Pics2Exe – software for the digital AV enthusiast by fdjerue7eeu

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									       Pics2Exe – software for the digital AV enthusiast
Introduction
This article is about the Russian software package Pics2Exe (P2E) designed for producing
digital Audio-Visual sequences. That is, simple programmes, comprising images that can be
faded between each other and displayed using video projectors. For example, a series of
images associated with a song or music or perhaps a documentary.

The software is available from the WNSOFT website
(www.wnsoft.com) and is fast becoming the de facto
standard for most digital AV users in the UK. (What’s a
digital AV user, what’s AV etc? – see the end of the
article for an explanation and a glossary). Before
you get too into this article far a word of caution no
Apple Mac version yet exists and this article has been
written for those with Windows based PC’s.

There are other software packages that do similar tasks but P2E is probably the most
popular. A demo copy that will allow you to make an AV of about 10 images can be
downloaded for free from their web-site. Considering its functionality the software is only a
very small download of (currently) about 1.4Mbytes. It’s in a Zip file so you do need
WinZip to decompress the files before you can load I into your PC. (WinZip is a free
software package for compressing and decompressing files that can be downloaded off the
net – just search for WINZIP) So even if you use a slow dial-up modem it shouldn’t take that
long to fetch, its only a little more than 1M in size so shouldn’t take more than 5 mins or so
to download even on a slow modem. If you subsequently want to buy it you have to do this
on-line via at around £16. But once you’ve paid you get free updates for life!

So what does P2Exe do?
P2E allows you to assemble digital images from digital cameras or scanners into a sequence
which allows a form of animation and flow of images over time which can be associated
with a sound track. The images can be prepared by any image manipulation software e.g.
PhotoShop, Elements, Picture Publisher, Paint Shop Pro etc. (HPS has the software and
hardware to prepare and show AV’s via P2E and is available on loan)

How do you use p2E?
                                                       This is really the subject of a separate
                                                       article but basically the P2E software
                                                       allows you to assemble a collection of
                                                       images and cross fade between any
                                                       two using fade from a wide a
                                                       selection of fades, much as you might
                                                       see on TV or the cinema. In addition
                                                       each fade can be separately timed
                                                       from a fraction of a second through to
                                                       many 10’s of seconds. To aid this P2E
has a timeline based editing system that allows you to visually and accurately time the points
at which the images fade or dissolve whilst listening to the soundtrack in real-time for the
sound cues. The actual mechanics are a little more involved but the principle is the
same. The best way to find out is to have a play with it and use the help file supplied with
the software or look at the wnsoft web-site. The website also has some demo sequences as
well as a very useful forum where people with problems can ask questions and get answers.
There is usually someone who has solved your problem and if not its easy enough to post the
questions and see if anyone can answer it.

Some features of P2E
You can assemble sequences of up to 100’s of images, certainly more than the standard pair
of 35mmm slide boxes. However, whether being able to support more images is a good
thing, remains to be seen! The ability to use timeline editing to position dissolves to the
millisecond as well as listening to the sound and be able to continually move to different part
s of the sound track and sequence to redo edits is a boon.

The latest versions have also addressed some of the problems that have occurred when
working with (by today’s standards) relatively slow PC’s but the free demo download will
allow you to check out your PC before committing.

Creating sound tracks for P2E
P2E seems to work best with MP3 sound files. Not only that the files produced as MP3 are a
fraction of the size when compared to a straight copy from a CD. These are a lot smaller than
straight files lifted from CD’s and there are various means of creating MP3 files using
simple software such as Windows Media Player or Real Player One (free download) through
to editing software such as Cool Edit, Goldwave, Sound Forge etc.. If you have Windows
Media Player then go no higher than version 8 unless you wish to use the MS Digital Rights
Management.

The Cool Edit product has recently been taken over by Adobe and the latest prices seem to
reflect this. Notwithstanding this it is an excellent piece of sound editing software and is very
popular.

Goldwave, is available as a download from the net and occasionally as a trial on magazine
covers is roughly equivalent to CoolEdit and is very reasonably priced at a fraction of
CoolEdit's price, increased now that Adobe has taken over the CoolEdit software. The
Goldwave demo version is a full one but is limited to a certain number of times you can use
its functions at which point it stops working. It costs £24 to get the full version and appears
to be as full featured as CoolEdit. It has a companion package costing about the same that
does multi-track sound but I have yet to try this package.

