PowerPointification of military briefings
Is it broken?

The slideshow...

Slide_4 When I was in high school, I made a very cool 6-7 minute slideshow on environmental pollution for my class project in biology. The entire school saw it. The first part showed images of pollution and manmade catastrophes, including images of war. This was put to the song "Can't Stand to See the Slaughter (but still I eat the meat)" by Tower of Power. The second part featured images of the great beauty around us there on the Oregon coast set to the hopeful ballad entitled "Let Them See the Light" by Earth Wind & Fire. The slideshow was a visual affirmation of all the natural beauty around us juxtaposed with the manmade destruction and the hypocrisy of it (us) all (ah, to be seventeen again...). This was in the days before the "digital age" (I think the math teacher had an Apple II, the latest technology at the time) so I put my slides and music together with two 35mm slide projectors and used fades to give a "cross dissolve" transition between the two. The music was synchronized with the transitions on a single screen. The resolution of the images was fantastic. It looked as good as anything today to the audience, but it was a ton of work and it could not really be shared unless I lugged around a bunch of equipment with my teacher's help.

Making slideshows in iPhoto
We've been able to make pretty decent slideshows on a computer for a very long time. It's nothing new. But a few years ago Apple kicked it up a notch with iPhoto. I do not mean to be a commercial for Apple, but this little piece of simple software is amazing to me, if for no other reason than its slideshow feature, a feature that Apple does not even really promote. As easy as it is to use (which allows you to focus on the content and your story rather than mucking around trying to make it work), I do not know why more people, including students, do not make more and better us of the tool. It is not a pro-level tool, yet for slideshows, many pros use it.

Iphoto iPhoto is not deep with a laundry-list of features, yet it has what you need to tell a digital story with images and do it well. Still, one needs the talent and skill, not in using the tool (that's easy), but in knowing how to present the relevant information best, and how to tell a "digital story." People like Dana Atchley (1941-2000) were pioneers in digital story telling. We need more Dana Atchleys today. The tools are there, what we need now is more design education, more understanding about how to present information, and how to tell compelling, relevant stories that matter. Short, relevant, and good slideshows embedded in the presentation can be used by serious scientists or artsy-fartsy grad students working on their MFA.

iPhoto slideshow example
Photographer All of this is a long-winded way of me sharing with you that, in a very short amount of time today, I put together in iPhoto a slideshow of an evening we had in Hawaii to share with my friends and family around the world. The hardest part was deciding quickly which shots to include out of the hundreds our photographer, Susanne Pridoehl, snapped for us. The original exported video is of stunning quality and it looks great embedded in Powerpoint/Keynote; YouTube of course compresses the file a great deal. There are a few serious projects that I am working on where a short slideshow in the middle of the presentation will work very well. I had forgotten how useful the iLife suite is. Pretty amazing for such a low-cost piece of software.

Above: A low-rez rendering of an iPhoto slideshow in YouTube. Building, editing, and exporting was as easy as falling off a log.

At the very least we can make better vacation slideshows that won't bore our friends. But far more importantly, we can actually make short, serious slideshows that make our message or our case stronger. Slideshows can not substitute for our presentation and they must never be superfluous, but used well they can amplify our message.

• If you ever need a Photographer in Hawaii, I can highly recommend Susanne Pridoehl. Susanne is a young woman from Germany who has been doing very well as a Honolulu-based photographer for several years. We first met her at the shoot and we were pleased with her style and talent. The little slideshow here has a 4:3 aspect ratio which does not do justice to her originals. She's excellent.

• The song is "White Sandy Beach" by the late, great Israel Kamakawawiwo'ole.



Yep, I was always surprised by
a) the existence of the slideshow feature in iPhoto
b) the decent functionality
c) the ease-of-use (typical Apple)
d) the non-existence of any promotion...

I used it a lot for some more lively presentation of my travel pictures to friends and my wife for presentation of her work to customers.

