BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2003

  

 

BOOT CAMP 278 (03/06/03)

 

Pictures on Disc

 

Digital cameras have had a tremendous impact on the photographic market and the picture quality on the latest compact models now compares very favourable with similarly sized film cameras. Digicams are easy to use, running costs are very low, there’s no waiting for your prints to come back from the processors and you can do all sorts of interesting things with your pictures once they’re stored on your PC.

 

However, there’s still one thing you can’t easily do with the new fangled technology and that’s show your pictures to family and friends without going through the palaver of printing them out – time-consuming, and expensive – or gathering everyone around a PC screen.

 

There is another way and that is to present your pictures as a ‘slideshow’ on a TV. There are several methods. If your digital camera has a ‘composite’ PAL video output socket you can connect it directly to the TV’s AV input using a suitable lead or if you have your pictures on a laptop with a video output, you can connect that to the TV as well.

 

Both methods work well but if you are out visiting you’ll have to take all of the gubbins and cables with you and there’s an outside chance that you won’t be able to connect it to your host’s TV, if it’s an old model or you haven’t got the correct leads.

 

The third method, which we’re looking at here, involves using the CD writer in your PC to copy your photographs onto a recordable CD, which can then be played on many DVD players, as well as your host’s PC. This technique has a number of advantages. CDs are light, highly portable and reasonably robust and since a blank CD can hold between 500 and 1000 pictures it is a very convenient way of sending a large number of photos by post to distant relatives. As an added bonus it also preserves and protects your digital images, which are extremely vulnerable if the only place they’re stored is on your computer’s hard drive.

 

There are actually two ways of playing digital photographs on DVD players. A growing number of models made within the past year or so have a JPEG playback feature specifically designed to display digital still images stored on a CD in the standard picture file format. However, since this is a relatively new facility it’s not something you can rely on but there’s a very much better chance that it will be able to play Video CDs or VCDs. It’s not part of the DVD technical specification but it is a virtually cost-free option for manufacturers to include. Even on machines where it is not a listed feature it can sometimes be enabled from the player’s hidden Service Menu or by upgrading its firmware. If you want to find out if a particular model is compatible with VCD check the instruction manual or you could try searching the large DVD feature database at: www.dvdrhelp.com/dvdplayers.php

 

The reason so many DVD players can play Video CDs is due to the huge popularity of the format in large parts of Asia during the mid to late 1990s, before the arrival of DVD. VCD and DVD are quite closely related and both of them use MPEG data compression to store the picture and sound information. VCD uses MPEG 1 whereas DVD uses the more efficient and higher quality MPEG 2 system but in order to ensure backwards compatibility for the large number of people with VCD collections manufacturers of DVD decoder microchips usually incorporate MPEG 1 processing as a matter of routine.

 

So now we come to the practicalities. In order for a DVD player with VCD compatibility to display digital pictures they have to be converted from the JPEG format into ‘still’ MPEG 1 files and structured in such a way that they’ll be recognised by a DVD player. To do that you will need some extra software and you’ll find a list of web sites below with links to a selection of commercial programs. There’s also a freeware program called VCDeasy, which is actually very good, but a little cumbersome, compared with most of the paid-for programs. The listed web sites have links to downloadable ‘demo ‘programs. These are usually fully functional but have some kind of built-in limitation (superimposed captions or they stop working after a week or two), but you should still be able evaluate the product and decide whether or not it’s worth buying or registering.

 

My own favourite is Dazzle onDVD and it normally sells for less than £20 (try www.amazon.co.uk). As a matter of interest my copy was a ‘freebie’ on the installation CD-ROM that came with a multi-format memory card reader, bought from a very well known high-street photo/electronics store for around £22… 

 

Most of these programs work in the same way and use a Windows Explorer type interface. Just drag and drop or copy the image files you want to include on the disc and press the ‘Record’ button, it’s that easy! The programs usually have the option to set up an automatic slideshow with a variable delay between each picture. If you want to make your slideshows really memorable some of the more advanced programs will also let you add transitions (fades, wipes etc.) between pictures or include an audio track, so you can include a commentary or some background music. 

 

CONTACTS

www.dazzle.com/products/ondvd.html

www.vcdeasy.org/

www.dvd-photo-slideshow.com/

www.flipalbum.com/product/fas/

www.ulead.com/dps/trial.htm

www.photo2vcd.com/

www.cequadrat.com/

www.xequte.com/pixplay/index.html

www.picturetotv.com/

 

Next week – Survival Strategies

 

JARGON FILTER

 

COMPOSITE VIDEO (PAL)

Standard video signal format used by all consumer video devices, including TVs, VCRs DVD players etc. In the UK we use the PAL (Phase Alternate Line) colour system

 

FIRMWARE

The software, usually stored on a memory chip, used to control electronic devices containing microprocessor chips, like mobile phones and DVD players etc.

 

JPEG/MPEG

Joint Photographic Experts Group/Motion Picture Experts Group (part of the International Standards Organisation). File compression systems used to reduce the amount of data in still and video image files, used by devices like digital cameras and DVD players

 

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

If you have a digital camera sooner or later you will need this handy piece of software called Zero Assumption Recovery or ‘ZAR’. It’s a digital image repair tool so when your camera or memory card decides to throw a wobbly and loose or corrupt your pictures ZAR will give you a fighting chance of extracting some useable images from the mess. The freeware demo version has some limitations but at least you will be able to see if there’s anything worth salvaging, before you pay for the fully functional program. (Incidentally, if you can translate the program into other languages you can get it for free). Windows and DOS versions can be downloaded from: 

www.z-a-recovery.com/digital_image_recovery.htm

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