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Slide show pan/zoom for museum computer screens: advice needed

For my show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, I would like to show a continuous looping full-screen sequence of about 200 slides that are panned and zoomed. The images will appear on a wall-mounted Apple Cinema monitor integrated into the show. We need the ability to specify for each image the pan/zoom path, as well as the time the image appears, along with a simple dissolve. Nothing fancy needed. No chartjunk should appear during the slideshow. This should run on OSX.

We are currently playing with the OSX screensaver (which works fairly well) but need greater control over the pan/zoom/dissolve of each slide. Aperture and iPhoto don't appear to give the necessary controls.

I would be grateful for any advice.

Thanks, ET

-- Edward Tufte

Hi Edward,

  1. Any competent Flash or Director or other presentation tool person could make this happen for you. In fact, you could probably do it yourself even with just a trial download of one of those programs.
  2. If software to more specifically do just what you describe doesn't exist, and you don't want to go with the more generic solution above, I'm available to write such software at whatever level of sophistication you wish.
-- Mark Whybird.

-- Mark Whybird (email)

iMovie try

Andrei and I have started playing with iMovie, which looks like it has the functionality we need. But the images don't quite look right (resolution problem?) to me on the big monitor compared to, of all things, the OSX screensaver mode.

When museum curators have made studio visits here in the last few years, I've used the screensaver method to show artwork images with excellent results. Andrei is now away for two weeks; upon his return we'll continue the investigation.

Any other tips?

I'm so grateful for the helpful and quick responses (within an hour of first posting!) from all the Kindly Contributors so far; further thoughts are most welcome.


-- ET

One hesitates to venture into heretic realms, but I think this might be a PERFECT time to use Keynote. It's easier than Flash and has most of the flexibility required for the stated task. Moves (even on a path), scaling (albeit only to 200%), opacity, looping... it's all there. In addition, because Keynote is slide-based, it's going to be easier to assemble & re- arrange than iMovie or Flash.

The only problem is that scaling UP is not ideal. Let's say that I start with an image of 800*600 pixels. For whatever reason, I scale that down to 400*300 pixels at the start of a sequence. Then I use Keynote's animation to scale it up by a factor of two. Rather than giving me the original 800*600 pixels, Keynote just doubles the size of the 400*300 image. Work-arounds are just that; not elegant.

However, as long as you constrain your scaling to DOWNWARD, you're fine. The other way to handle zoom-in is to cross-dissolve from a smaller image to a larger one.

It sounds like a fabulous project. Wish I could do more to help!


Michael Friesen

-- Michael (email)

Without writing your own screen saver, I would try using Apple's Keynote which I believe hits all of your design requirements.

A presentation can be looped/automated similar to a 'Kiosk mode' to satisfy your "continuous looping full-screen sequence" requirement.
It scales/rotates images and objects along a bezier curve.
Time based cueing of events is a given.
And of course, it runs on OS X. :)

You can instantly get a feel for how easy this will be by grabbing the trial available here:

-- Matthew Yohe (email)

I second the idea to try Keynote. I just checked my iWork'08 version and it can indeed create full-resolution slides at the 2560x1600 of the 30" cinema display. (This isn't a default setting available, but a custom slide size can be set.)

It's not clear exactly what effects you want. It sounds to me like you want a fully controlled "Ken Burns Effect" instead of the randomized one Apple so helpfully provides. Keynote really only has nicer and prettier versions of the standard sort of presentation transitions. If you're serious about this production, you may want to go for something more cinematic like Final Cut Studio. That will absolutely give you any and all control over moving your images around. I think all of that pipeline will do at least HDTV resolution of 1920x1080, and I've heard at least parts of it are good up to movie cell rendering at 9000x4000 (as used in the recent Lord of the Rings movies).

-- Brian Olson (email)

I use Adobe After Effects for slide shows with pan/zoom camera effects. Each image is manipulated in its own composition, then placed and sequenced in a master composition, with desired cross-dissolve. It has many export options, including Flash, but I typically export out to uncompressed video and burn to a DVD with looping. If you have the Adobe Production Suite, it is a snap as the After Effects project can be dynamically linked in the Encore program, obviating the need to prerender video. Any edits you make in After Effects is reflected in Encore. I hate to sing the praises of any software, but I have been very pleased with the performance of the Production Suite with my own work. I hope this helps with your decision.

-- Lee Barry (email)

I may be making a mountain out of a molehill, but I think you are going to want something a bit more subtle than the simpler tools can provide.

In the old days, you would have achieved this using an expensive piece of equipment called a rostrum camera.

My own inclination would be to use after effects if you want to duplicate the effect of the rostrum camera. Our firm used it for a project at the City of London Visitor Centre which involved bringing together a lot of images. I was project managing this and the issue of the difference between AE and a two-dimensional animation tool was something that was considered as part of the project.

My understanding is that the benefit of using After Effects is that it can give a sense of real movement in three dimensions.

