Quick Review: PhotoStage Slideshow Producer

PhotoStage Slideshow Producer

PhotoStage Slideshow Producer is a free-for-personal-use video slideshow creator with plenty of unusual extras.

Installation is quick and easy. We politely declined the bundled Google Toolbar, and a few seconds later the program launched.

If you’ve ever used a video editor then the PhotoStage interface will feel very familiar. Timeline at the bottom of the screen, two audio tracks (music plus narration), assorted effects and transitions library top left, preview window on the other side, it’s all very straightforward.

Just as you’d expect, you can drag and drop your source images onto the program. They’ll appear on the timeline, and can be dragged again to reorder them.

Each timeline thumbnail has its duration clearly visible, and this can be changed to anything from one second to an hour.

There are also transition icons in between every image, and you can use these to change the transition type and duration. There are 35+ fades, wipes, dissolves and so on, and while they’re a little basic, the program has enough for most purposes.

Individual images may be customized with simple image editing tools (Brightness, Crop, Rotate), and a few effects (Oil Painting, Negative, Sepia, more). They’re not much use and we’d generally prefer to work on any issues in a real editor, but PhotoStage Slideshow Producer supports that too, with an "Edit in external editor" command.

The Animation effects are also a little gimmicky, spinning your image around or adding water-like ripples. But the Zoom tool is more interesting, allowing you to set up a custom zoom area for each image (zoom out from a face to the full screen, say).

The final option is a versatile text tool. You can enter one or more lines of text, set their alignment, font, size and opacity, fade them in and out, even set them to scroll for a basic credit block. It’s not PowerDirector -- you can’t apply effects, take full control of the animation or save templates -- but the program squeezes a reasonable amount of functionality into its single dialog.

PhotoStage can add a soundtrack, or record a narration for your slideshow. If you’re short on ideas, there’s also access to the NCH Sound Effect Library, which, despite the name, includes plenty of free music. You don’t even have to open your browser, register or anything else: just choose what you need and it’s added to the project.

Throughout all this the Preview window keeps you up-to-date on your progress. When you’re happy, clicking Export allows you to save the slideshow as a video in one of 15 formats, upload it to YouTube/ Facebook/ Flickr, burn it as a DVD movie or data disc, or export it as an image sequence (the raw frames from the slideshow, which you can then import and reuse elsewhere).

We have small issues with PhotoStage Slideshow Producer. The effects are basic; you can’t preview them in real time (drag a slider and you don’t see the results until you release the mouse); the transitions aren’t configurable, apart from duration; there are a few interface quirks.

These are very minor quibbles for a freebie, though. On balance PhotoStage Slideshow Producer is a great tool, and if you do need more then commercial Home and Pro editions add extra effects, video clip support and are licensed for any use. Prices currently start at $29.99, but that’s a special deal, and the base Home version will be $40 after December 15 2014.

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