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This chapter is from the book

Project: Crank the Digital Album-Making Creativity Dial to Full Blast

In the previous project we used Photo Story 3 to create a simple, slide show-like presentation. Now it’s time to fully tap the 3D graphics and multimedia capabilities of a modern PC to create an animated, multimedia-enhanced photo album. In this project you’ll make a digital photo album with simulated 3D turning pages, sound effects, music, captions, the whole nine yards! And you’ll learn how to publish your album as a CD that can play on a PC or a DVD player connected to a TV.

Materials

For this project you’ll need

  • Digital photos on your PC’s hard disk.

  • Advanced multimedia album-maker software. We’ll use FlipAlbum 6 Suite.

  • MP3 digital music file(s) for background music.

  • CD burner to create an album disc for playback on a PC or DVD player connected to a TV.

Time

Budget about three to four hours for this baby. You’ll need to download and install the free trial version of FlipAlbum 6 Suite and spend some quality time learning the ropes. Following that, you’ll gather and insert a series of photos and then add text captions and a background music file. The final steps include making a disc for PC playback and a version you can play in a DVD player connected to a TV.

Step 1: Plan Your Project

This one requires a little planning, even more so than the projects we’ve done so far. Although you can obviously select any topic under the sun, let’s start with something simple. How about an album to preserve your vacation memories? Use Windows Explorer to make a new subfolder under the My Pictures area on your hard disk and name it Vacation Photos 2004. Find and copy your digital photo files to this new folder. Again, I strongly recommended you make copies of all photo files to be included in this test album. Keep the original snaps intact. If you have prints as your source, follow the steps in Chapter 2 to scan and create digital photo files.

Step 2: Download and Install FlipAlbum 6 Suite

Follow the steps below to find and download the 30-day free trial version of FlipAlbum Suite 6.

  1. Turn on your PC, connect to the Internet, and point your browser to http://www.flipalbum.com.

  2. On the opening page, look for the listing of PC products. Find and click the Try button to begin downloading a free trial version of FlipAlbum 6 Suite. I’ve been using various versions of the product for the past few years and it gives you a solid introduction to the world of sophisticated multimedia album-making software.

  3. An initial screen gives you the option of providing your email if you want notifications from the manufacturer. Click the Go button to begin the download process. A File Download—Security Warning dialog box appears. Click Save and use the Save As dialog box to place the file in your downloads folder. Click Save and a progress bar appears, indicating the status of the transfer of data to the folder you selected or created.

  4. When the Download complete dialog box appears you may, if you wish, clean your desktop by closing all other open windows before clicking the Run button. Click the Run button and follow the onscreen menus and dialog boxes to complete the installation. You might encounter a Security Warning dialog box asking if you want to run the software. If you do, click the Run button.

  5. Follow the onscreen menus and dialog boxes to complete the installation. When the installation completes, the last Download Status dialog box remains on screen. Close this window, and then click Start, All Programs, E-Book Systems, FlipAlbum Suite Eval, and then the FlipAlbum Suite icon.

  6. When you place your mouse pointer over the FlipAlbum 6 Suite Eval selection, a new mini menu appears listing FlipAlbum Help, FlipAlbum Sample, FlipAlbum Suite and Uninstall FlipAlbum Suite. Select and run Sample for a taste of what this program can do. You’ll see a message indicating you have 30 days to try the software. Click OK and the sample tutorial album kicks into gear.

Play around with the mouse pointer. The lifelike 3D look and feel, combined with the turning page sound effect, gives digital photo albums made with this product show-stopping appeal.

Step 3: Create an Album

Now it’s time to create an album, which we’ll do using the FlipAlbum’s QuickStart Wizard.

  1. Look at the upper-left toolbar area and click the large Start button to bring up the QuickStart Wizard. It shows a very clear three-step process for creating your first animated album, as shown in Figure 3.10.

  2. Figure 3.10

    Figure 3.10 Flip Album 6’s QuickStart menu presents three easy steps to create a basic animated album.

