So, my wife and I have a family reunion to attend this weekend. Kelly usually steps up and does quite a bit of organization for these. One of the things that she and I committed to was delivering photo CDs with all of the family photos we could gather. Several people submitted pictures to us to include, which was great.

So... about a week ago, I said to Kelly, "Ya know what would be cool? Now that we have a DVD burner, I bet I could make a photo slideshow that people could watch on their TVs." Of course Kelly loved the idea, so that was the plan.

Last Friday, I poked around at the software that I acquired with 1) the purchase of a VideOh video input device a couple of years ago and 2) the purchase of the DVD burner.

I found that the VideOh devide shipped with Sonic MyDVD, which is designed to let you create menus, submenus (as deep as you want) and slideshows, with transitions, animations, etc. Cool! However, I remembered trying to use this software when I got it, but to burn a VideoCD -- I had no luck with that... but this is for a DVD, maybe it'll go more smoothly.

I then found that the DVD burner came with the Nero suite of tools (although a couple of versions old). This also had a Photo SlideShow tool, but it would only burn to VideoCD unless I purchase the DVD plug-in at $25.

Since we were already investing time into this, we didn't want to invest money too, so I opted to give Sonic MyDVD a whirl. Here's how that went:

  1. For each set of photos I want to add into the DVD, it processes the images... taking over a minute for each set of photos typically
  2. When I try to add more than 99 pictures to a slide show, it chokes... so I must select no more than 99 pictures at a time when I drag them into the slideshow, then create another slideshow for the remainder. This added significant time to the process.
  3. It ended up taking around 8 hours to get the 2800+ photos added in, with a few levels of nested submenus and around 40 slideshows in total
  4. Then I start the burn process...
  5. ...
  6. ...
  7. Why isn't the progress bar moving?
  8. ...
  9. Oh there it goes "Building Menus"... we're on our way
  10. Well, this is gonna take awhile... off to bed, and considering it's now 6:30am after staying up all night to get these pictures in here... that'll be fine
  11. Wake up at 10am, go check to see the marvelous creation sitting in my DVD tray...
  12. Crap, there's an error on the screen! "Failed to complete last command: Not a valid MPEG file!" -- crap! What does that mean?
  13. Hours and hours of grasping at straws, and I finally figure this one out... The file names and folder names are very long, as each is named to describe the contents. It's failing to understand the long filenames. Sucks that it didn't recognize that while it was spending several seconds per image to add them into the slideshow. But I can work around this.
  14. Spend several hours reorganizing the folders and renaming all of the pictures. I sure am glad I spent 60 minutes creating an app that uses GDI+ to add a caption to the bottom of each image, using the filename. Now the file names can be arbitrary.
  15. Start over with the slideshow creation, because all of my file names have changed. Stay up all night adding the pictures into the slideshow again.
  16. Fire off a burn and go to bed!
  17. Wake up a few hours later, to find another error! I don't remember what the error was exactly, but it was a meaningless, non-descriptive error.
  18. After some more brainstorming, I realize that it died because some folders now had files with the same name, like "Family (1).jpg". So, I guess I need to rename some files again.
  19. Spend several hours doing this and adding the pictures back in... fire off a burn and go cut the grass.
  20. Come back to find yet another error! This time it actually tried to burn the DVD, but it failed with an error saying "Failed to complete last command: EndOfFile".
  21. After some trial and error, and trying to burn the disc a couple more times, each attempt ended with the same result. Only a fragment of data appears to actually get written to the disc, and then it dies, corrupting the disc

End Result with Sonic MyDVD: 25-30 hours invested, unable to burn the disc. Please keep in mind that I was able to burn very simple, small photo slide shows just fine (trust me, I tried). I don't know at what point it breaks down, but it wasn't able to handle my 2800+ disc.

So I ended up paying $60 to buy the Nero 7 Ultra suite of tools, which includes DVD burning. I did this instead of paying only $25 for DVD burning with the version I had, because I figured if I'm spending $25, I might as well spend $60 and have the updated versions.

Here's my experience with Nero Vision:

  1. Purchase online
  2. Download (about 10 minutes)
  3. Install (about 15 minutes)
  4. Read the manual for "Creating your first slideslow" (yes I read manuals)
  5. Create a play slideshow (5 minutes)
  6. Try to create some menus and submenus... (5 minutes)
  7. Uh-Oh: It doesn't seem to support submenus... DANG IT!
  8. Play around trying to find a way to do submenus, just making sure (20 minutes)
  9. Oh well... let's plow through without submenus
  10. Get all 2800+ pictures into the project (learning a little as I go) (1 hour)
  11. As I try to add more than 99 pictures into one slideshow, it asks me if I want the overflow to go into a new slideshow... well, certainly, that would be great!
  12. Play with Transitions and Durations, balancing disc usage against presentation (30 minutes)
  13. Man, the disc usage estimation bar is Fantastic!
  14. Customize the menu, the fonts, backgrounds, and overall style (30 minutes)
  15. Tinker with some 3D animations (15 minutes)... realize this takes WAY too much disc space... back out the 3D animations with the Undo feature... cool!
  16. Re-order some of the titles, merge some titles to get the best layout of the menu pages (30 minutes)
  17. Start the burn...
  18. WOW... a great progress bar, with estimated time remaining and elapsed time!
  19. Cool... a dropdown to change the process priority... Set that baby to High!
  20. Watch it go for a bit... 2+ hours remaining... just watch for a few to make sure no errors pop up...
  21. Okay, I'm going to bed
  22. Wake up and find a DVD ejected, ready for use, no errors, just a nice confirmation window
  23. Put the disc in my cheap-ass DVD player upstairs... it's playing!! It looks great!

End result with Nero 7: Less than 4 hours invested into getting the slideshow set up, and it completed the burn without error and produced a great product! We have a winner! I wish it would have done submenus, but it's probably just fine without them... easier navigation for the less tech-savvy family members. I am glad I spent the $60 on the software... and I'm not sure if I would be so glad had I not wanted to destroy my computer after using MyDVD. So, I guess it's a happy ending.