If your sound tracks are relatively straightforward then such packages are probably over
complicated but they do make editing easier than tape or cassette based systems. In many
respects such packages are the audio equivalent of PhotoShop.
Getting output from P2E
There are basically two ways in which you can show your finished AV.

1) The standard P2E method – follow the instructions on screen

It creates a file of the form abc.exe where ‘abc’ is the name you give when you save the final
product. This file can be loaded onto most PC’s that are at least 500MHz speed or faster and
run Windows 98, 98SE or XP. They should have a reasonable graphics capability of at least
65,000 colours and have a sound card and Windows Media Player. This will then display a
high quality version on your PC screen.

2) Video shows (this is a long section)

Another way to display your creation is to turn it into a video CD or DVD and show it on
your home DVD player. The latest version of P2E (at the time of writing this is release 4.20
Beta version #5) introduces a means of creating files (AVI format) that can then be
converted into a suitable format to create CD’s or DVD’s that will run on many but not all
(the Net contains masses of information on compatibility with the various types of formats
and media) standard home DVD players.

For the avoidance of doubt most DVD players will play ordinary CD’s so you can use this to
create a simple DVD compatible CD that will play on most home DVD players.

First create your project and EXE file from your images and audio. On the main P2E screen
you will see a VIDEO button. When you press this you are faced with a choice of VCD,
SVCD or DVD options. In addition there is another option to set PAL or NTSC standards for
the video output. Set this to PAL.

If you have a CD Writer and software such as Nero you can produce VCD or SVCD discs.
These will play on most DVD players (despite not being DVD discs!). At the time of writing
I have produced CD’s that will run on my Toshiba 210SE DVD player using standard cheap
white label CD-R’s from www.ebuyer.co.uk. It is recommended that when in P2E you select
the SVCD option. This will then create an AVI file in a folder of your choice. Follow the
P2E instructions at this point so don’t shut the P2E window down, then open the CD Writer
software. In my case I use Nero 5.5 (but most recent Nero versions are similar Nero 6 will be
needed if you want to create DVD’s but beware the problems with DVD’s and standards
compatibility – but that’s possibly another article – any volunteers welcome especially from
anyone into home movies!)

When you open the CD Writer Software (I will assume you are using Nero 5.5) you should
select the Video format for VCD discs NOT SVCD discs. The SVCD standard requires an
different way of encoding the video (via MPEG2) and requires that you purchase an AVI to
MPEG2 encoder). Using P2E to produce SVCD AVI files is higher quality that going down
the complete VCD only option for P2E. If you do have all the DVD writer software and
video coders which you may well do if you also do home movies and have a video editing
suite the all should be well and you can write a follow up article for this web-site! Please see
the author on a club night!
I assume that you are familiar with the operations of Nero so will not dwell on the mechanics
of dropping files into windows etc. In Nero you can untick the CDI option before you burn a
CD.

Nero will then go and convert the AVI file into a video format before burning the disc. I
have found that on my PC the converting a 50MB AVI file can take up to 10 minutes (on a
PC with 512MB RAM and an Athlone 2GHz processor). Once this has done it then takes a
few minutes to burn the CD depending on the speed of your writer.

The CD can then be inserted into a domestic DVD player where is should play. The quality
is not as good as DVD and is similar to an indifferent video player, but as a means of playing
back your AV sequences to avoid crouching around the PC it’s a useful and cheap step
before splashing out and buying a video projector! If you don’t have a video at home they
can be found for anything from £35 upwards in places such as Richer Sounds, KwikSave,
Comet etc. player (CD Writers are very cheap and purchased from about £25 upwards).

To recap, this system allows you create video format CD’s that will play on most domestic
DVD players without the expense of a DVD writer for your PC (these currently cost from
about £90 if you install or Sony DVD writers from www.ebuyer.com without leads or
software, but Dixons have on offer a complete DVD Writer package for a PC.

To conclude
Buy it and try it. The club has all the kit to try it.

Mike Pill ARPS

								
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