For anyone wanting to have some more functionality - including titles, precise zooms and pan, etc. - there is a similar tool called FotoMagico (I'm not paid for any ads nor do I have any investments in that company :-)) with some nice export functionality as well. Here is a rather quick-'n-dirty functionality test of that software: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5_bj1_Dq5w


I know this is kind of beside the point, but it has to be said: what an absolutely adorable couple.

G.T. Miller

I second the bit about the couple--if I didn't trust you implicitly, I'd accuse you of using some stock photography.

I've done quite a few theatrical performances using both slides and digital projectors, and I have to say I much prefer the former. I've yet to find any projector that has the sharpness and clarity of image, much less the range of color, of good old film. Of course, the amount of preparation, the lack of flexibility, and the amount of equipment is prohibitive (ah, how your description of those H.S. days made me nostalgic!) but sometimes it really is worth it...

One thing I also think is worth it is paying attention to the "Ken Burns" options. It's adding a level of complexity, but just as transitions are important, the direction and speed of the picture zoom can really affect the pacing and mood of a slideshow. Apple's default "magic movie" setting is pretty good, but like all designers, I really prefer to have beauty by design rather than by accident. Do you know of any online resources that teach the aesthetics of transitions? (if not, maybe I've given you a new topic...)


>>Do you know of any online resources that teach the aesthetics of transitions? (if not, maybe I've given you a new topic...)

Excellent topic, G.T. Here's a bit here:


But something to look into for certain. Part of it is to pan in/out slowly to the part of the image that you want people to focus on. Have to look at this later. Ideas? -G


Gee, thanks, Lucie ;-)

And, Stef, excellent link. Looks interesting. Also, you can move the exported video from iPhoto to iMovie and do more editing there.


G.T. Miller

I guess I'm looking for something beyond the "transitions 101", where you learn not to use the "kiki's legs" wipe on the video toaster and remember to put bumpers on every clip to avoid cutting people off...video theory applied to slideshows, with a dose of performance theory thrown in. Funny, now that you mention it, I feel like it should be out there, but when I think about how I've learned about it, it's always incidentally (or, more embarrassingly, the hard way-what's the quote about "people make mistakes and then call it experience"?).

Incidentally, Tony Long's "Luddite" column over at Wired today (http://www.wired.com/news/columns/0,71599-0.html?tw=rss.index) relates tangentially to your subject, especially in regards to slides vs. digital, and inspired me to write about that qualitative experience of creating in different media over on my satorimedia blog.

Jonathan Boutelle

Love the music! The combination of the audio track and the "direction" (fading, panning, and changing shots) is hypnotic.


Heh, my family is addicted to the Slideshow with Music on DVD format now. As a mac user, I'm a little embarrassed to say that it was kicked off by an aunt using a PC, but now that my mom has caught the bug the presentations are much better.

I expected to be irritated when I noticed that at more and more gatherings there's a "gather round the TV moment" where we watch the slideshow someone made, but it is usually pretty charming to watch.

Allan White

You might have a look at FotoMagico (http://fotomagico.com ; US$79) for building slideshows. It uses OpenGL for instant feedback and playing (read:render-free), and has amazing zooms, pans, and spins as well as lots of transitions.

I used it to make a music-video-like slideshow recently; it let me add markers in a music track, and sync'd the transitions/cuts on the markers. It worked great. Also, it shows the images in full-res glory - at the max res of your projector or screen. They look smooth and very "un-digital" this way.

You can export it to QuickTime or DVD when you're done. For those who make a lot of slideshows (like me), it's without peer.

Brian Mull

This really has nothing to do with this particular blog posting, but I have been a fan of your blog for a while and have learned a lot from it. I just want to say that I'm always excited to here about other Tower of Power fans (even if it was just for the length of your high school project).

Axel Goyeneche

One more. This really has nothing to do with this particular blog posting.

A awesome Web related to presentations always with a ZEN evaluation in mind.

Regards from Chile,
Axel Goyeneche

Gregor Gilliom

I love the iLife suite, but I'll echo earlier comments about FotoMagico -- it takes pan-and-zoom slideshows to another level. It's incredibly easy to use, and is perfectly integrated with the other iLife apps.

