App gets serious about slide shows

If you value control over your creative work, ProShow Gold 3.0 is worthwhile

You've retired your old Kodak Carousel, but you still want to create slide shows that you can easily share with family, friends, or clients via a PC or television. Photodex's specialized utility ProShow Gold is up to the task, as it offers a broader range of tools for making custom digital slide shows (for output to CD or DVD) than do other applications with slide-show creation capabilities.

I tried a shipping version of the latest iteration, the US$70 ProShow Gold 3.0. It adds a host of enhancements over the last version I reviewed (2.6), beginning with the startup screen, which walks newcomers through setting up projects. Given the complexity of the program, I applaud anything that makes it easier to use; however, I would have preferred to see an optional project-oriented wizard to help me on the right workflow path. Beyond this addition, the interface has changed little.

ProShow Gold gives you the tools to craft professional-looking slide shows, going beyond the comparatively rudimentary controls of applications that do not focus exclusively on the task. You're in the driver's seat, creatively: You can drill down to adjust minutiae such as captions and transitions for individual photographs, for example, and you can seamlessly intermix images with video clips in a single slide show by using a drag-and-drop timeline. Among the slew of new features are enhanced editing tools (including image and video cropping and red-eye removal for photos), animated caption effects, motion effects (such as panning through, zooming in, or rotating a given image) that you can apply to a specific image or video, and improved tools for synchronizing audio with images.

In addition to existing support for output to (dual- and single-layer) DVDs, CDs, VCDs, SVDs, Web pages, and self-executable files, this version brings the ability to output to the YouTube-friendly Flash Video (FLV) format, as well as to the Windows Media Video and QuickTime formats. Unfortunately, it will not output to Blu-ray Disc -- an oversight the company expects to correct in future updates.

If you're serious about generating photo/video slide shows, ProShow Gold 3.0 remains the app to beat. It's not the right software if you just want to create a quick-and-dirty slide show with little creative input; but if you value control over your creative work, this upgrade is worthwhile.

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