  3. Click Next at the bottom of the QuickStart window and scroll up to the top of the file tree display. Click the My Documents folder icon and then go to My Pictures and find the folder you made to hold the set of photos for your first FlipAlbum experiment. With the folder you want highlighted, click the Next button.

  4. Now it’s time for step two, page layout. Select Single Image per Page and click Next to move to the third step.

  5. Next it’s time to pick a theme for the album. The trial version shows only one choice, a charming but retro Mother Goose-like theme. The full version includes loads of themes. For now, go ahead and use this theme. It gives you a taste for the potential effect. Later I’ll show you how to create your own custom theme.

  6. Note the artwork for all the album elements this theme provides, from front and back covers to decorative page separators. Click Finish and sit back for a few seconds as the program assembles all the elements to make your first FlipAlbum. In a few seconds your album should appear on the screen.

Step 4: Navigating Your FlipAlbum

Now it’s time to learn how to navigate your FlipAlbum and explore its structure. Place your mouse pointer over the surface of the album cover. The pointer should look like a hand. Now move to the upper edge of a page opposite of the center binding. The hand pointer turns into the image of a dog-eared page. Left click your mouse and voilà, the page turns, accompanied by a convincing sound effect (see Figure 3.11).

Figure 3.11

Figure 3.11 Following the steps in the QuickStart routine automatically generates a 3D album with animated turning pages you can control.

That’s cool, but you can take even more complete control of the page turning. Move your mouse pointer to the lower outer edge of a page and the pointer symbol changes to look like a hand holding a page with text lines across it. Left click and suddenly you are in control of the page turning speed and position. Slowly move your mouse pointer left and right and the page dutifully follows. The images even bend with the shape of the page.

Time for a tour of the layout and organization of your album. The first page turn reveals a gallery of thumbnail reproductions of each photo in the album. The number of pages in the gallery will vary as determined by the volume of photos in your collection.

Click through the gallery page(s) to find the Contents page. You’ll see a list of all the photos by name with a page number assigned. Move your mouse pointer over the table of contents and each photo is highlighted, one after the other. Highlight and left click an entry and, bingo, the album instantly jumps to the page where the image is displayed.

Click through all the pages and you’ll discover at the end of the album an index page(s) that performs the same function as the table of contents.

Step 5: Basic Editing

Follow the steps below to control photo positioning and to create text captions.

Let’s look at some of the basic FlipAlbum editing functions:

  • To better position your photo (vertically) on a page, place your mouse pointer over the area of a photo. Click the mouse and dashed lines and little boxes appear at each corner of the image. Hold the left mouse button down and move the mouse pointer up and down to reposition the photo.

  • You can also add a simple text caption. Find the Pencil tool on the top horizontal toolbar. Note that it’s split down the middle. Click the left side of the Pencil to insert a text caption for the left page, or the right side for the opposite page. When you click either side of the Pencil icon, a blank box appears. Type in a short caption. Note the wide range of text font, color, type size, positioning commands, and other choices available, as shown in Figure 3.12.

Figure 3.12

Figure 3.12 Clicking the Pencil icon brings up a text box to create your caption.

Step 6: Add a Musical Background

Follow the steps below to add a running musical background.

  1. Find the musical note icon on the top menu. Click it and an Information dialog box appears stating No Book Background Music Is Defined, Do You Want to Select One Now? Click Yes and a new Set Book Options dialog box appears with the Audio tab on top. Leave the Enable Flipping Sound and Enable Audio boxes checked. You’ll see the background music box is empty. To do the next step, you must have a WAV, MIDI, or MP3 format music file on your PC.

  2. Don’t worry if you are not familiar with these music and sound file formats. Click Start, My Music and then use the search tool to for files with a .wav, .mp3, or .mid ending (the geeks call this an extension). The search operation will present any files it finds in your My Music folder that FlipAlbum accepts.

  3. With a music file identified or ripped, placed on your hard disk, and with the Audio tab of the Set Book Options dialog box again displayed, find the Add button and click it. This brings up an Open dialog box displaying the folders under your Windows XP My Documents area.

