Soundslides

Tutorial: Soundslides

Introduction

soundslides
Soundslides desktop application

Soundslides is a slide show authoring program that was created by former photojournalist Joe Weiss in 2005. The application took the journalism industry by storm and quickly rose to become an industry standard for audio slide show authoring.

Soundslides is a desktop application, which means you have to download it on to your computer. It’s available for both Mac and PC and comes in two versions: a basic version which runs $39.95 and a pro version that costs $69.95. (November 2007). Also, a plug-in to export your slideshow as a Quicktime movie is now available for an extra cost here. (Mac OSX only)

The trial and full versions of SoundSlides can be purchased and downloaded at http://www.soundslides.com

(Note for UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism students: A liscensed version of Soundslides Plus is installed on all the computers in J-School newsrooms.)

Some of the benefits of Soundslides include:

  • An incredibly simple-to-use interface
  • Very small learning curve, most of it is drag-and-drop
  • Outputs files in Adobe Flash format, a very common Web format that works cross platform
  • It was built for journalists

Some of the drawbacks of Soundslides :

  • No video integration
  • Runs a dynamic slide show from a folder of files, so it only works on the Web*

* This means it is generally not easily sent by e-mail, burned to a DVD, or used for other presentation purposes.

Preparing Your Files

Once you have purchased, downloaded and installed the Soundslides program from http://www.soundslides.com, you can begin the process of creating an audio slide show.

But before you even launch the program, it’s important that you prepare your files for import. Soundslides will handle a lot of the heavy work like resizing and ordering your images, but there are a few things it can’t do.

Preparing your images

Soundslides WILL:

  • Resize all of your images for you
  • Allow you to order them any way you wish
  • Take care of file naming and linking
  • Retrieve any embedded caption information

Soundslides will NOT:

  • Color correct or adjust the contrast/brightness of your images
  • Crop or allow you to crop your images
  • Give you a way to edit photos among hundreds of photos

This means before you even launch Soundslides, you should first choose only the photos you intend to use in your slide show.

You should color correct or adjust any images that may need correcting, and crop images to preference. The resolution size doesn’t matter since they will get resized by the program. Just make sure you images do not become any smaller than 640 pixels (or the largest size you intend on using.) Put all of your photos in a single folder. You will tell Soundslides where the folder with all of your images are, so you should create a folder with ONLY the images you have selected for your slide show.

Soundslides only accepts .JPG files. Also, you should never check the “Progressive” option when saving images from Photoshop or any other photo editing program. Your images will not show up if this is selected.

Preparing Your Sound

Preparing sound is extremely important in Soundslides. Soundslides is built as an audio slide show program, so if you are using the standard edition, audio is required. Only Soundslides Plus will allow you to create slideshows without audio.

It’s important to note that the length of your slide show will be determined by the length of your edited audio track.

This means that preparing your audio can be a tricky process. For example, if you have five minutes of audio, you have to determine how many photos you intend to show over the course of five minutes.

Example
5:00 min of audio / 30 images = 10 seconds an image (too long!)

There are no hard-and-fast rules to the length of time an image should be displayed, but the general consensus is three to seven seconds with three seconds being somewhat quick (very little time for the viewer to experience the image) and seven seconds being on the long end (the longer an image appears, the “slower” your presentation will ultimately feel, even it’s short in total length.)

Out of the box, Soundslides accepts only .mp3 audio files. If you wish to convert from a .wav file or another uncompressed format, please see the next section on converting your files, or you can follow this link to converting your files to mp3 using iTunes: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/audio/soundtrackpro/mp3convert/

Converting Audio to MP3 in Soundslides

SoundSlides does have the capability to accept uncompressed .WAV and .AIFF files and convert them to .MP3 for you. This method requires some very basic setup the first time to install an MP3 audio encoder called “LAME.” Despite its name, LAME is the de facto open-source mp3 audio encoder on the Web.

When you first launch SoundSlides, it will ask you to either create a new project, or load an existing project. At this window, click on the help menu and select LAME Audio Encoder.

LAME Audio Recorder menu

A window will appear on the right of the screen asking you to download and install the LAME audio encoder.

LAME download box in SoundSlides

You must be connected to the Internet for this step to work. First click on the Download LAME button.

Downloading the LAME encoder for soundslides

The LAME encoder will automatically be downloaded to your Desktop.

Loading LAME from Soundslides

Next, simply follow the instructions by clicking Load LAME. An open dialogue box will ask you to locate the LAME file, which is appropriately titled “LAME” and should be on your desktop.

Finding LAME on your Desktop

Once you have selected the LAME file, your version of SoundSlides will be ready to accept .WAV or .AIFF files for import. SoundSlides will convert these file types to .mp3s automatically upon import.

