April 11, 2005

REVIEW: Photo to Movie


Review by Steve Gandy 4/10/05

Photo to Movie is an excellent presentation tool for amateur and professional photographers alike. It allows their images to be presented on-screen with a high level of quality and with a unique customization not found in other applications. In addition to the stunning image rendering the presenter is given the ability to move the viewer's focus through the photo in a super-powered "Ken Burns Effect." They can also add sound tracks, voice over audio, and text fields. Best of all the, the program exports the finished product into the well known QuickTime movie format.

Photo to Movie's interface and controls are quite similar to other products such as Apple's iPhoto or iMovie that the user is probably already familiar. They are not difficult to use but there are specific processes that you need to know about to take full advantage of the process. There is a large editing area where the currently displayed photo appears, an encompassing project view below, and controls for behavior on the side. The controls and access to the sequencing features, such as the scrubber, will be second nature for anyone that has done video production beforehand but for the rest of us the documentation can be a real friend. Indeed, the first time I used the product I had a workable presentation in just a few seconds but quickly realized that I did not fully understand the power embedded in the program. After reading the manual and engaging in the tutorials for roughly 40 minutes however, I was ready to take full advantage of the program.

Bringing images into a project is simple; drag them, use File Menu > Import..., or select them from the Media Browser window. I preferred the Import command, as it would allow me to sequence the images using the file names. See my recommendations below for more on this. Once the photos are placed, you can begin adjusting all the features of the movie; timing, transitions, and of course, the movement and zoom features!

The elements of the movie are shown with some useful colors. The transitions are shown as orange lines, the first two key frames are green and red, and the movements are blue. Selecting any of these items with a click updates the controls area of the screen so you can make adjustments.

The area showing the current image, called the editing view, can be set to either multiple key frame or single key frame views. This is the heart and power of Photo to Movie. In the multiple key frame view, you can select then re-size and re-position the frames and the movement path between them to create stunning journeys through the photograph that allow you to be an invisible guide for your audience. The choices range from simple panning across the image to zooms, zooms and pans, and even rotations. The paths can be straight or curved. You can add as many key frames within the image as needed. Zooming in on a detail or the reverse are simple but powerful ways of viewing your photographs. Be sure to set your display ratio (4:3 or 16:9) before spending a lot of time on the editing. Changing it later can require that you re-work all your key frames.

After creating these customized trips through your images it is time for text and audio. You add text as captions, credits, and titles. Audio can be inserted directly from audio files or you can record voiceovers. There is a handy Media Browser from which you can grab music directly from your iTunes library. Finally, you save your project and then export it to the QuickTime format for final presentation.

While Photo to Movie is a great load of fun for anyone that wants to present images I do have some suggestions. Even though the documentation accessed via the Help Menu is good it isn't great. I would appreciate more detailed tutorials. The Basic tutorial is very basic and the other is for a special case. It would be nice to have one that was more inclusive of all the features and tasks in creating a 10-30 photo presentation. I'd also like to drag my photos around to rearrange the sequence. As it stands now, you must cut and carefully place your focus to paste into the correct locations. I found it easier to name my photos in the Finder so that they sorted in the order I desired. Both ways seem more complicated than necessary. Finally, the export choices for email movie and web movie create quite large files for those uses. The quality of the rendered frames is the issue I suspect but I would be happy with a lower quality but smaller file size for those settings.

I fully recommend Photo to Movie. It is priced competitively and delivers on its promises. I found it fairly easy to learn and I was very impressed with both the quality of my photos on a computer screen as well as displayed on a TV. They tout a special algorithm that eliminates flicker when viewed on television and my tests showed that to be true. The unique panning and zooming abilities that allow the photographer to “lead the way” are fantastic.

LQ Graphics, Inc.
Price: $49.95 - Download delivery and retail CD

Mac OS X 10.2 or later
G4 400MHz, 256MB RAM recommended
CD-ROM required for retail version
Free upgrade to Tiger-compatible version when Tiger is released
Windows XP SP 1 or later
Microsoft .NET 1.1 required
1GHz, 256MB RAM recommended
CD-ROM required for retail version (not currently available)
DirectX 9 recommended
QuickTime recommended

They have a discount in place for members of computer user groups. Contact me for details.