This is the difference between a simple pan and zoom and the effect a rostrum camera will give. A rostrum camera will accelerate and decelerate on a curve with smoothed ends, i.e. it won't start and stop completely suddenly, whereas a pan or zoom might just come to a dead stop. There are also some other subtle differences. (For example, as you get closer to the object with the camera moving at constant speed, the picture will appear to accelerate towards you.)

I would caution you to be very careful to make sure you can control the final playing environment. (It sounds like you have a good plan for doing this, but make sure you have a backup mac and screen available somewhere if you need it and you also need to make sure someone is trained to restart things if necessary).

Will be interested to hear what solution you finally come up with.

-- Antoin O Lachtnain (email)

From my experience, Keynote '08 might just fit the bill, at least for a quick and simple protyping. This also might provide an adequate testbed for the new Keynote '09. Caution though: the Mac on which this runs should be par to the task. Smooth transitions of large, hi-rez images without hang-ups require more RAM, faster video cards, and faster disks than one would like to assume.

-- Chris Lucianu (email)

iPhoto has something called "Ken Burns Effect" for pans in slide shows. I don't know if you can actually control the panning or make zooms... In iPhoto you should now have any problems with resolution.

-- Jorgen Rask (email)

I did want you want to do. I used iPhoto and the "Ken Burns Effect" to create a slideshow with different dissolves. Each slide can be timed and zoomed individually. You can add music. Then I exported the slideshow as a movie. Can't remember what program it exports to, but I was able to specify that it play in a continuous loop.

What I dont remember is if I used an additional iPhoto plug-in to augment the Ken Burns thing. I might have.

Your photos must be hi-res to get the size you want. iPhoto allows you to specify that when you export.

-- Janie (email)

I don't know if this is too late, but another nice alternative to Keynote that may give you some more flexibility is Fotomagico from Boinx Software. You can control speeds of the zoom and pan and even control the rotation of images through transitions. Plus, it's pretty easy to learn. Hope this helps.

-- Matt Roberts (email)

This may be a little late but if not for your benefit then for the benefit of others.

Much of this hinges on how you want your final images to look, i.e., is the final resolution good enough for you or do you want finer resolution. Take into account that you can probably get away with lower resolutions with most audiences. Movement also masks the artifacts of low resolution images.

I recommend After Effects. You can set the composition to any size you want, in this case you could set it to the resolution of the Apple Cinema display (up to 2560x1600 for the 30-inch model) that you want to use or something a little less processor intensive if you have either a smaller monitor or lower resolution requirements. Compose using square pixels. Do try to keep all your images in the same range of resolution. It can be rather jarring to see a lower rez picture followed by a higher rez image. Usually content matters more than resolution for the average viewer. Just don't highlight any of your resolution problems before the audience.

I suggest that given the requirements you've stated that your images should be at the very least as high resolution as the final product, if not larger so you can do close-ups. To hel, AE has a sharpen filter, just don't overdo it as artifacts can be a problem. You can do wonderful things with the moves and with your pacing. Above answers regarding RAM, etc., should be heeded.

If you start off with a lower resolution image and decide to use a higher one, replacing it in the timeline with the effects you already have is very simple as long as the images have the same composition. You can also use proxies. That way you can use much lower rez versions of your images, create your show and preview effects with much less rendering time. You can also render out using the proxies or the actual full rez versions of your images.

If you already have it, Apple Motion is a good substitute.

If budget is an issue, a decent version of AE, v.6 or higher can be had at significant discounts on ebay. AE can run on Mac or PC. You seldom need the "latest thing".

-- Marcus Pun (email)

You might want to check out PhotoToMovie. You can set your zooms, transitions and then export as quicktime file which you can then loop. Might be worth a shot.

The program has been in development a long time and has matured nicely into a good still image animation package.

I hope this is the sort of thing you were looking for. I just attended your conference in Austin! I have been wanting ot attend for a few years now and finally made it. You did not disappoint! And your books are, of course, wonderful.



-- Keene (email)

A lot of the answers on here involve complex stuff with some pretty heavy duty (and expensive!) software. I don't know if you're a web programmer at all, but I bet you could achieve a similar effect for free with a Javascript or Flash framework. There are several existing solutions out there that essentially let you create a nice slideshow by just dropping specifically named images in a folder... See for example: (explanation at

Javascript in a browser has a tendency to be pretty slow, especially at high resolutions, so you'll want to run it on a fast computer and browser. Google's new Chrome browser supposedly has a crazy fast Javascript engine, but it's not available for Mac (yet). Firefox will work, though you might have to download an extension to achieve the fullscreen kiosk effect you're looking for, as Firefox for Mac doesn't appear to offer it by default... Good luck and let me know if you'd like any help!

- Dan Delany dan (.) delany (a) gmail

-- Dan Delany (email)

I have exhausted the internet looking for an easy to use software for creating pan and zoom effects on photos for funeral slideshows. I created one with a friend on Canopus Imaginate and it turned out amazing and professional. However, I have found so little on this software and am hesitant to buy it if there is something more user friendly for this novice.

-- Mariane Roach (email)