networksVSO PhotoDVD v2.0 Review

 

VSO Software has just come out with Version 2.0 of PhotoDVD and has graciously given us access to  a copy (actually, anyone can have a copy simply go to their website and download a free trial version of anyone of their products).  Here is our review. 

 

 

About PhotoDVD:

 

VSO PhotoDVD takes your digital pictures and animates them to create a compatible DVD movie.  You can add multiple soundtracks and comments as DVD Subtitles to accompany your pictures.  This software is one of the simplest of its kind on the market with all the animation factors taken care of for you.  The engine responsible for this analyzes the picture’s size and orientation to automatically create a movie with cool fade, zoom, and pan effects. 

Key features found in VSO PhotoDVD:

Ø       Digital pictures in JPG / GIF / BMP / ANI / PCX / EMF / WMF formats and more

Ø       Smart auto animation engine - adapts to the characteristics of the pictures ( landscape or portrait ) and Ken Burn effects ( animated pan and zoom)

Ø       Focal points for each picture (highlighted by zoom techniques)

Ø       Basic picture edition (rotation, Black and White, etc.)       

Ø       Multiple tracks available for subtitles (multiple languages compliant ) e.g : to create a fun and a normal comment track

Ø       Multiple tracks also available for audio soundtracks to accompany slideshow

Ø       Full Screen (4:3) and Widescreen (16:9) support

Ø       Option for both PAL/NTSC formats

Ø       DVD output on DVD+/-(R)W media and double layer

Ø       Universal DVD writing engine incorporated into software

Ø       Fast and quality MPEG2 encoder

Ø       Available in 15 languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese etc…)

PhotoDVD is compatible with Windows 98/Me/2000/XP/.NET and also compatible with all DVD Writers and players. 

 

PhotoDVD can be purchased online for €19.99 (approx $24.99 USD).

 

 

Obtaining and installing PhotoDVD

 

To obtain a version of this software either after purchasing or for a trial period go to http://www.vso-software.fr.  Find PhotoDVD and click on “download now”. 

 

The steps to install the software are quite simple: first select the language of installation then click “Next” following each choice made, then select file for installation (if you do not want to use the one already proposed), decide whether you want the installation process to set up desktop icons, and then click install.

 

After this process of a couple of seconds, click the button “Finish” on this screen completes the installation process. 

 

If you have bought the software online, a license key will have been sent to your email address.  This key can be manually copied into the program by clicking on “Register Software” (an option that will pop up when opening software among the other choices of “Buy Software” and “Use Trail Version”).  These steps are impressively fast and easy to do. 

 

 

Playing with PhotoDVD

Here is the first screen I see upon opening PhotoDVD.  It is straightforward with not many bells and whistles to get confused with.

To add pictures or a file of pictures I simply click on and a browser will help locate the pictures to be added to slideshow.  Pictures can also be imported by the “drag and drop” manner. It is nice to have the option of either technique.  As I’ve experienced, PhotoDVD supports large list of various picture formats.

 

Once my pictures have been added, a preview of the picture selected is shown in the box on the right hand side of the screen.  Below that a bar showing the space the slideshow will take up on a DVD and the display time of each picture in seconds which can be increased or decreased.  The order of the pictures can be changed by using the blue arrows or delete completely by highlighting a picture number on and clicking on the red “X”. 

 

By clicking on the magnifying glass more editing option become available:

 

On the right side of the screen I can change the animation and transition factors or I can leave them as is.  In the past I have found the default settings pleasant to the eye and the best compromise for my pictures and viewing preference. 

 

Underneath the preview of my picture I have various new editing tools: picture rotation, displaying my picture in black and white, focus points, and the option to add subtitles.

 

I like the fact that by clicking both or either I have the option to hide the animation options on the right side of the screen as well as the subtitles on the bottom half of the screen. 

 

By sliding the mouse over each one of these icons a script appears telling me what each icon is represents.  This always seems to reassure me, so that I do not feel obligated to click and then see what happens, in fear of not being able to undo the manipulation I just have done. 

 

Not only can I add upt to three tracks of subtitles here I can also change their font, size, color, etc by clicking on the three dots found to the right of the text entry bar (. . .).

 

The best part of this window is that I can go back and forth between pictures of my slideshow by using the blue arrows (separated by the icons) to facilitate the adding of subtitles to each one of my pictures.

 

The last editing feature worth mentioning here is the option of using focus points.  To do so all I have to do is click once on the icon  and then click once on the specific detail of my picture I want to be highlighted (after slideshow is compiled I can notice how these selected spots on my pictures are zoomed in on adding a rather classy effect to each picture). 

 

I found after going through my pictures that not all of them merit a focus point, but when I do add one the effect is a great special touch.

 

A little trick, well thought of by the programmers, to go from picture to picture adding focus points is that you do not have to click a spot for a focus point and then come back down to one of the blue arrows to change pictures, simply click double click where you want the focus point to appear and the following picture will come onto the window.  This saves a lot of time and back and forth motion that tiring and redundant.

 

Now having finished my additional editing I close that window and come back to the original PhotoDVD window and click on the “Next” button.

 

Ohhh, the phone just rang I am late for an appointment instead of leaving the computer on.  I found that under the file menu I can save my project.  I just will and turn off my computer. . . .

