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BOOT CAMP 504 (11/12/07) – Digicam to PC to TV part 1

 

As is so often the case this new series of Boot Camp articles has been inspired by your good selves, and in particular the growing number of readers who have been writing in and emailing recently, asking how they can get their digital photographs out of their cameras and computers and onto their TV screens.

 

I was surprised to find that that it has been over four years since we covered this topic in any depth (Boot Camp 278); a lot has changed since then, so we are long overdue for an update.

 

We’ll begin this week with a brief overview of what’s involved. It’s a three-step process and over the next few weeks we’ll show you how move pictures form your camera to your PC, put together a slideshow of your photos then burn it to a DVD so you can view it on your PC and TV and share it with friends and relatives.

 

It’s not an especially difficult job and there are plenty of programs on the market that will do the whole job for you in one go and some of them are very good indeed (there’s a also a fair number of bad ones as well…). You can also take pictures on your digicam’s memory card into your local camera shop, or upload them to the web and pay someone to create a disc for you, but that’s not much of a challenge, and you’ll have little or no say about the finished product.

 

The method we’ll be using are not difficult or beyond the abilities of newcomers to digital photography and computers. It’s also a lot cheaper than off-the shelf software or shop-bought discs, in fact apart from the cost of the blank discs it won’t cost you a penny because all of the programs we’ll be using are entirely free. They’re also every bit as good as the commercial offerings and if you want to put in the time and effort you can create really professional-looking productions, with more special effects, transitions and menus than you can shake a stick at. More than enough in fact to turn it into a real dog’s dinner, but that’s half the fun of it, and there’s nothing to stop you putting together a plain and simple slideshow, with background music or a commentary that will play your pictures as soon as the disc is loaded into a DVD player; it’s up to you.

 

But that’s all to come, let’s start by looking at what you need and how it all works. The first part is easy, the only hardware you will need is a PC with a DVD writer and a broadband Internet connection.

 

There are basically three ways of getting your photos onto a disc that will play on a DVD player connected to a TV. Method one is the easiest and it involves copying the image files directly to a CD or DVD, and that’s all there is to it. It sounds too simple to be true, and there is a catch, it only works on DVD players that have a JPEG replay facility. As it happens this is quite a common feature these days, particularly on budget models, and in general it works well. But that’s usually all you get, just the pictures, no sounds or special effects, and they may not be played in the exact sequence you want, unless you are prepared to fiddle around with filenames.

 

The second method should work on the majority of DVD players, and that’s to create a Video CD (VCD) slideshow disc. The main disadvantage is that image quality is not that great, a little better than VHS (remember that…) and it’s not very flexible either, but if you are interested see this week’s Top Tip.

 

Method number three is the one we’ll be concentrating on from now on and that is to turn your photographs into a fully-fledged DVD slideshow, complete with a soundtrack or commentary, DVD type menus and options. Picture quality will be as good as your original photos and the DVD player and TV used to show them allow. The discs will run on any DVD player, and that includes models from other countries, including the US, Canada and Japan, which use the NTSC colour TV system.

 

Next Week – Digicam to PC to TV pt 2

 

JARGON FILTER

 

 

JPEG

Joint Photographic Experts Group (part of the International Standards Organisation). File compression system used to reduce the amount of data in still image files

 

NTSC

National Television Standards Committee – 525-line/60Hz colour TV system used in the US, Canada  and a number of Far Eastern countries

 

TRANSITIONS

Change from one image to another in a slideshow, from a simple ‘cut’ to a fancy ‘wipe’, ‘fade’ or special effect ‘dissolve’

 

 

TOP TIP

DVD writers are almost a standard fitment these days on desktop and laptops PCs but if you are stuck with an older machine you can still join in the fun and create a Video CD (VCD) slideshow of still images. This almost forgotten format was a forerunner of DVD, it uses the MPEG 1 compression system (DVD uses MPEG 2) and was once very popular in the Far East (it still is in some Pacific basin countries) and as a consequence the necessary decoder circuitry and software is still embedded in most DVD players. If you are interested have a look at Boot Camp 255, which has some suggestions and links to VCD authoring software. 

 

Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at www.pctoptips.co.uk

 

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© R. Maybury 2007, 1411

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