Photo to Movie 3.3.1, by LQ Graphics
Posted: 21-Nov-2006

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: LQ Graphics Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Steve Lazarus Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
You have all of those wonderful photos taken with your fancy new digital camera, and now you wish to share these with your friends and family and impress them with your multimedia skills. Recognizing that a bunch of photographs is boring, you want a slide show with music and the "Ken Burns effect". This effect enlivens still photographs by allowing panning and zooming across and between photographs. (Ken Burns did not originate this effect, but his brilliant Civil War and Baseball documentaries drew attention to it.) Even the simplest
motion can enliven viewing of pictures. Really impressive to your family is panning and zooming from those surrounding grandma to focus on her blowing out the candles on her birthday cake. The final action of setting this to the music of "Happy Birthday", and timing the end of the song to the
extinguishment of the candles is the ultimate dramatic effect. Seeing the delight on Grandma's face when she views the movie is priceless.

While the basic capabilities of creating slideshows with music from photos are already included in Apple's iPhoto, LQ Graphics' Photo to Movie provides more control than is available from iPhoto.


Features

  • Multiple zooms/pans over a single photo
  • Movie preview
  • Control over slide transitions
  • Ability to add sound tracks
  • Bezier editing tools to control motion path
  • Ability to save movies in multiple formats in standard (4:3) or widescreen (16:9) mode

Requirements

  • Mac OS 10.3 or higher
  • G4 1GHz
  • 768MB RAM and 128MB VRAM recommended


Price

$49.95

Setup
Setup is straightforward. The installation package includes the application, a Readme file, a PDF help file, and sample movie. The application is simply dragged to the Applications folder. On launch I was prompted that a newer version was available. I downloaded the newer version (3.3.1) and relaunched. The application prompted for a license code. I entered my license code and the software registered itself with the vendor. (There is an option to run in demo mode.)

In Use
On launch a blank editing screen is displayed. Images or audio files may be dragged onto the screen from the Finder or, in the case of photos, from iPhoto.


Photo to Movie workspace with a single picture dragged into it



There are two initial key frames established by default. A key frame is the frame indicating how much of the picture will be displayed during movie playback. In the figure above, the outer green frame is the starting position and the smaller red frame is the ending position. The blue arrow in the middle of the image shows the direction of motion. The green and red key frames are equivalent of the "start" and "end" settings available for the iPhoto version of the Ken Burns effect. Motion settings are shown in the upper right of the screen and the timeline at the bottom. Key frames may be viewed in multiple key frames as above or as single key frames as shown below.


Photo to Movie - Single Key Frame

In the Single Key Frame view, position and size can be controlled by the tools on the right. The image may also be repositioned by dragging in the image window. There is a control that enables the rotation of a key frame. a capability not found in iPhoto. (Rotation can also be performed using the mouse.)

Adding a second photo to the project is sufficient to highlight the major features of Photo to Movie. In this project, I dragged in a second photo and added several additional key frames. While the two default key frames are again displayed as green and red, each new key frame is displayed with it's own color. In the example below, the second picture has 5 key frames.


Multiple Key Frame Display


Each key frame is color coded to provide identification when superimposed on the original photo. Clicking on the "+" of a key frame adds a new frame to the right, the "X" deletes the frame. Note also that the vertical bar between frames indicates the transition between frames. A total of 12 transition effects are available (compared to 13 in iPhoto). As with any multimedia project, transitions, other than the default "Crossfade" (equivalent iPhoto's "Dissolve"), can be annoying if not used carefully. The blue arrow represents the transition between key frames. Each transition can be edited for duration, pausing before or after, or ease in or out. The latter represents a gradual acceleration of the motion. Apple's iPhoto only provides control over duration.


Zoom snapshot of Photo to Movie Timeline

Editing is performed by selecting and dragging, or by selecting and editing settings. Bezier controls allow precise definition of the motion between frames. A timeline provides a detailed view of the timing. In the example above, the play marker (shown at 0:09.03") allows precise positioning to manually view the movie. The highlighted blue lines to the right of the marker show the effects of adding pauses before and after as well as both ease in and ease out. Also note that the second photo starts displaying in the middle of the timeline for the first. This represents the dissolve starting in the middle of the first photo's time interval. Editing again may be performed by selecting and dragging in the timeline view or by selecting and using the editing form.