 

With that appointment done and over with I simply turned back on my computer and opened PhotoDVD, clicked on File “open project” and selected the slideshow project I was working on.

 

Now back to where I left off:

 

 

 

Now I am ready to add music to my slideshow, so far so good.  I am not confused and happy with the little additions I can add to my slideshow personalizing it without going overboard. 

 

Once having added the music I want to my slideshow doing just as I had done for adding pictures,

I see a nice little tool on the right that allows me to listen to a selected audio track.  I realize that PhotoDVD is really an “all in one” program.  I do not have to open up something like Windows Media Player just to hear certain pieces of music to see it they will be the right fit to go with my pictures, all I have to do is click the green arrow on the right side of the screen.  I am lovin it!

 

The numbers 1, 2, 3 on the bottom of the screen represent audio channels.  If I want to create more than one soundtrack for my slideshow I can do that too by clicking on “2” for example and adding a whole new list of songs.  For my slideshow I have created a more up beat soundtrack to show to friends during a party and a mellower track for me to show my slideshow with to my colleagues at work. 

 

Again, a nice little bar is shown on the right to make sure that the length of my music corresponds to the duration of my slideshow.  This makes it easy to work with my slideshow and not be deceived by a burned DVD that could resemble who knows what if all they little easy to read key features we not added. 

 

Clicking on settings gives me more options for PhotoDVD and for my slideshow:

 

 

 

 

And

 

 

  

 

Except for the DVD Format screen I have left all options set at the default setting as in the past I have been happy with these settings and I always want to see how good something will turn our before toying with it.  For DVD Format I changed the setting to fit my personal material at home (NTSC and 16:9)

 

After applying this settings and closing these windows I am back to the audio screen.  As I am finished there I click on “Next”.

 

Here I have the option to select output format, select the burner I would like to use or the location on my hard drive I would like my final project to be stored at.  I can also chose a Volume Label and designate the target folder. I click on “Next”.

 

If and after selecting a DVD Writer this will appear

 

 

 

The meaning of the colors of the round dot on the right side of the bar of “Target Device” are as follows:

Red = no media inserted,

Green = empty media inserted,

Yellow = used media inserted but rewriteable

 

PhotoDVD gives me a brief summary of the details of my project.  I accept and click next.

 

 

The following window appears and I can see my slideshow being compiled. 

 

Final step, here I can choose whether to burn another copy (very sweet touch and easy to use feature in case of offering my slideshow to the other people who were on vacation with me—or if my slideshow was of my kids growing up, easy to burn multiple copies for the grandparents!)  I can also choose to create another slideshow, or open output folder in Explorer.

 

Of my one particular slideshow created I first compiled a version and made my target device my hard drive.  I did this to see if I liked the slideshow as is before burning it to a DVD.

 

When I tried to watch my slideshow, I did not see the subtitles and I did not know how to change to a different audio soundtrack (as I had created two).

 

I went to the VSO website and filled out a technical support (downloaded the support tool and filled out the little) form asking for only the topic of my message(one of three choices), my full name, email address, product, and message.

 

Surprised 10 hours later I had already received a reply saying that I needed to use the remote control of my DVD player and hit a button called “Subtitles” to go back and forth between the different subtitle channels.  The same thing goes for the audio soundtracks.  There should be a button called “Audio” on the remote control that should permit be to select which soundtrack I want to hear.  Curiously, which I had not imagining I could listen to audio track one and see subtitle channel 1 at the same time just as I can watch Subtitle channel Two and still hear track 1 of audio! I thought that was pretty cool.  When creating my slideshow I thought channels 1 for subtitles and audio corresponded!

 

VSO also wrote back within a dozen of minutes after I wrote back again explaining that I was actually trying to view my slideshow on my computer.  VSO replied:

 

Like I explained about using the remote control for a DVD living room player, the same thing needs to happen when viewing on the computer, however instead of pressing a button, right click on your slideshow as it is being played.  Select something in the menu related to additional options, display menu, subtitles, etc.  Then you should be able to browse through your subtitle channels.

 

I am impressed by there technical support, that was really fast!

 

 

Conclusion

 

Overall PhotoDVD is extremely easy to use.  I did not get hung up on confusing editing features.  I created my slideshow in a straightforward manner adding music, subtitles, focus points, each of which personalized my slideshow too.  The little tools found along the way like the audio player are truly nice touches making this whole process as simple as can be.  The picture quality was impressive and the transitions and animation had a very soothing effect increasing the viewing pleasure.  For those who want extra bells and whistles those are there too within PhotoDVD, but for people like me who want a program straight and to the point with good results this is definitely the program for you.   

 

 

Strong Points

---Automatic animation

---automatically creates chapters every minute, easy for skipping forward to certain picture while   viewing slideshow

---Great project manager

---Burning engine is compatible with any DVD writer and player

 

 

Weak Points

---For those who really want to purely edit pictures this is not the application for them.  PhotoDVD does    not allow you to crop pictures, take out red eye, and other such features.

---Menus are not yet incorporated into this version.   VSO has communicated to us that this feature will appear      shortly in one of the future versions.

 

 

Availability

Besides being conveniently available for purchase on line, VSO Software also offers you a free trial period of 30 days for all of  their products downloadable here: http://www.vso-software.fr

For the moment there is not box copy of the software available in stores. 

 

Tested on: