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Review : Ulead DVD PictureShow

Ulead has been a long standing name in the Image and Video processing market. Started in Taiwan a long time a go ( 1989 ) their primary focus is on image and video processing software. The latest versions of their products now also include DVD creation tools. Ulead tends to make overall well designed tools that are easy to use yet don't cut back on possibilities. They have a lot to offer for both beginners ( ease of use ) to pro's ( nearly limitless creation capabilities ).

The latest in their wide line of products called DVD PictureShow ( MSRP at 29.95$ if you download it or 34.95 if you want to have the CD ) allows you to make Photo VCD or DVD's.  The tools is setup as one big wizard that walks you trough the entire process. You can jump back and forward any given time without losing your settings. This makes it easy to get started and produces a result  in no time. It took me about 15 minutes to have my first result , and most time was spent deciding which of the, plenty ,templates to use. The tool supports most common CD writers and DVD writers directly. As a last treat you can also reuse slide show you already created using other Ulead tools such as Photo Explorer.

You can download a demo version on Ulead site.

  1. Installation
  2. Creating a project
  3. Building the slideshows
  4. Selecting the menu style
  5. Previewing your project
  6. Project Output
  7. Wrap it up!
  8. Update
  9. Conclusion

1.Installation

The installation is flawless on both Win98, ME and 2000.( I Didn't test on XP yet, but it don't expect problems there either ). During installation the program asks you for the country you are located in. This is used to set the default video standard ( PAL or NTSC), you can override on this page if necessary. During project creation you have the possibility to change this by hitting <F6> at any time. When installation is complete it will ask to reboot the machine. You can do this at a later time if this is more convenient. However the reboot is necessary. Most programs just ask you to boot but will run fine without , well not this one. Apparently some of the components only get registered during the boot.

2.Creating a project.

Upon program launch you are asked if you want to build a VCD or DVD.

  Image1  

The VCD mode allows you to create up to 99 slide shows with up to 99 image per slide show. However the total number of images is limited to 1900 or amount of available space , whichever comes first. Typically music tends to consume a lot of space. In DVD mode the 1900 image limitation goes away and you can have 99 shows with 99 pictures each giving you theoretically a 9801 pictures capability.

3.Building the slide shows

The logical next step is of course to build the slide shows

  Image2  

Just hit the Add slide show button to create one. This opens a new windows where you can select your images. The first image you select becomes the image shown in the menu screen. Any subsequent images are embedded in the slide show itself, without omitting the first picture To edit an existing slideshow just hit the Edit Slideshow button.

  Image3  

Editing a slide show is just a matter of using drag and drop to get your pictures in place.  You can also specify the slideshow title and select background music. The title can be edited later on in the process as well. The delay is common for all pictures. You can not set a specific time per picture. Further tools allow you to rotate pictures ( great for portrait mode pictures ).

You can rearrange pictures in the slideshow by just dragging them to the new location. Or if you want an even easier way just hit the Arrange button. This one pops up a new window where you can rearrange the pictures.

  Image4  

By setting the thumbnail size to 32 by 32 you see a lot of pictures. Here again it's just a matter of drag and drop to get to where you want to be..

Once you have finished creating your slideshow(s) Just hit OK to close this window and select Next to go and create your menu(s).

4.Selecting the menu style.

DVD PictureShow comes with a bunch of ready made templates. You can not specify font or the outline of the menu items. However you can opt to replace the background by your own picture and change the music associated with the template. However , you can't save your custom templates for later reuse. The program ships with plenty of built in templates.

You can edit the slideshow titles here by just clicking on the text and typing your new title. In DVD mode you can switch the numbers off ( VCD needs them for navigation )

  image5  

When you select background music it will be fully played as long as you stay in the current menu page. You have the option to set the music for all pages or specify a different piece of music per page. The program reads WAV and MP3 files, so plenty of options here. If you don't like the background image for this template you can change it as well . Again here you can set the background for all pages or specifically for this menu page. Keep in mind that you can not change the font nor font color , so make sure the text will be readable for the background you selected.

5.Previewing your project

Now you are ready to preview the project. By hitting next the player window opens up and you get the remote control.

image6a image6b

Depending on whether you selected VCD or DVD the remote control looks different. You can check if everything works as intended. If not you can go back to any point and change what you want. When you are satisfied hit Next to start building your disk.

6.Project Output

  image7  

This is the place to select the recorder to use ( if you have multiple recorders ) , name the disk and specify the output location for the image and temporary files. Most users will be able to hit just the Next button. If your recorder supports Burn-Proof technology you can enable this as well. Ulead brings its own writer access library.

So no need to rely on third party software here.

7.Wrap it up!

  image8  

That's it we are ready to create the disk , or the image file for the disk. Image files are specific to this program and can not be written with other tools. But during installation a special image writer tool has been installed as well.

Here you choose to create an image file or write directly to disk. Now is also a good time to check if you got the correct video system by hitting <F6>. This pops up a windows showing some special features.

  Image9  

People in the USA need to use the NTSC video standard. People in Europe in general need PAL as a video standard.  The Safe area is an additional scaling that makes sure you can see the entire image. Most TV's suffer from what is called 'overscan'. A small part of the image falls actually outside the picture tube. This safe area adds a black border around your picture ( it oversizes your picture ) When played back this black area falls outside the picture tube,thus revealing the entire picture. However this is dependent on the TV set you show it on. Typical values on 10% for PAL and 12% for NTSC will make sure that even the most misaligned TV will show the picture correctly to some extent. For people that are familiar with video editing tools this is similar to the 'title safe area'.

  overscan  
  safe  

The left image shows the so called overscan border created by a TV set. As you can see certain things end up outside the visible picture. The right image shows the black order that will now fall in this overscan area.

8.Update

A program update is available on Ulead's website. This update adds even more supported writers and the option to store the source images as well on the VCD or DVD. That way you can also distribute the JPG (or any other supported filetype) files. For VCD you then also get the option to use the Joliet filesystem. This enables you to preserve the original long filename.

After installation of the patch the output options screen looks like this :

  patch  

9.Conclusion:

An overall very well designed and structured program. It has a some limitations when it comes to template management. I tried the program on Win98 , Win Me and Win2000 with different burners ( Hp9100 series , Toshiba DVD/CD-RW combo drive and a HP100i DVD+RW drive ) without problems. Even with a huge project ( 900 pictures ) the program did not once lock up on me.

Pro's:

- Easy to use , very intuitive.
- Excellent compressor.
- Handles almost every common image format : BMP,GIF,JPG,PNG and TIF.
- Handles MP3 and WAV for audio tracks.
- Can create Photo VCD and DVD in both PAL and NTSC .
- Has overscan correction on board.
- Requires minimal hardware to run
- Designed for Windows XP, but runs perfectly even on Windows 98

Program Limitations :

- no font or font color selection possibilities : these are hard stored in the templates.
- no saving possibilities for your own templates , or template creation utility.

Annoyance:

- no saving during the wizard process. Saving can only be done at the end of the process. Fortunately if you would close the program without saving it warns you. But if your machine bombs out on you during the process you can loose your work.


Link : FAQ DVD PictureShow : http://www.ulead.co.uk/dps/faq.htm

Author: Vincent Himpe (Version 1 - April 10th, 2002)

 

 

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