
(Y in Producer)
output video WMV, choices of sizes WMV, choices of sizes WMV, AVI, MPEG, choices of sizes and settings WMV (640x480 30fps, 2950kbps) WMV, AVI, MPEG, choices of sizes Flash and MPEG with choices of sizes
(AVI in Pro)
Flash, WMV, MPEG and MOV with choices of sizes, preset AVI
DVD creation N N Y N Y Y Y
Trial version - - 30 days, fully functional, watermarked video Y 30 days, fully functional Fully functional, watermarked video 15 days, fully functional, watermarked video (still worked beyond the 15 days)
Test video
640x480
(requires adequate player)
Photo Story 3 + Windows Movie Maker
7.4MB
Movie Story 4.5.0.1
11.1MB
Corel MediaOne
12.1MB
DVD Movie
Factory 6

13.2MB
Memories on TV 4.1.1
23.7MB
ProShow Gold 4.0.2549
33.9MB
Notice: All image and video rights belong to Maria Adelaide Silva. No reproduction is accepted without the author's agreement.

Conclusion

If you do no want to spend money, using PhotoStory to create slide shows and Windows Movie Maker to combine these shows with videos is a choice. It is time-consuming, a bit limited in settings, but you can achieve good results. Or, if you don't mind the small resolution output, Memories on the Web is a good flexible choice.

Now, if you are willing to pay for a software, both Memories on TV and ProShow Gold are excellent. The other options I tested may be cheaper, but for a bit more you get much better and versatile softwares. Even if you don't want to play with settings much -and I bet you will after you start creating your first videos - you can simply select your photos and videos, and they will create simple yet beautiful videos for you.

In case this is relevant to you, ProShow Gold is able to create Blu-ray disks, while Memories on TV apparently isn't - this wasn't however a feature I was looking for, so I didn't research on this. Both say they are compatible with Windows Vista.

Regarding the creation of a CD/DVD with you slideshows, I found Memories on TV a bit easier to manage this, as your project in it consists of all the tracks you want to have, whereas in ProShow Gold each track is a project and then to create the CD/DVD you select the tracks you want to include. In either case, you are able to adjust appearance and menus, but this wasn't a feature I was looking for, so my evaluation on this aspect was too shallow to say any pros or cons between them.

With ProShow Gold you also have the ability to build slideshows with more than one image or video in the same frame - a feature Memories on TV Home lacks, but that is the flagship of Memories on TV Pro. As I read in Codejam forum, people who buy the Home version often soon feel they should have purchased the Pro version, so I decided to test this specific feature here too. You can find this comparison in Part 2 of this article.



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Created on October 12, 2009 - Last updated on November 17, 2009

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