Photo slide shows on DVD

One of the most frequent questions I get from Download.com users is, "How can I put my photos on a DVD that anyone can watch?" Here's a quick overview of the basics of DVD slide shows along with a few good apps for producing them.

Along with "What's the best free video-editing software?" one of the most frequent questions I receive from CNET Download.com users is, "How can I put my photos on a DVD that anyone can watch?" For everyone whom I wasn't able to respond to personally, here's a quick overview.

First off, the most important issue is the DVD player for which you're creating the slide show. Many DVD players nowadays don't need a specially formatted disc to view digital pictures, and some have built-in slide-show features for viewing JPEG images. The best way to find out is to actually try it. Burn a DVD full of digital images (I personally use CDBurnerXP), fire up your DVD player with your new disc, and see what happens.

If your player can read JPEG and AVI files from a regular data DVD, you're on Easy Street. There are numerous free digital-photo-management apps that will create AVI files of your images for burning to DVD. Google's Picasa is an excellent choice. Windows Movie Maker (included free in XP and Vista) is another solid free solution for creating AVI slideshows.

The rub, of course, is that not all DVD players can read AVI or JPEG files. In order to view your slide show on these less-helpful DVD players, you'll need to convert your AVI slide show to a VOB file, and, for maximum compatibility, you'll probably want DVD information files (IFO) and their sometimes necessary backups (BUP).

It's difficult to find VOB encoding in a free DVD slide-show burner. In fact, I don't know of one. If you do, please tell me about it. Luckily, there are several afforable commercial apps that can perform the nitty-gritty work of burning DVD slide shows.

The most famous and most powerful software is likely Nero, which includes a massive amount of slide-show-authoring options for photo DVDs. If you don't need all of the audio and video functionality included in the full suite, Nero PhotoShow Deluxe offers a cheaper alternative for creating DVD slide shows.

Another popular option is VSO Software's simply named PhotoDVD app. The interface and features are sparser than Nero; it's simply a bare-bones program that gets the job done. Nero has a 15-day trial for PhotoShow Deluxe, while the free PhotoDVD trial lets you create slide shows with up to 100 images.

What do you all use to create slide shows for watching on your TV via DVD? Can your players handle JPEG and AVI files, or have you been forced into the wild world of video conversion? Tell me about it in the comments.

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