Every once in a while, I find the desire to put together a nice slideshow of photographs and package them on a DVD. In fact, for the last five or six years, I have done just that as a Christmas present for my family and friends.

I have found no better program to accomplish this than Nero Vision, which, unfortunately is not available by itself. You have to purchase the whole Nero package in order to get Nero Vision. Nero Vision is an amazing program that makes it incredibly easy and painless to put together really nice photo slideshows with narration and/or music in the background.

Starting Your Project

Nero Vision makes it extremely simple to create video files from a batch of photographs and sound files, add other video files and package them all together on a nice DVD with a professional looking menu.

Creating a Slideshow

To begin preparing a photo slideshow, you should open Nero Vision and mouse over the “Make Slide Show” menu item. Then, select the appropriate type of video disc you would like to create. You can choose from DVD, Mini HD DVD, Blu-Ray, HD DVD, Video CD, Super Video CD, Mini-DVD and HD-BURN. You actually have even more options, but I’ll get to that later in this article.

Once you have done that, a new window will open. This is the interface you will use to compile a video file from your photographs and sound files. From here, you have a couple of options. You can either click the “Browse For Media” button and find the photographs and sound files you want to add or you can simply open the appropriate folder in a Windows Explorer window and drag the necessary files into the Nero Vision interface.

Then, if you would like to add a narration file to a specific photograph, you can simply drag that audio file to the appropriate photograph within the Nero Vision project. However, if you would like to simply add some music or sound to the background of the entire slideshow, you need to click on the audio tab and drag the audio file there.

Next, if you want the photos to run for the exact duration of the sound file, you need to click the “More” button at the bottom of the interface. Once the details area appears, you need to place a checkmark in the box next “Fit slideshow duration to audio duration”.

If you are ready to move onto creating the next slideshow, add other video files or create your disc menus, click the “Next” button.

Exporting to a Video File

If, however, you would like to export this slideshow to a standard video file format, you can do that by clicking the “Export” button. From there, you will have the option to save this slideshow as a standard video file (I’m not sure if everyone has the same options here, or if they are dependent on the codecs you have installed). In my Nero installation, I have the choice to export the video to AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, AVC and a few Nero formats. Each of those has a list of codecs I can use for compression and formatting (for instance, under the Nero format options, I can choose to save this as an iPod video or PSP video file).

Continuing Your Project

If you choose to press the “Next” button, you will be brought to your main project window. From here, you can choose to create another slideshow, capture video from a camcorder (or, presumably, a webcam), add existing video files and much more. Once you have added all of the video you want in your project, click the “Next” button again.

Selecting a Menu Template

Once you do that, you will be prompted to choose a menu template for your video disc. Nero includes a handful of simple DVD menu templates, and a few more are available from Nero’s Web site. If you don’t like any of those, or you simply want to put your own touches on it, you can customize the menu as much as you want. If you don’t want a menu at all, you can disable the menus altogether.

Preview Your Project

After you select and finalize your menu, clicking on the “Next” button will bring you to the preview stage. The preview stage is really nicely put together. When you preview your project, you see almost exactly what you will see on the TV or computer when you play the finished disc. The preview area includes a screen that shows what you will see, as well as a virtualized DVD remote control, so that you can “press” some of the common buttons you would find (next, previous, up, down, left, right, menu, title and enter/select). If you don’t want to use the remote control, you can also interact with the preview the same way you would with a DVD on your computer – by using your mouse to simply click on the appropriate menu item.

Finalizing and Burning Your Project

Once you decide that the preview is perfect, you can click the “Next” button to bring up the burn dialog. The burn dialog is similar to most of Nero’s other burn dialogs. You can choose to burn your project to any of your optical drives or save it as an NRG disc image (which, as of Nero 6 or 7 is actually just an ISO file with an NRG file extension in many cases). You can set a volume name for your disc, set the write speed and a few other options.

After you’ve set all of the options the way you want them, you simply click the “Burn” button to create the disc or disc image and you are finished.

Some Extra Notes

First of all, you should absolutely press the “Save” button as often as possible. It has been my experience that Nero Vision is prone to crashes occasionally, and it can be extremely frustrating to have to go back and redo everything you’ve already done.

Secondly, when you are viewing your main project window, you have the option to add the original photographs that you used in your slideshow, an HTML photo gallery or a PC slideshow if you choose to do so. I wish you had the option to add other files to the project, but there is no easy way to do that within the Nero Vision interface.

What I ended up having to do when I wanted to add additional files (for instance, I usually do a PDF picture book with the DVD slideshow) was to burn the Nero Vision project to a DVD image. Then, I would mount the image on my computer and extract all of the files. Next, I would open the classic Nero program (Nero Burning Rom) and choose to create a new DVD Video project. I would copy the appropriate files from the mounted DVD image (VIDEO_TS, etc.) to the right places in my new DVD video project.

Once those are added, I then create a new directory in the DVD video project and put my desired files in there. If you choose to do that, however, you need to be careful what you call your new directories. It seems that DVD players do not react nicely to long directory names or directory names in anything but all uppercase when trying to read a video disc.

Update

This tutorial was based on Nero 9. I have recently upgraded to Nero 10, which includes a completely new version of Nero Vision, entirely different than previous versions. I am still feeling my way through the new version of Nero Vision. It is much more of a proper video editor than old versions, but I have come across one major downside to the new version: Nero Vision 7 (which is the version that comes with the Nero 10 Platinum Suite) does not include the “Fit slideshow duration to audio duration” option that was in previous versions. I’ve checked the Nero forums and found a few other people complaining about this change. There are some indications that Nero is working on re-adding this feature to future versions.