Apr
21

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The Definitive Guide to Masking in ProShow Producer

The Definitive Guide to Masking in ProShow Producer

Masking is one of those powerful tools in ProShow Producer that lets you create some truly spectacular special effects in your videos. If you’re looking for some help getting started or are ready for some advanced techniques, look no further! We’ve rounded up the top training videos, articles and inspiring videos featuring masking in-action below!

Masking Training Videos + Articles

  1. Intro to Masking in ProShow Producer: This video gives you a great overview of using masks in Producer and you’ll step through a simple masking example to get started.
  2. Intermediate Masking in ProShow Producer: In this video you’ll learn how to create a transparency mask using different shapes for spectacular results.
  3. Advanced Masking in ProShow Producer: Learn how to combine masking and keyframing to create advanced animated effects in your shows.
  4. Use a Text Layer as a Mask in ProShow Producer 6: Learn how to create a really unique text layer mask to use for intro slides, word montages and slick dividers.
  5. ProShow Producer Manual: The ProShow Producer manual covers masking in great detail and it’s free to access as a PDF download. Starting on page 399 you’ll find the chapter on Masking.

Masking Examples In-Action

  1. Urban Photographer of the Year: Watch the beginning of this video to see a cool masking technique at about the 19 second mark. A text layer is used like a stencil to reveal images below.
  2. Curious Critters – A Picture Book for All Ages: Producer’s masking feature allowed the designers of this video to create a playful intro using a circle mask to reveal the ‘critters’ featured in this picture book.
  3. ProShow Producer 6 Demo Video: Scattered throughout this inspiring video are great examples of masking in-action. You’ll see a few right off the bat with paint brush strokes acting as masks!

     

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Apr
17

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What to Look for When Upgrading Your Computer’s Hardware

What to look for when upgrading your computer's hardware.

When it comes to creating photo and video slideshows on your computer, the last thing you need are technical problems.  Slow frustrating components can really put a damper on the creative process.  If you find yourself at odds with your machine, it might just be time for some new hardware.

Whether you’re looking for a brand new computer or just want to upgrade a few components, here are some things to consider when prioritizing those changes.  You might be surprised just how big an improvement you can see without breaking the bank.

CPU

The workhorse in any computer is the CPU (central processing unit), which generally controls how quickly things happen on the system.  CPUs from the most recent generation often outperform previous models by a significant margin.  The key here is generation, not expense.  The best performance for your money is often found just below the top of the line model.  A quality Intel i5 CPU, for instance, can be a better buy than a more expensive Intel i7, especially if the latter is from a prior generation.

It’s important to note that newer CPUs may not be compatible with your current system.  Always check with your computer manufacturer, or motherboard documentation, to see if a newer CPU is available for your machine.

Many websites provide CPU benchmarks (performance evaluations) along with price estimates and can be quite helpful in determining which CPU is right for you. Here is one example: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/

RAM

Processing power, as important as it is, doesn’t mean much if your system slows to a crawl when running multiple applications.  While a program is running it resides in RAM (random-access memory), so it can be accessed quickly.  Run too many applications and your RAM fills up.  Run additional applications and the system has to start swapping data back and forth from RAM to the hard drive, drastically slowing things down.

The bare minimum amount of RAM for any serious multimedia work is 4 GBs.  For anything over that you’ll need a 64-bit version of Windows, which is fortunately very common these days.  I recommend at least 8 – 12 GBs of RAM in order to keep things running efficiently, although more is always better.  Unlike swapping out a CPU, which requires a bit of care, RAM upgrades are usually very easy.

Video Card

For certain applications, like ProShow version 6, the video card (GPU) is a key component in providing high resolution playback without sacrificing performance.  A modern dedicated video card, rather than an integrated GPU, is the key to a great playback experience and it may be cheaper than you think.

Modern video cards typically come in a tiered product line where the lowest-end (ex. GeForce 610) is appropriate for basic computer operations and the highest-end (ex. GeForce 680) is designed for intense tasks like video games. A video card from the middle of the pack (ex. GeForce 640, Radeon R7 250) is typically sufficient for multimedia applications like ProShow. Here is a resource to put these tiers, generations, and brands in context. http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/

Operating System

The key thing to keep in mind when upgrading your Windows OS is to get the 64-bit version.  A 32-bit OS is going to limit you to 4 GBs of RAM and that’s not a limitation you want.  It is also worth noting that support for Windows XP, including new security updates, has been discontinued.  This makes it a great time to consider making the jump to Windows 7 or Windows 8, both fine operating systems.

