It is ragged, but it soars. It is a pig that flies. 3D-Album version 2.03 makes it trivial to assemble your digital photos into a presentation that dazzles and frustrates at the same time. Start with a directory of your photos and in ten minutes you can have an autoRun CD for Grandma that produces an awesome presentation when she puts the CD into her drive. The interface does not have the usual Windows look, it is in the over-arty style of Bryce-3D et al where there are no square corners and it is hard to tell if the buttons are up or down, but it is fun to play with.
3D-Album assembles presentations in a very straightforward manner. Step one: Drop down the pick-a-directory screen from the top of the window and identify the directory containing the photos you want included in the show. Step two: From the lists of Presentation Styles along the left border, pick one.
Optional Step three: Click on the musical note button near the bottom-right corner and select the mp3 file you want played in the background. Click the nearby Play button and the show is on. This is the way most slideshows work, but the show you get is a world apart! Pictures fly across the screen, flap in the breeze, flip and assemble in boxes and much more.
Performing all of this magic takes a good deal of processing power and a hot graphics card. Donít consider using 3D-Album on a PC with less than a gigahertz processor and powerful graphics card. There are options to adjust the resolution of the generated display.
There are about 20 Presentation styles packed out with the CD. If you feel a need for more styles, click on the More Styles button and you will be connected to their web site with twice as many available for immediate, no charge, download.
There are several opportunities for adding text to some styles. About half of the styles allow placing text on an individual photo. A few, too few, provide for drifting text over the display of the presentation. Two support playing movies, in most popular formats, in the presentation. About half of the styles allow associating a sound file with individual pictures. These play along with the mp3 file selected above, but only while the picture is displayed enabling picture-specific voice commentary with background music. Many of the styles have style specific options, unfortunately undocumented, and use different names for the same function.
There are many nice features in the system, but there is no printed documentation and the on-line Help is superficial. The PhotoLand style tiles your pictures then slides them across your screen. You can turn off tiling, which changes the photos aspect ratio to fit it into a square, but then you get large gaps between images. I really want an option to crop the images to squares. Clicking and dragging on the screen stops or changes the direction. This is an example of what is left to the user to discover. Another favorite style is Photo Cube Inside. With this you are inside of a rotating box with the images on the inside, with you. Five of the faces are visible at a time. Here the choice is between keeping the imageís original aspect ratio or cropping them. Consistency is not a strong point in this product.
When the show works to your satisfaction, click on Build and the presentation will be assembled into a directory of your choice and you can elect to have an icon placed on your desktop to run the show in the future. The hidden bonus is that you can create an autorun CD by just copying all of the files and subdirectories from your chosen directory onto a CD; the autorun.inf file is created for you and all of the runtime files are in place!
You can combine multiple presentations into a single performance by creating each presentation directory in a common parent directory. The show gets pretty ragged at this point. The visual transitions between presentations are frequently rough and titles are lost or persist unpredictably. There is no way to end each presentation when all of its pictures have been shown, only a time limit. If you donít stop the presentations, they will keep cycling through, but they will sync with the photos differently each time through. Is it a bug or a feature? Your choice.
3D-Album produces an amazing presentation of your pictures with very little work now. For distributing your pictures, it is the best I have found. I encourage you to go to their web site for the demonstrations. You will be impressed. When you get beyond displaying one directoryís pictures in one style, 3D-Albumís shortcomings become apparent.
If you need this capability, wait for version 3, I hope. With the rough edges removed this will be a spectacular product.
Fred Thorlin is a contract software developer with experience in compiler development now working with Visual Basic and Palm computer environments. He also writes columns on Visual Basic programming and computing on the road. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last modified: 2003:03:0