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Old May 3, 2006, 4:31 PM   #1
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First let me apologize for the length of this post. However it's necessary to get the point across. For all you present users of software which has pan, scroll, zoom, rotate, etc., you "really" need to have a look at this! Let me start with some background:

As many know, there are several decent software packages for the Windows based PC which allow the user to create slideshows and avail themselves of the Ken Burns Effects (scroll, pan, zoom, rotate). Just a brief background for those not familiar with this may help here so bear with me.

Ken Burns is a cinematographer who has made a mark in cinematography by his signature style of using close in zooms followed by a slow pan across the frame frequently pausing on one subject then moving on. Ken didn't "invent" this technique, but has used it so effectively that the process has become known as the Ken Burns Effects.

A couple years ago all slideshow presentation software (software which uses still images displayed sequentially) was rather static in that the only "motions" were in the transitions between frames. Someone, probably from the video industry, decided that being able to apply these animations of pan, zoom, rotate, and scroll, to still images would make a valuable contribution to the overall presentation. From this observation several companies developed this capability and included it in their presentation software packages.

To create these effects, a still image is "rendered" to a video format of about 30 frames per image per second, much like the 24 frame per second film movie. A timeline is created and animation is described to code the creation of individual frames so they represent the transitions between view positions over time. These frames are then displayed on your monitor via an executable file or via a DVD file from an mpg or avi format.

Among the first to implement these features were Sound Forge (now owned by Sony) with their Vegas Video product. Vegas Video is a "suite" of products available independently or as a group. Having come from the video perspective, it was easier for these folks and they extracted a huge premium in their pricing. Vegas Video in its full blown implementation sold for well over $1000.00 U.S. dollars.

Following this, companies who were formerly producing still slides with only transitions between frames such as PhotoDex implemented these Ken Burns Effects features in their products including ProShow Gold - and now ProShow Producer. Other companies produced limited versions (Memories on TV, etc.) with automated animations which the user couldn't control but which added some visual appeal. Finally Microsoft decided to promote their own video format and create and gave away "free" (unusual for Microsoft - LOL) Windows Movie Maker 2.

The up side to this was that there were a number of options for the photographer. One could choose an extremely powerful but very expensive and difficult to learn product like Vegas Video - an "all-in-one" video editor, slideshow and video producer. Or today one can buy PhotoDex's ProShow Producer. Producer is powerful, but IMHO quite "buggy" and prone to failures sometimes due to internal bugs and sometimes due to interactions with other software resident on the computer. Producer is also very expensive (at least $400) and forces the user to tie up a port with a "dongle". Finally ProShow Gold which is a reasonably powerful program with full Ken Burns Effects and which can burn a DVD with it's internal burn engine also prone to failure because of interference from other present or latent (still in the registry after uninstall) code.

The downside for all these products for the photographer who wants high resolution images displayed is that they render internally the still images at a resolution of 720x576 pixels. To get a slideshow display at larger image sizes the images are interpolated from the rendering size to the final display size. This takes a toll on image quality. Another issue with these programs is that in many cases the movement, especially in pans is jerky, at least on executable displays on a computer. In addition, the lower quality images don't display all that well for photographers using LCD projectors where any flaws are amplified greatly. On the other hand, on low resolution televisions screens from a DVD format they look quite presentable.

Enter the "New Kid on the Block". Wnsoft, a small Russian company who have produced one of the finest and most flexible (and economical) slideshow programs which has been revered by many professional photographers for it's great low level flexibility (you can use objects, run foreign executable code from within the program). Their signature product, PicturesToExe (variously called P2E/PTE/PEX) has not had the Ken Burns Effects in the past, but rather produced beautiful, high resolution slideshows with smooth and powerful transitions. It's always had lots of punch, but no fancy text or animation but its flexibility for features such as having the option for a fully automated show or a manual show with a navigation bar. You can jump to the last or first slide from anywhere in the show, go forward, backward, even print a slide with a click of the mouse and even display the file name on each slide. These are features which the competition has not been able to accomplish.

Well, about a year ago the developers of P2E embarked on a monumental task to code a powerful graphics engine, one which could render and display butter smooth animations and transitions, have multiple simultaneous images on a single slide each with its own animation and transparency, allow transparent PNG files thus effecting incredibly versatile text effects and so on.

Finally, Igor Kokarev and his associates have released Beta 1 of PicturesToExe 5.0. Obviously it's a very early beta, but the power and smoothness is absolutely INCREDIBLE. Eventually the release product will have two graphical engines, but the beta relies almost entirely on the presence of a decent 3D graphics card. Now here comes the great news. If you buy the product today or before the release of version 5 when the price goes up, you can have it for $24 U.S.D. Now here's where it gets even better. There is no "upgrade" fee to get version 5 when it's released and upgrades as always with Wnsoft are free for life.

Folks, I've been using all the products I've mentioned since their pre-release beta products were available. With PicturesToExe that's been over five years. This is a dynamite product with the least bugs and very best support by far of all these I've mentioned. Do yourselves a giant favor and go to the links I've listed below and have a look. From the wnsoft website, click on the "Forums" page, log in, register and look at the samples you can download which Igor has created. The next link is to a quickie I produced in about 15 minutes with Beta 5 of P2E. It's a downloadable zipped executable of about 24 megabytes. There will likely be a "memory leak" message when you exit - nothing to be concerned about because it will be corrected in the next beta release due today or possibly tomorrow.

Don't wait - this one can scroll your largest panoramas and images with butter smoothness and beautiful resolution. You're not going to believe what you can get for $24

Wnsoft link:

http://www.wnsoft.com

Link to my sample - not a serious aesthetic slideshow just to demo some of the features:

http://www.lin-evans.net/p2e/coyote.html

Best regards,

Lin
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