Storage

Hard drives provide long term storage for everything from the OS to photos.  They are also a common point of failure and frustration.  Getting the right storage solution for your computer can greatly mitigate these concerns and put you on solid worry-free footing.

Start by determining how much storage you’re likely to need.  For a lot of people, several hundred megabytes (MB) is a great start.  People with more demanding needs (prolific photographers, videographers, etc.) should instead be looking at storage in terms of terabytes (TB).  Assessing your current storage situation should give you a good idea of how much additional space you’re likely to need.

It’s also helpful to look at drive speed, as it can have a big impact on overall system performance.  A traditional (platter) hard drive (HDD) is relatively cheap but also a bit slow by today’s standards.  You’ll see HDDs rated in terms of RPMs where 5400 is slow (common in laptops), 7200 is faster, and 10000 is about as good as they get.  For a system with snappier response time, and lower power consumption, consider getting a solid-state drive (SSD).  Installing your main OS (i.e. Windows) on one of these drives can really help.  Add a larger HDD for general storage and you get the best of both worlds.

Hybrid drives are also a great option, wherein SSD and HDD technology are combined into a single unit.  These drives tend to be faster for a lot of operations, relative to HDDs, but also provide a large amount of storage.

While you’re thinking about added storage, keep in mind that HDDs and SSDs can fail.  Keep your data backed up on another drive (typically an HDD) in order to prevent data loss.  External HDDs are a great option for this particular use.  Investing in a few TBs of external storage can really save the day when something goes wrong inside your computer.  Don’t be caught unprepared!

Laptops

When purchasing a laptop it’s important to make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for with the initial purchase.  Unlike a desktop computer, laptops can be tricky to upgrade and some components may not be user-serviceable at all.

Invest in a good CPU, lots of RAM, and storage that fits your needs (speed vs. capacity).  An SSD can really make a laptop much snappier, relative to the standard 5400 RPM hard drive found in most models, but you won’t get nearly as much space.  This may be an area where the faster drive, coupled with an external storage solution, makes the most sense.  It’s also a great place for hybrid drives.

Getting a good dedicated video card in a laptop often requires a premium investment.  If you’re looking to replace your desktop computer with a laptop, this upgrade may be well worth the cost.  For most people, the laptop does lighter work than their desktop so they can save a few bucks on this component.  One area you don’t want to skimp on is battery life, so be sure to know your options before heading to the checkout.

Using a Mac

If a Mac is in your future then you’ll need to consider how you want to run ProShow Gold or Proshow Producer, which are only available for Windows.  Fortunately, there are some very workable solutions.  Applications like VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop allow you to run a full (virtualized) installation of Windows on your Mac pretty seamlessly. Take a look at how this works in this Knowledge Base article.

Just make sure you have enough RAM, and storage space, to accommodate the extra OS.  It’s good to have 16 GB of RAM, so you can dedicate 8 GBs to Windows when it’s running, and 1+ TBs of storage.  Features like Unity mode (VMWare) and Coherence (Parallels) can even make ProShow looks like it’s running natively on the Mac, for an extra seamless experience.

Photodex does have a Mac-compatible slideshow tool called ProShow Web that creates dynamic photo and video slideshows directly from any Mac or PC. Visit the ProShow Web site to try it free.

 

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Apr
14

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How to Prep Your Photos for Great Slideshows

How to prep photos for great slideshows.

Today’s guest post comes Jenny Larson, owner of Forever Digital Memories.

If you are reading this blog, you know how great slideshows can be. When the right photos are set to the right music, something magical happens. People cry, people laugh, and the show becomes a treasured family keepsake.

I’ve been helping families, non-profits, and small businesses make slideshows for over ten years. During this time I’ve also been to my fair share of weddings/mitzvahs/camp and school shows and seen some really bad ones – the kind where everyone is checking their watch.

My goal in the next few blog posts is to help you make your slideshows into something truly professional that people will cherish for years to come – something that holds the audience’s attention and makes them want to watch over and over. And, if you are interested, you can make a nice business creating slideshows for other people.

Start with the Best Content

The first step in making a great show is to start with great photos. Sounds easy, right? It can be if you are a professional photographer or if you are working with someone with all new digital photos. But this doesn’t happen often. Family shows that tell the best stories are a mix of old and new: old slides, photos from many decades that age differently, some photos that people printed at home once they got their first digital cameras (these are the worst!), and photos that are sent to you by email or other digital methods. Let’s discuss different types of images and how to make them shine on the big screen.

  1. For digital images, pick the highest resolution image you can get your hands on. If friends/family are emailing you photos, ask them to send them at the highest resolution. Many email programs will give you an option if you want to reduce the file size. Advise them to JUST SAY NO! Always pick actual size. (See this iPhone message).
    Use your best quality content for slideshows.
  2. When possible, pick horizontal/landscape images over vertical/portrait. Even though most ProShow effects have great options for both types of photos, there are times when you want to forgo the effects and just use simple motion, having the photo fill the screen. In these cases, landscape photos will work better. Portrait photos will have black bars on either side of them, which isn’t quite as nice as having the photo fill the screen.
  3. When gathering large amounts of files from people digitally, use a free service like Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) or WeTransfer (www.wetransfer.com) These are simple to use and will avoid people having to send dozens of emails if they are trying to get you a lot of photos.

Scanning Slides

Can you believe this slide is from 1941? Slides are my favorite things to scan. They are first generation content. Compare that with a photo, which is actually a copy of a negative. There is so much great data and detail in a slide and they typically restore to “like new” condition. The trick is to scan them properly.

OUTSOURCING: If you have the luxury of time, sending your slides out to be digitized can ensure the highest quality outcome. While there are many places you can choose, learn about where the actual work is being done. Believe it or not, some large scanning services ship your precious memories overseas. When I outsource my scanning, I use Pixcel (www.pixcel.com) located just north of Chicago. I choose their Platinum service which includes scanning at 4000 dpi and dust and scratch removal. Pixcel has been in business for over 10 years and has trained technicians that do a fantastic job. They have excellent customer service and can tell you at any moment where your slides are in the production process.

DO IT YOURSELF: For scanning only a few slides or photos, I own the Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII (about $170 on Amazon). If you plan to scan a LOT of slides, take a look at the Pacific Image Powerslide 5000 Automated 35mm slide scanner (about $1100 on Amazon). This allows you to load up a slide tray of up to 100 slides and walk away while it scans. There is a steep learning curve, but if you are tech savvy and have lots to scan this is a nice automated scanner.

SCANNING SOFTWARE: No matter what slide scanner you choose, I recommend VueScan Scanner Software (www.hamrick.com) over the proprietary software that comes with your machine. VueScan has a standard edition that is only $39.95. What I love about it for slide scanning is it has great infrared cleaning options (for dust/scratch removal) and its pretty simple to use in basic mode. You can save your settings and use them for multiple jobs too.

Scanning Photos

Photos are a lot easier to scan than slides, but you still have to know what you are doing. Again, outsourcing is always an option if you have the time. And, again, Pixcel (www.pixcel.com) is my scanning vendor of choice.

But for the do it yourselfers…I always scan my photos at a minimum of 300 dpi – and typically I choose 400 or even 600 dpi. While this might seem like overkill for what you need for screen resolution, my philosophy is this: you are only scanning these photos once, so scan them for archival purposes, not just for screen resolution. Plus, with extra pixels to play with you can really crop and zoom in on photos in the slideshow. You also will have print quality images if you decide to design a custom DVD case.

My favorite photos scanners are:

FLATBED: The CanoScan 9000f mentioned above, or the Epson Perfection V600 ($192 on Amazon). These work great but it can get tedious loading a handful of photos at a time.

AUTO FEED: The Kodak Picture Saver Scanning System PS50 was truly life-changing for me and my business. I bought mine from E-Z Photo Scan (www.ezphotoscan.com). The PS50 sells for $1699, so it’s not cheap. But if you plan on doing a lot of scanning, you should seriously consider making the investment. It scans photos at either 300 or 600 dpi at speeds of up to 50 photos per minute. It has Kodak Perfect Touch software restoration too, which does a nice basic job at brightening up photos after they are scanned. There is also a PS80 version which offers additional features and scans even faster (up to 85 photos per minute). It costs about $2600. Using the PS50 and ProShow Producer I can scan, retouch and create a slideshow for a client in 2-3 hours! And if you are going to make the investment in a Kodak Picture Saver, I cannot recommend the folks at E-Z Photo Scan highly enough. They spent hours on the phone with me helping me pick the right model, get set up properly, and walk me through cleaning the scanner. Fantastic customer service!