Photo to Movie also supports adding audio tracks. In my project, I placed a 6 minute audio into the movie, adjusted the start and end portions to pick out the 40 second portion I wanted to use for the movie, and did a "trim" to remove the excess audio before and after the movie. I figured this out in spite of finding no documentation on the "Audio/Trim" command.


Timeline view with Audio Track

You can also edit the audio track for volume. In the example above, the audio was set to fade in and fade out at the beginning and end of the audio track. For the final touch, I inserted blank images at the beginning and end of the project to give a fade from/to black effect.


Click on Play button to view small Sample Movie with music


In using Photo to Movie, I experienced two crashes. One while editing the audio track, and another during the first save of the movie. Each operation succeeded on the next attempt. This version Photo to Movie lacks the full screen available with iPhoto. The movie preview also had some jerkiness that I have not scene in iPhoto. Finally, in experimenting with some movie sizes, I observed some moire effects that I have also not observed in iPhoto. The later may be an artifact of the additional formats and sizes that Photo to Movie supports.

I would have liked to have seen a feature to fade or subdue the underlying photo to better see the superimposed key frames and transition lines. A quirk in the interface is between the Info "i" button that is used to set export preferences and the "File/Export" command. The "File/Export" command exports what was configured from the "i" button, no provision to define format is provided when selecting this command.

Compared to iPhoto
To try out a large slide show, I dragged in 53 photos from iPhoto that I had edited from last summer's vacation. The drag/drop from iPhoto worked with no difficulty. The jerkiness in the preview was very evident as was some moire effects. The behavior in iPhoto was much smoother. Rearranging photo order in Photo to Movie proved to be a challenge. To move (or copy) a photo, it is necessary to select all of its motion paths, do a cut (or copy), select a motion path where it is to be inserted, and then do a paste. This action may pick up only some of the frames of a photo and may split the frames of a photo at the insertion point. In moving around in the timeline view, I first experienced a lot of spinning beach ball delay. Later on, the application began to behave more smoothly. I suspect the delay occurred as thumbnail images were being generated the first time. I created 240x180 pixel movies in both iPhoto and Photo to Movie. Each movie had the default 2 key frame motion effect. Photo to Movie took 5 1/2 minutes to save, created a 30.6 MB file and a movie that was 2'54" in length. The iPhoto movies, which included the default sound track, saved in 1 1/2 minutes, created a 47 MB file, and a movie that was 3:31 in length. I'm willing to consider this a virtual draw on the size, but iPhoto certainly wins on speed.


Summary
Most photo presentations can be enhanced by the Ken Burns effect. Photo to Movie provides excellent capabilities but has some rough edges. It has a good interface, good help files (in spite of some non-documented commands) and tutorials. It provides the capability to create impressive movies, with sound, from still photographs. I was able to quickly adapt to its user interface and be productive in creating movies. The greater levels of control provided over iPhoto quickly became apparent. Jerky preview, moire effects, and lack of a full screen preview in the current version are its rough side.

Photo to Movie is an excellent addition to one's media toolbox for allowing anyone not using iPhoto to add the Ken Burns effect to their repertoire. The decision is more difficult for those using iWorks. If you are totally satisfied with movies produced from iPhoto, you do not need this program. On the other-hand, if you need more control than the iPhoto can provide, then this program is may answer your needs. Its ability to create multiple key frames per photograph and precision control of the transition between frames and photos far exceeds the capabilities of iPhoto. These come with the need to depend on other tools for photo or sound editing and organization, Photo to Movie is definitely not intended to be a photo organizer or editor. Embedded iPhoto and ITunes viewers promised in Version 4 may improve this area.

Downloading the free 30 day demo and experimenting is well worth the time invested for anyone producing slide shows.

Pros

  • Interface is quickly learned
  • Can drag from iPhoto
  • Multiple key Frames
  • Precise control over transition between key frames
  • Precise control over photo transitions
  • Documentation provides good tutorials
  • Precise control over inserted audio
  • Saves in a large number of formats

Cons

  • Can not drag from iTunes (although this is apparently being added to the 4.0 version)
  • Jerky on screen preview
  • Some moire effect observed
  • No full screen playback (although this is being added to the 4.0 version)
  • Documentation has some gaps.
  • No pability to fade out photos to better see key frames and transition arrows.
  • A number of crashes experienced
  • Must depend on external photo/sound editing and organizing tools


Overall Rating

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice