3D Album Jazzes up Photos
Sharing family photographs electronically is increasingly popular
People can inflict these treasures on unsuspecting friends and
family members in a variety of ways: they can print 'em out and
hand them around or mail them, e-mail them, or burn them onto a
CD ROM and mail or hand them around that way.
The end result is the same, however: a bunch of static photos your
victims can scroll or riffle through.
But what if you wanted to jazz up your photo collection a bit,
to add a little razzle dazzle that'll make your presentation stand
out from all those other peoples' boring collections?
Well, a company called Media Research Institute has come up with
3D-Album, a software application that organizes your photos into
a variety of interesting displays you may feel adds that pizazz
you've been wanting.
3D-Album (for Windows 9x, Me, NT, 2000 or XP) includes some 23
styles in the box, with another 30-plus available for download.
With these templates you can not only create interesting photo presentations,
but screen savers as well so you can keep smiling at your
desktop all day as your favorite pictures appear before you.
It's kind of neat. I had a whack of photos hanging around from
when I was victim of a birthday party this summer, so I put 3D-Album
through its paces making a variety of presentations in a variety
of configurations. I have to admit that the ones in the box wore
thin fairly quickly, though the online ones are interesting enough
that they restored some of the luster. And remember, this is probably
not something you'll use every day so the glow may stick around
longer in real world use than it did during my more "intensive"
The albums let you choose pretty well whatever digital photo files
you want, by pointing and clicking, and as you build your presentation
you can also add music, text, voiceover (assuming you have the needed
hardware, of course for instance a microphone if you're going
to use your own voice) and sound effects.
The sound effects, which include a click of a squeaky "hit"
sound and which play as the pictures change, wore thin the quickest
with me like after about one try. Fortunately, you can shut
them off, so it's a matter of their beauty being in the eye (or
in this case, ear) of the beholder.
You can also control the colors, fonts etc. of the text you use
for labeling, as well as the speed at which the presentation plays
out. This adds a nice bit of flexibility to what are otherwise fairly
Now, that crack about inflexibility isn't really a criticism; this
program is meant to be "bozo proof" so the less the "ordinary
consumer" has to think about can be a bonus when you're opting
for extreme user friendliness.
And they do achieve extreme user friendliness. The interface is
very simple and straightforward, and each button or control (which
are kept to a minimum) has pop up help that appears if you hold
your cursor over it.
Creating a presentation is very easy. All you really have to do
is point 3D-Album to the folder in which your chosen pictures are
stored, choose the presentation template, assign your other parameters
(sound or no sound, speed, etc.) and click "Build." Then,
a dialogue box pops up asking what type of presentation you want to
build: application (a self contained program your victim
sorry, recipient can merely double click upon to activate),
screen saver, HTML page (your fully animated presentation appears
in a box), ZIP file (crunches the files to minimize their space
handy for e-mailing if the person at the other end knows
how to "unzip" files), or self-extracting .exe file for
I tried all of these and they all work as advertised, though the
html page is designed for low resolution monitors and that made
the "window" more than a tad small for my taste
and my failing eyes. The best were the ones that create an executable
file (*.exe) that starts the program automatically because it requires
less knowledge on the part of the recipient.
My presentation ended up being anywhere from 4 to 6 megabytes in
size, even zipped, which makes for a pretty hefty e-mail. In fact,
depending on your Internet provider, you may or may not be able
to send files that large or the recipient might not be able
to download them. This is the only real fly in the ointment for
people with larger presentations they want to e-mail.
The alternative, of course (for people with the hardware), is to
burn the presentation onto a CD ROM and send it via "snail
mail." Or, if you have Web space, you could upload it and tell
your friends and family where they can download it.
Anyway, the presentations themselves are quite interesting, featuring
photos that move into and out of place and dissolve from pic to
pic. Depending on the environment you choose, you can have presentations
that appear out of a blank screen, zooming toward you, presentations
that appear almost as if in "bubbles", presentations that
look like Christmas tree balls dangling from pine branches, etc.
There are cubes, clocks, trains, you name it chances are
3D-Album will have at least a couple of designs that'll turn your
The package comes with two CD-ROM's, one of which has the application
itself and the other of which contains a demo and 20 minute interactive
tutorial. The product is priced at $40, which is pretty affordable.
My personal bottom line is that I'll create my own presentations
from scratch, thank you very much, but I have the knowledge and
wherewithal to do that, whereas a product like this can add a nice
touch to photo presentations for those who don't have the time,
PC power or inclination) to design one from scratch themselves.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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