Review: Photodex ProShow Producer and Gold v4.5

By Kirk R. Darling

I’ve had a longstanding love-hate relationship with Photodex ProShow Gold. I love the degree of control it gives me over the slideshows I create as sales tools and final products; I hate the time and effort it takes to create even simple slideshows. I tried Animoto, which is quite quick and easy, but those slide shows always left me with a desire to tweak them just a bit here and there. I wished for something that would give me push-button ease with as little or as as much control as I wanted.

Photodex has released version 4.5 of ProShow Gold and ProShow Producer with a great deal of hoopla over their new Instant Show wizard. (If you're not familiar with the term, a wizard is software application feature that guides you through a process.) So I downloaded the upgrades and was off to see if Photodex's wizard could grant my wish.

The wizard operates the same way in both Gold and Producer. It opens with a default dialog box providing a choice of the Instant Show wizard, opening an existing show, or creating a new show manually (Figure 1).

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Figure 1 

Creating a new show with the wizard is a four-step process. The first step is to add the images to the show. If you want a text-only title slide, click first on the Text button and type the text you want. You cannot format the text; the wizard will select a text format and style according to the show theme you'll select later. Press Add, and a navigator window opens to search for images. In the wizard window, you can drag images to the sequence you want or click the "Randomize button to let the wizard decide the order. The Rotate button allows you to rotate an image.

Although the wizard makes most of the decisions when it builds the show, it does honor the image sequence you set. You may caption an image at this point, but the wizard will determine the text formatting. Now you're ready to proceed to the next step. Keep in mind that you always have the option to return to an earlier step without losing choices made in successive steps.

Now select an audio track. Pressing the Plus button opens the navigator to choose music from your own collection. ProShow loses points to Animoto here. Photodex should partner with a source of royalty-free music to provide a wide variety of low cost music tracks (much more than the paltry collections in the Photodex MediaSource packs).

The Edit button opens a selected track, but editing in the wizard is limited to setting start and stop points. This is where the Instant Show wizard stumbles. It makes no attempt to match the show length to the audio track, not even by a few seconds. Unless the wizard's show coincidently matches the audio track, the audio will simply end abruptly; you cannot set fading at the end of the track in the wizard's audio editor. The regular program has a Quick Sync, Ctrl-Q keystroke, that automatically matches the show length to the audio track; a Quick Sync checkbox belongs in the wizard.

The lack of automatic audio syncing seemed such a surprising omission that I called the Photodex helpdesk to confirm it. The bottom line is that syncing the show to an audio track will usually require going into the regular program after the wizard is finished.

Select a theme in step three (Figure 2). Each theme is comprised by a set of slide styles and a set of transitions. The Producer wizard presents 20 themes totaling 253 slide styles and 473 transitions. The Gold wizard presents 15 themes totaling 146 slide styles and 396 transitions.

 

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Figure 2

You can edit both slide styles and transitions in each theme by selecting a theme and pressing the Edit button. This will show you a window of all the slide styles and transitions available to the wizard. If you have custom slide styles created in a previous edition of Gold or Producer, they will be included. You can also press the Add button to create your own custom theme. You can customize themes to inject your own creative decision making into the wizard's choices. That does, however, require a considerable amount of up-front effort.

You finish in the fourth step (Figure 3), where you have an opportunity to name the show and set the aspect ratio. The most important part of this step is setting the Energy Level to determine the pacing of the show. In conjunction with the theme, the Energy Level tremendously affects the overall appearance and length of the show.

 

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Figure 3

The table in Figure 4 displays the wizard's results based on the themes and the energy levels I chose for a 20-image sample slideshow. The wizard selected slide styles within the theme, some of which combined multiple slides. At higher energy levels, the wizard selected quicker types of transitions as well as adjusting the transition timing.

 

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Figure 4

After viewing the show the wizard has created (Figure 5), you can press the Try Again button to recreate the show within the current parameters, or you can press the Back button to change a parameter. You can change one parameter without losing any of the others.

 

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Figure 5

The ProShow Instant Show wizard is not just a poser behind a curtain. It will come close to granting my wish … after I spend time customizing the themes. Perhaps in a later version Photodex will add an audio Quick Sync checkbox to the wizard and save me a post-wizard trip into the regular program. The wizard makes it much easier to create a quick and satisfying slide show from ProShow. To pose a real threat to Animoto, however, Photodex must supply a professional range of royalty-free music.

Example photos ©Kirk Darling, lord-and-darling.net

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