You will only have to set this up once. If for some reason you cannot load LAME, or the third-party server that hosts LAME is not working, you can follow this link to converting your files to mp3 using iTunes: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/audio/soundtrackpro/mp3convert/

Creating a New Project

Creating a new project in Soundslides sounds easy enough, but it is important to know how Soundslides saves your files.

When you first launch Soundslides you will be given this window:

Create new project in Soundslides

When you select “NEW” you will first be asked to save your project.

Save soundslides dialogue

Soundslides creates projects as a project folder filled with a series of files. It will hold all of your images, sound, data and eventually your published project.

If you move to another computer, or wish to send your project to someone else, you must send them the entire folder.

One thing to note is that Soundslides never manipulates your original photos or audio. When you import your files, Soundslides automatically creates duplicates and saves them into this project folder.

Importing Photos And Audio

Importing audio and photos into Soundslides is so easy, this section is almost pointless. The interface pretty much explains it all:

Importing photos and sound into Soundslides

There are two main buttons. One will allow you to select the folder with all the images you plan to use in your slide show, the other will allow you to select your audio file.

The folder that contains your images should only include the edited images that WILL run in your slide show. Soundslides is not a photo editing program, and you should not load in your entire shoot.

Custom options

You may have noticed a dialogue box on the left for additional options. This allows you to create custom sized slide shows. You can also change the size later in the program.

You may wish to create custom sized slide show presentations if:

  • You are embedding your sound slides project in a container and it needs to fit just right
  • You are working with unorthodox image proportions (i.e. all of your images are panoramic)
  • You are concerned about controlling the exact size of your images and the two default sizes are not to your liking.

Soundslides, by default, will automatically create three slide shows of different sizes: 600 x 450 pixels, 400 x 300 pixels, and 200 x 200 pixels.

Building Your Slideshow

Once you have imported your audio and photos into Soundslides, you can start editing your slide show.

Soundslides gives you the ability to:

(The links above take you to the corresponding sections below on this page)

Adjusting the timing of images

Soundslides editing screen
To change the length of time an image appears, simply drag the ends in the timeline at the bottom. You can click the play button at the bottom of the screen to preview the slide show’s audio track and adjust the timing.

Adjust timing of images in Soundslides

Remember: Soundslides is built so that the length of your slide show is determined by the length of your audio track. You cannot readjust the length of your audio track in Soundslides. If you want to make changes to your audio track, you will have to make these changes in an external audio editing program and then re-import the audio back into Soundslides.

Reordering Images

Reordering images in Soundslides can be a little bit tricky to figure out on first glance. That’s because you cannot reorder the images in the timeline itself, rather you must reorder them in the slide viewing space.

Reordering photos in Soundslides

Simply drag a thumbnail with your mouse arrow to a new location. The images will automatically reorder in the timeline at the bottom of the program.

Adding/Removing images: This window also has options for adding additional images or removing images from your slide show. (Note: The “Add Image” option allows you to add single images, and you don’t have to add an entire folder. Also, throwing images away doesn’t delete the original image, only the copy Soundslides had made for the slide show)

Adding captions to each image

Captions can be added to certain points of your timeline, to supplement your photos with additional information. Captions are optional, and the viewer must click a link to see them. This means you should not expect the viewer will read the captions, unless they are compelled to get additional information from each image.

Click on the Slide Info tab and the Details sub-tab. You can type the caption in the field. If you want to add captions to every image, use the next and back buttons to cycle through each image.

Captions in soundslides

Customizing the Interface

You can click the “Test” button at the bottom of the program window to see how your slide show will appear as a published product at any time. You may notice that there is a title at the top of your project that is customizable. There are also various color and other options that can be customized. Click the “Project Info” tab near the top right to see some of the option you can fill in:

Settings headline in Soundslides

You can also change the colors and look of your slide show:

Display settings in Soundslides

Some of the key features to note:

  • If you don’t have captions or credits, you might want to un-check those boxes.
  • You should consider whether you want your slide show to play automatically, or have the view click play.
  • Decide if you want the “Headline” title bar at the top to appear.
  • Scrubber preview toggles a feature that allows the viewer to see preview images throughout the slide show as they drag their mouse over the playhead (aka scrubber).

Re-import Audio Track

If you ever want to change your audio track, simply click on the “Audio” tab at the top right and select a new audio file. If you have previous installed the LAME mp3 encoder, then this option will allow you to upload your .WAV or .AIF files which Soundslides will convert to mp3.

Re-import audio track in Soundslides

IMPORTANT! If your new audio track is longer or shorter than the existing track, it will change the length of your entire slide show and throw off all of the transitions. You will have to redo the timing of your entire slide show.