  4. Scroll through the horizontal panning display and go to the My Music folder and open it. If the files in My Music are in one of the three formats the program recognizes, you’ll see the files listed, as shown in Figure 3.13. Highlight a file and click Open.

  5. Figure 3.13

    Figure 3.13 If your My Music folder contains files FlipAlbum 6 recognizes, a list of eligible candidates is displayed.

  6. You are now returned to the Audio tab with the information FlipAlbum needs to find the file displayed in the Background Music List box. Click OK on the lower right of the Audio tab. Your album appears in all its glory, playing the background music you selected.

Step 6: Customize Your FlipAlbum’s Looks

Although the Mother Goose theme default we’ve been using here is cute, it’s not going to be ideal for most albums, including the vacation album I’ve been using as an example here. Follow these steps to create your own theme using digital pictures from any folder on your hard disk.

  1. With your test album on display, go to the top menu bar, click Tools, Create Theme.

  2. The Create Theme dialog box appears. At the top, give your custom theme a name. I keyed in Vacation 2004. Look at the bottom of the dialog box and click the Add/Edit button to begin the process of replacing the default artwork for each album element with a photo you select.

  3. You’ll discover the first time you click Add/Edit, an Open dialog box appears that allows you to navigate to a folder on your hard drive containing the photos you want to use to build a custom theme set. Find the photo folder you want and then highlight and click the image you want to serve as the front cover. Repeat the process for all the elements. You may also double-click any album element frame box shown in the Create Theme dialog box and then highlight the photo you want to insert. I used digital snaps from my vacation 2004 photo folder as shown in Figure 3.14.

  4. Figure 3.14

    Figure 3.14 The Create Theme dialog box allows you to select digital photos as cover art, page backgrounds, and so forth.

  5. Click OK and a dialog box announces the new theme has been created.

  6. Return to the top toolbar and click Options, Set Theme. The Themes dialog box appears, listing choices that now include the theme you just created. Highlight your theme and click OK. In a few moments, your album gets a makeover based on your custom theme.

  7. At this point, be sure you save your masterpiece because we’re going to burn it to a CD.

Step 7: Put Your Album on CD

To make a CD album disc for playback on a PC, open FlipAlbum 6 (making sure to close the QuickStart Wizard) and follow these steps:

  1. Go to the upper toolbar and click Open. The Open a Book dialog box displays with an empty horizontal box. Click the down-arrow button on the far right of the box and a list should drop down with your album cited. Highlight your album and click OK.

  2. With your album now onscreen, go to the top horizontal menu bar and click CD Maker, Make Album CD. The Create Album CD menu displays with the default buttons Create a New Album CD/Single Album on CD already selected. We’re going to make a single album CD, so click OK.

  3. In a few seconds, a Create a New Album CD Folder dialog box appears. Look for the Album CD Folder Name horizontal box at the top with the default name AlbumCD. Change that to a custom name, such as Vacation 2004 Album CD, and then click Create. A new folder under the My Documents area of your hard disk is created to contain the files needed to make a disc that can playback on a PC.

  4. After the files needed are copied to the new folder, an Album CD Options dialog box appears with three items: Set Album Options, Set Album CD Title, and Preview Album CD (see Figure 3.15).

  5. Figure 3.15

    Figure 3.15 The Album CD Options dialog box allows you to set playback controls, provide a name for the production, and test drive how it will play back on a PC.

  6. Click Set Album Options and note the various features available, such as manual or auto flipping controls. Leave the default settings in place and click OK. Next click the Set Album CD Title and key in the name you want, click OK, and move to the Preview CD Album button for a preview of your composition.

  7. To end the preview, click File, Exit. Now it’s time to make your CD.

  8. When you return to the Album CD Options dialog box after exiting the preview, click Next and the Burn CD Information menu appears. Follow the very simple instructions to burn a CD with all of the files listed. Insert a blank CD disc in your CD drive and click the Burn to CD button.

  9. Sit back and relax as the files are burned on the CD disc. The time it takes this process to complete varies with the speed of your CD recorder. It should take less than 15 minutes on most modern drives.

  10. When the burn process completes, you’ll have a CD disc that should automatically start when you insert it into a CD drive on a PC running Windows XP.

Step 8: See Your Album on TV

Did you know that commercial DVD movies you buy or rent are not the only form of video disc a modern DVD player can handle? Most of these marvels of technology can also play something called video CDs (VCDs). In this exercise we’re going to transform your FlipAlbum into a VCD you can pop into your DVD player and enjoy on your TV screen!

  1. First use Windows Explorer to create a new folder under the My Documents area and name it VCD Album Test.

  2. If you already have FlipAlbum 6 up and running with your album displayed, that’s great. If not, follow the steps you learned in the previous exercise to find and open your album.

  3. Click the CD Maker drop-down menu found on the upper horizontal toolbar. Select Export Album for TV Viewing.

  4. An Export Album for TV Viewing dialog box appears with three choices: MPEG Format, AVI Format, and Slide Show. The first two refer to specific video formats you’ll learn about in Chapter 4. For now, let’s go for the Slide Show option, which creates a single album presentation on a regular CD disc that can be played back using a DVD player.

  5. Click the Slide Show button, but before you click OK at the bottom of the menu, we need to tell the program to put the production in the VCD Album Test folder I asked you to create earlier. Note the text Select the Location and Name of Export Folder. A default directory and folder is provided, but I’m a big fan of making folders with descriptive names so it will be easy to find your work in the future.

  6. Click the little rectangle button to the right of the white box holding the default folder path information. A Create a New Folder dialog box appears, which you can use to tell FlipAlbum 6 where to store the VCD files. First find your VCD Test Album folder and highlight it. Notice that at the top of the Create a New Folder dialog box, there is a field labeled Folder Name. The default is Album Still. Change that to something meaningful, such as Vacation 2004. Click Create and the program builds a subfolder under the VCD Test Album folder named Vacation 2004. The files needed to create the VCD are placed in the new subfolder.

  7. You are now sent back to the main Export Album for TV Viewing dialog box. Click OK. Wait a few seconds and a Saving dialog box appears showing a progress bar. The photos and other associated files are being prepared for the VCD recording process.

  8. When the saving process is complete, a Capture Album Pages dialog box appears (see Figure 3.16). Skip over the Export Location field and focus on the Flipping Interval slider. You can move the slider bar to the left or right to adjust the amount of time a two-page spread of your album is displayed on your TV screen. My preference is to go with eight seconds, but ultimately your selection here will vary based on personal tastes.

  9. Figure 3.16

    Figure 3.16 The interval slider bar makes it easy to select the amount of time a page will display when played back on a DVD.

  10. Okay, it’s time to burn the CD. Insert a blank CD into your PC’s CD burner. Make sure the Burn to CD-R/RW check box is checked on the Capture Album Pages dialog box and then click the Start button. You might see a prompting message stating Please Make Sure That an Empty CD-R/RW Disc Has Been Put in CD-writer.

  11. A Capture Album Pages dialog box now displays a progress bar and the message Exporting Your Album Name. When this completes, a Burning Files to CD dialog box shows a progress bar gauging the burning process. You will hear your CD drive come to life as the files are burned on the disc.

  12. If all goes according to plan, an Information dialog box appears, announcing This Album Has Been Successfully Burned to CD.

  13. Okay, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for—time to play your disc using a DVD player connected to a TV. Remove the disc, label it with a permanent marker, and insert the disc into your DVD player.

  14. Playing a VCD on your DVD is a different ball game than playing a commercial DVD. It might take a few seconds for your player to analyze the disc. In a few moments the DVD player’s screen should display VCD. But wait, nothing is happening. No worries! Just press the Play button on your DVD player and in a few seconds your album is presented on your TV screen.

Seeing your Flip Album displayed on the TV is a rush. The VCD format discs you make are a great option for sharing your albums with a friend or relative who does not own a PC. VCDs are nifty, but there are a few limitations. First, your slide show VCD does not deliver the eye-catching 3D page turning. Likewise, because TV resolution is considerably lower than that of your PC display, text captions may be unreadable on your TV screen. If a VCD is your output goal, be sure the text captions are made using a large font size and a short message.

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