I'm not a marketer for them -- I simply recommend it to anyone interested in creating and exporting shows like these. Recent versions give lots of flexibility to add animated words and titles, etc. And the support from Boinx is amazing -- they answer e-mail questions promptly, and listen to users for future features. Love the company.

Another sample of what you can do with it -- also featuring images of Hawaii:

Pamela Slim

What a beautiful presentation Garr! Congratulations to you and your wife. She is absolutely, exquisitely beautiful. And you look great yourself! Many, many happy times to you both.

The description of your high school slideshow reminded me of one I did in college after spending 6 months living in Mexico in a rural village. I followed Hugo, the 6-year old in the family, with my camera and took shots of him doing his "regular" activities like herding gigantic oxen and running in the hills with his buddies with wooden wheelbarrows to gather firewood.

Upon my return to the states, I worked with a "cutting edge" multi-media specialist who helped me not only choose the slides, but create a narrated show with integrated music. I thought it was the coolest thing EVER, and that I was destined for multimedia greatness.

Fast forward 20 years and a 6 year-old could create an iPhoto slide show in 1 hour, compared to the one semester it took me.

It is great to see technology evolve, AND I can't help but get nostalgic for the time and effort that went into putting together a real slideshow. I even enjoy the sound made when a slide is changing from one to the other.

Little did you know in high school that you WOULD become destined for multimedia greatness!

Thanks for sharing.



Phil Smythe

I would also like to see an article covering the wise use of blends and transitions. Not so much on avoiding their over-use as the subtle impressions they convey. For example an apparently up-beat sales summary slide that transitions to its successor with a downward wipe - as I saw recently - seems to convey a negative impression. I guess film makers and dramatists have known the rules for conveying meaning by exit/entry and transition for a long time.

Great blog by the way.


Really beautiful and quite a professional editing. But you say you only used iPhoto, so how did you achieve all the transition effects, the zooming and camera motions ? Didn't you use another tool ?


I also am a huge supporter of FotoMagico. I created the above slideshow using that program. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. I'm thinking about doing more of these kind of slideshows, and would love to hear any comments, suggestions, criticisms, etc. Thanks for a great blog.


My last post didn't include the link to the slideshow created with FotoMagico. Once at the page, the slideshow will immediately load. Just hit the play button in the Quicktime movie window. Here is the link: http://web.mac.com/louzieann/iWeb/Site%203/Slideshow.html


My last post didn't include the link to the slideshow created with FotoMagico. Once at the page, the slideshow will immediately load. Just hit the play button in the Quicktime movie window. Here is the link: http://web.mac.com/louzieann/iWeb/Site%203/Slideshow.html

Evan Carter

I thank you all for your help. I am looking for what I would think would be an existing program.

The desire is for a slideshow's transitions to be in sync with the audio beat or rhythm of the song being played. I know there is software available for this sort of thing to be done manually (final cut, imovie), but I'm trying to find one that almost lets you simply go through the slideshow (with the music playing) and almost remember or "record" the user's clicking to the next slide. Does that make sense? Anyone got any ideas as to what exists that can do that?

Thanks for any/all suggestions.


Thank you so much for posting your wedding slideshow! (What a photogenic couple!) I was looking for tips in producing a slideshow for my husband's 60th birthday and you gave me the confidence to do it!


Thank you so much for posting your wedding slideshow! (What a photogenic couple!) I was looking for tips in producing a slideshow for my husband's 60th birthday and you gave me the confidence to do it!


Great Song choice! I need to look into doing more photo montage's for couples!



Beautiful slideshow! I just created my first slideshow in iPhoto. I've just returned from three months in Malawi working with orphans and vulnerable children and created the slideshow for my board of directors. It looked fantastic. But then when I tried to export to quicktime so I could get it up to youtube, the timing went off. So I re-worked it in iMovie - and it looked fantastic. I uploaded to youtube and the transitions look horrid - all distorted. What am I doing wrong. Do you have any suggestions??

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