Advanced Template Settings

Soundslides has some options for advanced template settings. Those include custom templates that will change the appearance of the slide show viewer. You also have options to change the fonts and transitions of how each image fades into another.

Advanced settings template Soundslides

Adding movement to your slides (Plus version only)

To add movement to your slides, select the Slide Info tab and the Movement sub-tab. The left image shows you how the animation of zooming will begin, and the right image shows you how the animation will end. Move the sliders below each image to adjust the start and stop points of the animation. You can test the animation by pressing the play button at the bottom of the window.

Movement to slides in Soundslides

Adding Lower Thirds Titles (Plus version only)

The SoundSlides Plus version allows you to add what are called “lower thirds” titles to the slides. It’s important to know that the lower-thirds feature in SoundSlides is not attached to any specific image, rather it is based on the timeline. This means if you want to add some titles to your project, it should be one of the very last steps you do, because if you reorder the photos, the titles will not follow.

To add a lower third, first click on the Audio tab, and the Lower Thirds sub-tab. Here are the steps to perform when adding a lower third:

  1. Move the orange playhead on your timeline to the desired location you want to add the lower third (typically at the beginning of a slide).
  2. Click the Add button to add a new title.
  3. Add the person’s name and title.
  4. The in point will specify the exact time the title will appear. It will automatically be filled in with the current location of the playhead. You can manually adjust this value as well.
  5. The duration represents the amount of time the title will stay on the slide in seconds. You will have to manually adjust the duration, mostly by trial-and-error, to see how long you want the title to appear.

Adding lower thirds to Soundslides

Click the play button at the bottom to see the lower third appear and how long it will last. You will have to manually adjust the duration based on the length of the slide.

Sample of a lower third in soundslides

Publishing Your Project To The Web

Once you have made all of the edits to your slideshow, you can now publish your project for the Web. There are several ways to do this depending on your system. We will attempt to explain some of the more popular routes to publishing a SoundSlides project.

Video export plugin (Mac OSX only)

By far, the easiest way to publish a SoundSlides project to the Web is to use the new SoundSlides video export plug-in. The plugin will create a self-contained video file of your slideshow that can be uploaded to most popular Content Management Systems, or even uploaded to YouTube.

However, if you use the video export plug-in, you will lose many of the standard features of SoundSlides in your slideshow, including captions, headlines, titles and movement of slides.

Detailed instruction on how to use the plugin, and the download location, can be found on the SoundSlides plug-in page.

http://support.soundslides.com/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=41

It is currently only available for the Mac OS for a cost of $19.95 (Dec 2008)

Uploading a SoundSlides project to a Content Management System or a blog

There are several ways to integrate your SoundSlides project into a Content Management System. The process can vary depending on how the system is setup. For each case however, there are some fundamental similarities to this process.

Step one will always be clicking the Export button after you have completed the project.

Export for Web button

This will generate a folder called publish_to_web which has all of the files necessary to display a project. You can rename this folder if you wish, but it is important to keep all of the contents of this folder intact for the project to work.

Soundslides export files

You will need to upload this entire folder and its contents to your Web server. In most organizations, this will require the help of an administrator. If you have FTP access to the Web server, then you can upload the files yourself, but it is critical to make sure all of the files and sub-folders get uploaded and the names are preserved.

Next, find the URL to the publish_to_web folder, based on where you uploaded it to.

Example: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/media/upload/tutorials/soundslides/publish_to_web/

Copy the URL to your clipboard. The SoundSlides Web site make available a very handy utility for generating Flash embed code for inserting the project into your content management system. Visit the Web site:

http://www4.soundslides.com/apps/utilities/

And paste in the URL to your slideshow (i.e. publish_to_web folder)

Pasting in the URL for SoundSlides to generate embed code

The SoundSlides Web utility will automatically generate some Flash embed code based on the URL you submit. After clicking Continue, the site will also allow you to specify the size of the slideshow. SoundSlides, by default, exports the slideshow in several sizes. If you are going to embed the slideshow into a smaller column or a post, it is likely that you will have to reduce the size using those options.

SoundSlides site generating embed code

Copy the code, and you can paste it in to any form on your Content Management System that accepts HTML. MySpace and Facebook are sites that accept this code as well.

Some content management systems have an html mode or require you to place <code> … </code> tags around external code. You should do this if your system requires it. See example below:

Pasting embed code into the CMS

Uploading your SoundSlides project into WordPress

While the method above will work for importing a slideshow into WordPress blogs, there are several third-party plugins that allow you to upload your slideshow project to the server as a zip file.

The SoJ SoundSlides plugin allows you to compress the contents of your publish_to_web folder (not the folder itself) to a .zip file, and then upload that single .zip file in the same manner you would an image to your blog. The plugin will automatically extract the files to create your publish_to_web folder.

