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 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
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.
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.