VSO's PhotoDVD Revisited

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Product: PhotoDVD
Provided By: VSO-Software

What's New In Revisited?

It was back in October that I first took a look at VSO-Software's upcoming PhotoDVD.  Since then there has been a lot of changes.  While cosmetics and the interface has remained fairly constant, there has been a lot of performance improvements and wider compatibility to the program.  For this article, we have taken another look at PhotoDVD, and listed the changes on this page in Italics.  We've also added some new screenshots, and they will be noted as well.  Not all screenshots are new, as several parts of the program still look the same.  Only the changed areas are posted.

Introduction:

VSO-Software has been making some pretty sweet products for a while now.  I'm a large fan of CopyToDVD and BlindWrite.  To try and round out their product line, they are working on a simple program to allow you to simply make a dvd slideshow of your digital pictures.  Is it worth the download?  Keep on reading to find out.

Information & Features:

VSO-Software claims that this is probably one of the easiest programs available to created animated slideshows of your pictures that you can watch on your home DVD player.  After using this program for a few weeks, I'd have to agree.  It is very simple to use . . . but there's more to it than simplicity.  Below are the "Key Features" as outlined by VSO-Software:

  • Digital pictures in JPG / GIF / BMP / ANI / PCX / EMF / WMF formats and more.
  • Optional soundtrack in MP3 / WMA / OGG / MPC /WAV / APE formats.
  • Awesome pan and zoom effects.
  • FullScreen (4:3) and Widescreen (16:9) support.
  • DVD output on DVD+/-(R)W media and double layer.
  • You can store thousands of pictures on a DVD.
  • You can burn immediately using the well known VSO burning engine used in several commercial products but you can also save the project on your local hard drive first.

Now that we've seen what they have to say about it, let's take a look and see if it lives up to their claims.

Product Testing:

VSO-Software set me up with the full-version for this review, but if you download the free version, you will not be able to use more than a couple dozen pictures, and will be nagged to register.  The trial version will give you a pretty good indication if it is worth all $10USD (minus a 10% discount).

Upon firing up PhotoDVD, you are met with a simple, clean interface.  Here you can add either files to your project either by clicking on the icon below, or by dragging and dropping them into the window.  To add folders you will need to click on the icon as dragging and dropping them doesn't appear to work at this time.  At this point you can select how long you want each picture to be displayed.  Values from 2 seconds to 100 seconds are available.

Updated: In the initial version, you could preview each picture, but that was about it.  In the official version you will also be able to rotate your pictures.  This is extremely handy as previously you would have to exit the project, go rotate your pictures, then start again.  This is a nice feature that really helps make this program user friendly.


(updated build 1.0.0.101)

Once you've added all of the pictures to the compilation that you desire, you simply click on the "Next" button to continue.  That brings up the Audio screen.  Here you can choose what, if any audio tracks you want playing in the background.  MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, APE, and MPC formats are supported, which pretty much takes care of most popular digital audio formats.

Once you select the audio, PhotoDVD will tell you if the song will loop, or be cut to fit the slideshow length.  A couple of features that would be nice are: audio fading in/out at track, and the option to have the slide-length stretch to fit the audio.

 

Once you've got your pictures and background music all setup, you can choose what kind of output format you'd prefer.  You can choose between NTSC 4:3 and 16:9 or PAL 4:3 and 16:9.  It's nice to see it support both major formats at these popular aspect ratios.

You can choose to have PhotoDVD store the source pictures and audio in a separate folder.  This is handy if you want to make the same slideshow later on.  You won't have to hunt around for the pictures and audio.

This is the point where you can specify whether you want to output the movie to your hard drive or your DVDRW drive.  Either one works equally well, but if you want to save a step, you'll want to select your DVDRW.

Updated: The initial build of PhotoDVD I received compiled the DVD Movie in two parts.  It processed the audio, then compiled the video.  In PhotoDVD 1.0.0.101, both the audio and video are compiled into the VOB files at the same time.  PhotoDVD has also achieved quite a speed boost since it's initial release.  Processing now takes less than a quarter of the time, and the quality is the same - very good.

Processing FPS has gone up from 3.7 Frames per second to a rather nice 17.1 Frames per second.  This makes the program quite nice to use, and not so painful to sit down and fire up a 1 hour + movie.  Good improvements for sure.


(updated build 1.0.0.101) 

Playback:

The slideshow plays back on computers and set-top boxes with no issues at all.  Transitions are smooth and tasteful, but quite generic.  When creating the slideshow, you aren't able to choose the transitions, and it uses a random assortment of tasteful changes.  It would be nice to be able to choose the fade-in/out directions and effects, but it would take away from the simplicity that is PhotoDVD.

Updated: When creating a PhotoDVD you now have some control over the transition effects and Pan & Zoom quality.  Most people will never touch these but it does give the user a little more control.

Conclusions:

VSO-Software claims this is one of the easiest pieces of software to use to turn pictures into DVD slideshows for your set-top DVD player.  I believe they could be right.

Updated: VSO-Software has really put a lot of effort into Photo DVD since it's initial release.  They've addressed all the issues I've noted in the first version of the review.  It is refreshing to see a company take to heart suggestions and feedback from the online community.  PhotoDVD has already come a long way, and with the support of VSO-Software behind it, it will likely grow a lot more before it is through.

I encourage you to give the trial version a try.  If you make a lot of DVD's with your photo's it's worth the money for sure.  Besides, they have a 20% off coupon posted right now!

Please post any questions or comments you have regarding this review over here in our forum.
 

With all of the changes that VSO-Software has made to PhotoDVD, we award PhotoDVD with the Top Pick Award!


 

Thanks to VSO-Software for letting me take a look at PhotoDVD.  I look forward to using it to put my pictures on a DVD.