The Kodak Picture Saver Scanning System PS50

Retouching Photos

After your photos are scanned you really need to prep them a bit for the best show. I use Photoshop Elements (www.adobe.com) to quickly and easily make my photos look their best on the big screen.

My goal isn’t to do full restorations. I only spend 5 to 10 seconds per photo to remove flaws that detract from the show. If people are noticing the flaws in the photo they are missing the emotion that you are working hard to convey. So just give each photo a little bit of love and you will have a much more polished and professional looking show.

  1. Crop: Make sure you crop all white borders from around old photos. Even a speck of white on the side of a photo can be extremely distracting during a slideshow. Any white left behind will flicker and be very visible. You can crop within ProShow Producer and ProShow Gold if you forget to do so beforehand.
  2. Color correct: Most of the time, the auto color correct button does the trick. However, there are times when an old color photo cannot be corrected well – in these cases I recommend converting to grayscale.
    Color correct photos for a uniform look.
  3. Remove red eye: This seems easy and obvious but I’m surprised how many slideshows I’ve been to where there is a ton of red eye left in.
  4. Create a uniform look: Turn old black and white images to grayscale to create a uniform look for old photos. Photos can age differently and get discolored in spots. By turning them all to grayscale you are ensuring the audience will be absorbing the emotion in the photo – not noticing the differences in age spots between photos. (See slideshow example below.)
  5. Fix obvious blemishes/dust/scratches: Don’t go too crazy fixing every little flaw – but when there is a scratch across a face or something really obvious, the Band Aid tool is the best! Technically, it’s called the Spot Healing Tool, but it looks like a Band Aid.
  6. Remove time/date stamps: These are distracting and can often be cropped out or removed using the Spot Healing Tool.
  7. Crop scanner lid/background from odd shaped items: When scanning art or photos that have been cropped into weird shapes (this happens a lot with scrapbooked photos), use Photoshop Elements to remove the scanned background and place a black or white background behind the art/photo.
  8. Apply a blur to offset printed material: For scans of newspapers, yearbooks, magazines or other offset printed material, apply a slight blur filter. I like to use a 1 pixcel Dust/Scratches filter. This type of filter also works well for really scratched images. Also, newspapers tend to age badly and yellow, so don’t forget to turn them to grayscale for consistency. You can also apply a 1% blur within ProShow Producer or ProShow Gold.

 

Need Help? Find a Photo Organizer

Association of Professional Photo OrganizersIf  you’re excited to get started and gather up photos to make a show, but you don’t know where to begin, call a professional! I am a certified member of APPO, the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (www.appo.org) APPO members reside in all 50 states, Canada, England and around the globe. They can help you get your messy albums, bins and years of photos into an organized system that you can actually use to put together photo books, slideshows, photo gifts and much more. Photo Organizers can also help you pick out the “stories” in your photos to make the most compelling photo slideshows.

Coming up in my next guest blog post: Telling the best story with your slideshows. Incorporating video clips and other cool tricks and tips to set your shows apart. Stay tuned!

Jenny LarsonAbout Jenny:

www.foreverdigitalmemories.com
Jenny Larson has over 10 years in the photo organizing/video industry. Her passion for storytelling compelled her to found Forever Digital Memories in 2003. Since then, Jenny has helped thousands of clients tell their unique stories through the magic of combining photos, videos and music. She also has helped corporate clients and nonprofits grow their businesses through compelling marketing videos. Jenny has a passion for learning cutting edge technologies and prides herself on offering her clients the best options for their photos/videos. Jenny has an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Communication Studies and a law degree from the University of Southern California. Jenny lives in Glenview, IL and is the mom to three boys and a small zoo of animals who have taught her the value of staying organized and capturing each and every moment and preserving it carefully.

 

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Apr
11

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Wedding Photography Spotlight: Tony Fitzgerald Photography

Tony Fitzgerald Photography

Santa Cruz, California based wedding photographers, Tony Fitzgerald and Lisa LeCoump, have built a business around creating video slideshows for their wedding clients. Read below to learn how ProShow is helping to set them apart from the competition and build buzz about their business.

The Wedding Industry Today

“At most weddings today, it seems like everyone has a camera, and often the pictures taken by friends are on Facebook before the wedding is even over. Many couples today are looking for far more than just a series of snapshots. Traditionally, a professional photographer photographs the wedding and provides the couple with gorgeous photos, but it is weeks before they are available, and they are delivered chronologically in a sterile gallery, with often hundreds of photos. Sometimes an album is created, but it may be months before the album is available and not everyone gets to see the album.

Professional Video Slideshows = Quick Turnaround

Instead, we deliver a collection of the best photos in a curated professional slide show video that is both creative and unique. We use ProShow Producer to create the slideshow because it allows us so much creative freedom. The slideshow is done in storybook form starting with the bride and groom getting ready and then showing the wedding and the reception. It allows us to highlight the very special moments as they happened.

The slideshow provides the couple with a very quick alternative to a wedding album, within days of the wedding while everyone is still interested and sharing photos. It is easily posted to social media, and many couples are using it as their photo album. We grant printing rights so the couple can legally post the photos to Facebook, Twitter and a personal website or create an album or anything else as a DIY project. The couple’s friends immediately start posting comments and sharing the slideshow!

Setting Themselves Apart

Additionally, we are certified Green by the County of Santa Cruz and the Monterrey Bay Area Green Business Program (and I believe we are the only local photographer that is). This is something that is important to couples today as well as to us, and the slideshow helps us to stay green by allowing the pictures to be shared electronically. We think this is a whole new paradigm in wedding photography, and ProShow Producer is allowing us to do it!”

- Lisa LeCoump
www.tonyfitzgeraldphotography.com

Watch a Sample Wedding Video:


Video made in ProShow Producer featuring effects from StylePack Weddings.

 

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Apr
9

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Jeff Cable’s 2014 Olympics Showcase

Jeff Cable is a professional photographer located in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s known for capturing the highest quality images, whether it is a local event, a National advertising campaign or the Olympic Games.

He recently returned from photographing the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia. Millions followed along as he shared his adventures along the way on his popular photography blog. This video is a re-cap of his favorite images from Sochi and was produced in ProShow Web.

“I really love the way the music and effects add to my photos! Video re-caps like this are such a cool way of showcasing a series of images in a new and exciting way.” says Jeff.

Visit Jeff’s blog and give him a follow on Facebook.

 

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Apr
8

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Tips for Migrating ProShow Slideshows to a New Computer

Tips for migrating your ProShow slideshows to a new computer.

Let’s say you just upgraded to a shiny new computer. First of all, congrats! Upgrading to a new system has many benefits, more processing power for your photo and video editing applications, more memory to handle multiple tasks at a time (i.e. running more than one program) and of course more storage space to save all of your content and slideshow projects for ProShow.

But, the big question is how do you get your copy of ProShow and all your slideshows from your old system to your new one? Check out this article in the Photodex Knowledge Base that explains, step-by-step how to migrate your slideshows to a new computer. You’ll learn how to succesfully migrate your copy of ProShow and all of your shows to your new system, headache free!

And, don’t forget we’ve got reps standing by 7-days a week if you need help with anything ProShow related. Give us a call or email us. We love hearing from you!

 

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Apr
2

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Announcing The Ultimate Story Video Contest

The Ultimate Story Video Contest

Our industry is flooded with contests – always looking for the ultimate image. Well we’ve set out in search of the Ultimate Story – told through the creative use of still images, video and music.

The video below will fill you in more and then a click on the link and you can get all the details, prize information and meet the judges. This first contest in the series kicks off April 1. Final date for submissions is June 10 and the winner will be announced on June 20, 2014.

One Grand Prize Winner Gets These Awesome Prizes:

This is more than just another photography contest. This is about finding great storytellers, no matter what your story is about – weddings, vacations, outdoor/wildlife, family, children and pet photography, whatever your creative spirit decides to share.


Click here to enter and learn more >>

 

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How-To + Tutorials

The Definitive Guide to Masking in ProShow Producer

Monday, April 21, 2014

Masking is one of those powerful tools in ProShow Producer that lets you create some truly spectacular special effects in your videos. If you’re looking for some help…

What to Look for When Upgrading Your Computer’s Hardware

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When it comes to creating photo and video slideshows on your computer, the last thing you need are technical problems.  Slow frustrating components can really put a damper…

How to Prep Your Photos for Great Slideshows

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today’s guest post comes Jenny Larson, owner of Forever Digital Memories. If you are reading this blog, you know how great slideshows can be. When the right photos…

Tips for Migrating ProShow Slideshows to a New Computer

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let’s say you just upgraded to a shiny new computer. First of all, congrats! Upgrading to a new system has many benefits, more processing power for your photo…