Simple Interactive QuickTime Slideshow

by David Battino

Photographer James Duncan Davidson did a neat experiment with a recent blog, transforming a series of images into a tutorial movie that shows the evolution of a photograph step by step. This format lets the viewer compare images more easily because they're superimposed.

Readers liked it a lot, but wished for more informative captions. (Duncan had pasted the captions right onto the images as bitmap text, so there wasn't much room.) I also thought it would also be nice to step through the slides without groping around with the QuickTime transport slider.

My first idea was to replace the movie with JavaScript-controlled arrays of individual photos and text. But creating that would be too much hassle for blog authors. It's also nice to have a self-contained slideshow file.

Then I wondered about using a QuickTime text track instead. It turned out to be surprisingly easy.

  1. First I created a five-picture slideshow in QuickTime Pro with the Open Image Sequence command.
  2. Then I typed out five captions in a text editor, with a return between each line, and saved the file as plain text.
  3. Finally, I opened the text file with QuickTime Pro (making it into a text-only movie), copied the text movie, and added it to the slideshow with the Add Scaled command. Opening the QuickTime Properties window, I then offset the caption downward.

Here's the result:

But what about the interactivity? I considered investigating sprite tracks, chapter tracks, Flash, or more complex approaches, but then I noticed that the little left/right arrows at the right side of the QuickTime controller bar stepped between images. Interactivity is built in!

I did do a bit of behind-the-scenes prep on the slideshow above: I layered a black GIF in the background to create a frame around the movie. I also set the slide transition time to two seconds, because that's the default duration of the captions QuickTime generates. But if you want to get fancy, you can format the fonts and colors as well.


David Battino
2008-08-04 16:42:46
Just discovered this shortcut: Once you have the text written out, you can simply copy it and then overlay it on your movie with the Add command — no intermediate text-only movie necessary.