The WP-SoundSlides plugin is a little more polished, but requires that the user has FTP access to the Web server. In this case, you would upload your publish_to_web folder, and use a new button on your formatting bar to insert the project into a post.

The SoundSlides Web site also contains tutorials on how to embed a slideshow into a post manually using the methods described above. They include tutorials for both WordPress and Blogger.

Uploading to a static Web page

A static Web site refers to a Web site that was built manually. You may have used a program like Dreamweaver to do this. It’s considered “static” because the content is not automatically updated, as the case with a Content Management System. There are three methods to uploading your SoundSlides project to a static Web site.

Method 1) Linking to the SoundSlides project

Soundslides actually creates a pre-built Web page for you when you export. If you need a simple way to get your SoundSlides project up on the Web, then you can simply link to the generated Web page.

Click the “EXPORT” button at the bottom of your project window. (This is necessary)

Export for Web button

Once you click this button, SoundSlides will gather all of your images and audio, and create a “Publish_to_Web” folder inside your main project folder.

The contents of your publish_to_web folder will look something like this:

Soundslides export files

The entire contents of your publish_to_web folder IS your final exported project. The files may vary from those listed above. For example, you might see a custom folder if you elected to specify a custom size.

Simply create a link to the index.html file that is inside your publish_to_web folder. This eliminates an enormous amount of hassle of embedding the actual project within your page.

To do this in Dreamweaver, highlight the text you want to link to your Soundslides project (you can also highlight elements like a photo), then click the folder icon on your property inspector and choose the index.html inside your publish_to_web folder.

Example:

Linking to Soundslides project folder

It’s important to note: You MUST include all the files in your publish_to_web folder on the server you are publishing your Web project to.

Method 2) Copy-and-paste the embed code

This method is considerably more difficult, especially for people who have never dealt with HTML code. If you need to embed your Soundslides project in a Web page, here’s one way to do it:

First, upload your publish_to_web folder and its contents to the Web server you will be using. Next, find the URL to your project and visit the following site:

http://www4.soundslides.com/apps/utilities/

Paste in the URL to your slideshow (i.e. publish_to_web folder)

Pasting in the URL for SoundSlides to generate embed code

The SoundSlides Web utility will automatically generate some Flash embed code based on the URL you submit. After clicking Continue, the site will also allow you to specify the size of the slideshow. SoundSlides, by default, exports the slideshow in several sizes. If you are going to embed the slideshow into a smaller column or a post, it is likely that you will have to reduce the size using those options.

SoundSlides site generating embed code

Copy the embed code.

In Dreamweaver click on the “Split” view icon.

Split option in Dreamweaver

You will notice that your main project area splits into two segments; one for code and one for the design. Whenever you click in the design portion of your Web site (the bottom area), the cursor will automatically move to that corresponding location in your code at the top. This is how you find the spot in your code that you need to paste in the Soundslide’s <embed> tags for your project.

Split view in Dreamweaver

Once you have found the location where you want to paste your project, paste in the embed code from the SoundSlides utility site into the code window at the top. In Dreamweaver, you will not see the slideshow appear at the bottom, rather you will see a grey box that serves as a placeholder for your slideshow.

Method 3) Using Dreamweaver’s Embed function

Dreamweaver has some pre-built Flash embed options built into it. With these tools, you can embed a Soundslides presentation. This method is a little tricky and is designed for advanced users of Dreamweaver.

In Dreamweaver, click on the INSERT menu at the top of the screen, then select MEDIA –> FLASH.

A dialogue box will appear asking for your flash file. Navigate to your publish_to_web folder and select your SOUNDSLIDER.SWF file (not the index.html file).

IMPORTANT! Do not click OK, instead, you must set two parameters for Soundslides to work correctly. Press the “Parameters” button. This will allow you to add two very important parameters: The size of your slide show, and the method it uses to process data.

Setting parameters for Soundslides

For the parameters you want to set:

“size” with a value of “1”

“format” with a value of “txt” (or XML if you are using the latest version of soundslides)

(note: If you wanted to use the smaller version of your project, set the size to value “0”)

Click OK.

You are almost there, just one last step. Dreamweaver cannot determine the size of this Flash project since it is dynamic (flexible). So you will have to set the size yourself. In the property inspector, set the size to 640 width and 533 height. (note: if you are importing the smaller version of your project, you will have to set the size to 420 by 383.)

Set the size of Soundslides

Test your movie. Remember, you will need to keep all of the files in your publish_to_web folder intact in order for your slide show to work.

About this Tutorial

Tutorial presented by the Knight Digital Media Center at the University of California, Berkeley

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