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Saturday, March 19, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.

So many iPhoto options make creating slide shows fun

Special to The Seattle Times

Practical Mac

I always found it difficult to stay awake during slide shows in grade school. The combination of a darkened classroom, a teacher's voice and the whirr-clunk sound of the circular slide mechanism made it difficult to focus on whatever we were supposed to be learning.

The digital world promises to keep me awake, and I'm better off for it. In putting together a slide show today, the most vexing problem you may face is choosing which of the several methods available on the Mac to use.

iPhoto: A natural jumping-off point for creating slide shows from your digital photos is iPhoto (part of iLife '05, $79), which is what I use to manage my pictures. It's been capable of creating shows since the first version, but iPhoto 5 improves the control you have over how they play. (Other photo-management programs, such as iView MediaPro,, also offer slide-show capabilities.)

An iPhoto slide show is now its own item that appears in the Source pane, not just a one-time event. This structure lets you create a show, tweak its settings, and then go back to it later. Select a range of photos and then click the Slideshow button, or choose New Slideshow from the File menu.

In earlier versions, the most exciting thing about slide shows was picking a transition type. In iPhoto 5, you can set different transitions for each photo. The default, Dissolve, where one image fades into the next (the same effect that wowed me in school when the teacher used two projectors; cool tricks help keep little boys awake). If you prefer the traditional approach, the Fade Through Black option looks like the slide shows of old.

iPhoto 5 also brings the Ken Burns Effect, either as a default preference or as a control you can manipulate. Also known as pan-and-scan, the Ken Burns Effect originated in iMovie 3 and looks as if the camera is moving across and zooming in or out of the image. It's the same effect used by Mac OS X's image screen savers such as Cosmos (in the Desktop & Screen Saver pane of the System Preferences).

You can also use music from your iTunes library to play in the background; it's easiest to set up a separate playlist in iTunes first if you want specific songs. In the show's settings, you can opt to have the music repeat until it's completed, or have iPhoto adjust the timing of the slides so that the show wraps up by the time the last note plays.

When you've configured the slides, you can send it to iDVD to burn to a DVD disc (more on this later), play it back on the computer, or hook the Mac up to a television to play it for friends and family. Or export it (choose Export from the Share menu) as a QuickTime movie that can be viewed by anyone with an Internet connection. (Go to to see the examples I created for this column.)

iMovie: Even if you don't own a camcorder, you can use iMovie to create shows. iMovie 3 and later let you add pictures directly from iPhoto, and then apply transitions and titles to them.

An advantage to using iMovie is that you have more control over the audio — with two audio tracks to play with, you can add music (from iTunes) as well as audio commentary. In iMovie's Audio pane, click the red Microphone button to record your voice.

iMovie also includes the Ken Burns Effect (in fact, it originated here), but I find its implementation in iMovie to be spotty. There's no way to control the speed except for the duration of the clip, so you often end up with pans that start slow and end quickly or vice versa.

Instead, turn to a program such as Photo to Movie by LQ Graphics ( which gives you much more freedom to control the camera. You can then create a QuickTime file and import that into iMovie (or you can also create your entire slide show in Photo to Movie).

iDVD: Using iPhoto or iMovie, you can choose to send your show to iDVD to burn a DVD disc. In both of those cases, a QuickTime movie of it is created and then automatically imported into iDVD. However, if I'm just creating a slide show that will end up on a DVD, I prefer to build it right within iDVD.

In iDVD 5, click the Slideshow button, double-click the button that appears (it may just be a text link), and then use the Media pane to add your photos and background music. The controls here are very similar to what iPhoto offers.

A nice addition is the capability to include full-resolution copies of the photos on the disc so that people with personal computers can add them to their own photo collections.

After burning the disc, it can be played back on most commercial DVD players. Take it to your next party or presentation.

No longer do you need to send your photographs out to be developed and specify that the processing company makes slides out of them. Today's digital slide shows don't have a tendency to get jammed in the projector, and are easy to create, easy to edit later and are more fun to watch in a darkened room.

Hey, are you awake back there Mr. Fleishman?

Jeff Carlson and Glenn Fleishman write the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to More Practical Mac columns at

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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