BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2002

  

 

BOOT CAMP 255 (10/12/02)

 

MAKING YOUR OWN CDS & DVDS, part 5

 

In the penultimate part of this short series on recordable CD and DVD we turn our attention to putting pictures onto recordable discs. If you have a digital still camera then a CD writer is not just a handy extra, it’s absolutely essential!

 

Image files stored on a PC occupy a great deal of disc space and if your hard drive is already starting to fill up a digital camera will quickly take it to bursting point. A CD writer can help to relieve the pressure by shifting your photo files from the hard drive to CD-R/RW discs but there’s an even more compelling argument for having one, and that’s to preserve and protect your pictures against the very real possibility of a hard disc failure or virus attack. If the only copies of your digital pictures are currently on your PC’s hard disc you really are risking loosing the lot!

 

However, in addition to archiving, copying image files to CD opens up a number of other possibilities. The most obvious one is the facility to share your pictures with others. A blank CD-R/RW can typically hold several hundred, possibly as many as a thousand still pictures. Discs are cheap, highly portable and easy to send by post to distant relatives and the pictures can be displayed on almost any PC. There’s usually no need for specialist software either, though the image viewer utilities supplied with Windows are quite basic so we’ll look at some alternatives in just a moment.

 

That’s all well and good, but what happens if the person you are sending the disc to doesn’t have a computer?  That’s not necessarily a problem, providing they have a TV and DVD player. Some recent DVD homedecks have a JPEG replay facility, which means they can play your picture discs directly, but even if the recipient has an older machine they can still view your pictures. All you need is a simple software utility to create a Video CD (VCD) ‘slideshow’ disc, which will play on almost any DVD player, but more about that later.

 

Copying image files to a blank CD is perfectly straightforward and works in exactly the same way as other file types. On most CD burner programs (usually Easy CD Creator or Nero Burning) that means dragging and dropping (or copying and pasting) the files using a Windows Explorer type display. However, you can make your life a lot easier by organising your image files on your hard disc before you burn any CDs. It’s a good idea to create a single ‘master folder’ for all of your picture files, or use the Windows ‘My Pictures’ sub folder in My Documents.

 

Your master folder serves as a container for separate sub folders, one for each picture category or event. For example, photographs taken at a wedding would be stored in a ‘Wed02’ folder. Similarly, holiday photos from a visit to the Lake District would go into the ‘Cumbria02’ folder, and so on. You should get into the habit of labelling folders with year digits; it will make archiving and organising them in the future a great deal easier. If you are an especially prolific snapper you might want to devise a more sophisticated filing system or add a couple of extra digits to the file name for the month.

 

With all of your photos now safely filed away in sub folders you can easily copy the whole master folder to disc, provided it is less than the 650/700Mb limit of a blank recordable CD. Otherwise just copy the wanted folders, but the point is, a few folders are a lot easier to handle compared with lots of individual picture files.

 

If you haven’t already got one, sorting through large numbers of pictures is a lot easier with a decent ‘thumbnail’ image viewer, which displays the contents of a folder as lots of tiny postage-stamp sized images. Later versions of Windows 98 (SE & ME) have a ‘thumbnail view’ option in Windows Explorer and Windows XP has a capable picture viewer as standard but a separate, purpose designed utility is generally more convenient and many of them have simple tools for image resizing, rotating and editing. There are plenty of good freeware and shareware programs to download from the Internet, for a wide selection try shareware sites such as Tucows (www.tucows.com) using ‘picture viewer’ or ‘thumbnail viewer’ as the search term. If that sounds like a lot of hard work have a look at ACDsee (http://www.acdsystems.com/English/index.htm) and Thumbs Plus (http://www.cerious.com/), or investigate the ‘utilities’ section of free cover mounted CD-ROMs attached to PC magazines.

 

Finally, as promised, how to create a slideshow disc that can be played on almost any DVD player. In order for this to work JPEG picture files have to be converted to MPEG1 format and to do that you will need some extra software. It is possible to put together a passable slideshow from JPEGs using the Movie Maker program in Windows XP, you can also add a commentary or some background music but the finished ‘movie’ clip will still have to be converted to VCD format before it can be recorded on a blank CD. There’s a picture slideshow and VCD recording option in later versions of Easy CD Creator and Nero burning, which are bundled with a lot of CD writers, but it’s a lot easier to use a purpose-designed JPEG to VCD program.

 

Some of the more sophisticated ones will let you add transitions between each image and music. A selection of inexpensive try-before-you-buy shareware titles is listed below.  Most of these programs integrate with your existing CD writer software so that when you have finished compiling your slideshow it will be recorded to a blank CD with just a couple of mouse clicks.

 

FlyVCD

http://www.flyvcd.com/

 

PicturetoTV

http://www.picturetotv.com/

 

Photo2VCD

http://www.photo2vcd.com/

 

Xat Show

http://www.xat.com/

 

Next week – Recordable DVD

 

JARGON FILTER

 

JPEG

Joint Photographic Experts Group, picture file compression format used by most digital still cameras

 

MPEG1

Moving Pictures Expert Group, video file compression format used on Video CDs

 

TRANSITION

The changeover point between scenes in video recording or still pictures i.e. 'cut', 'wipe', 'mix' or 'fade'

 

TOP TIP

Many digital cameras have an irritating delay, sometimes lasting a second or more, between you pressing the shutter button and the picture actually being taken. If you’re trying to capture a moving object or activity you’ll almost certainly miss the crucial moment. The delay is normally caused by the camera’s auto focus (AF) system doing its stuff, so the answer is to switch it off and focus manually, or set it to infinity (if you are shooting in reasonable light and the subject is more than 15 to 20 feet from the lens). On models with auto-only focussing systems there’s usually a focus lock option, which once enabled has the same effect as switching the AF off.

 

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