Creating a DVD Slideshow in Linux

For my brother’s wedding, about a week ago, my sister wanted to do a slideshow for them. She’s done this before and she’s known for spending lots of time making very nice, emotional slideshows with carefully chosen pictures and music. Previously, she would count in her head while manually switch the slides with a traditional projector. (We have a lot of great family photos that are only on slides.) Anyway, she figured she’d use computers this time around and my assistance was “enlisted.” I kept thinking, “If only I had a Mac, I’m sure this would be easy….” But it turns out there’s a reasonable command-line program available on Linux that is just a little cumbersome (mostly because it’s command-line tool for something that really needs to be visual) – but works quite well: dvd-slideshow. I’m going to go over what I did, mention some quirks and how to work around them.

First, install dvd-slideshow (a set of command-line tools).

sudo aptitude install dvd-slideshow

You may want to get the latest version from the webpage and manually install that.

Update: While writing this, I have since discovered “slcreator” which looks like it would fill in the glaringly absent graphical component of dvd-slideshow. Though it hasn’t been updated for quite a long time…. it’s definitely worth investigating before going through the manual process yourself.

Step 1: Organize your digitized photos within a directory

Since my sister was the creative force behind this, she needed to see the photos as she was deciding on the order. Nautilus thumbnails were good enough, so I simply showed her how to rename files and made suggestions for organizing them by name (like naming a photo “12a.jpg” if you want the photo to be in between “12.jpg” and “13.jpg”). This worked in Nautilus, but in the next step, the ordering would be changed to 12a.jpg, 12.jpg, 13.jpg – which is probably a bug in dir2slideshow. (You could work around this by always using a single letter after the number.)

Step 2: Generate input file from images directory and customize

dir2slideshow -o output_directory -t seconds_per_picture -c crossfade_seconds images_directory

This will output a text file in the output_directory that contains all the images in the images_directory with specified transition and duration times. The order of the pictures should be how it is listed by name in your file browser, minus the bug I mentioned earlier. You can manually edit this file and then pass it to dvd-slideshow.

Multiple Directories:
My sister had arranged photos in multiple directories, each consisting of a theme (childhood, Halloween, travel, etc) and a specific song to go with it. So I just generated multiple input files with appropriate names, worked on individual sections, and eventually copied them all into a master input file keeping the desired order.

Adding Music and Silence:
Another bug I encountered was getting music to fade out at the correct time. In the input file, the format for adding music is this: audiofile:track:effect1:effect1_params:effect2:effect2_params . So I had my_sad_song.mp3:1:fadein:0:fadeout:5 saying I wanted it to spend 5 seconds fading out. Additionally, I wanted about 10 seconds of silence at the very end. Your are supposedly able to specify silence:duration_in_seconds but at the end of the slideshow, it wasn’t forcing the song to fade out in time to include that amount of silence – it seemed to be ignoring it at the end if there was no more photos. I got around this by creating a small file of silence, silence.wav, and using that instead of the built-in silence option.

Nice looking fonts
Another quirk I encountered was terrible looking fonts with the built-in title:duration:thought_provoking_title. I didn’t want to spend too long looking at the cause of this, so I just created some title images in the Gimp.

Step 3: Generate the Slideshow

dvd-slideshow -mp2 -nomenu -o tmp/working -f tmp/ALL.txt

The mp2 option is required to avoid an error message and has worked on all DVD players I’ve heard of, so far. The nomenu option is for creating a DVD with no menu – I just wanted it to start playing the slideshow when the disc is inserted into the player. The o option specifies the output directory and the f option specifies the input file created earlier. Once this finishes (it might take a while) you should have a DVD .vob (MPEG2) file and an xml file in the output directory.

Debugging:
I like to see how the final product will look, so I chose not to use the L (low quality) option for debugging. Instead, I created a smaller input file with specifically what I wanted to test. When I was happy with the test, I copied the changes into my master input file.

Step 4: Create the DVD Filesystem

dvd-menu -f tmp/working/ALL.xml -nomenu -mp2 -o tmp/working-dvd

This will output a folder dvd_fs in the output folder (tmp/working-dvd) containing VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS directories with the required files for a proper DVD.

Adding Content:
This is where you optionally add more files to the DVD. For me, I added two folders, Music containing the music used in the slideshow and Photos containing the photos used in the slideshow. A good idea would also be to add the source file and commands used to create the DVD and then you are distributing the source. 😉

Step 5: Make an ISO to burn

mkisofs -dvd-video -udf -o ~/Desktop/slideshow.iso tmp/working-dvd/dvd_fs

This creates an ISO called slideshow.iso on the desktop.

Step 6: Burn the ISO

There’s many ways to burn an ISO, but just use Nautilus: right click on the icon on your desktop and select Write to Disc…. That’s it! Test it out in your DVD player.

References

Lots more info about specific commands and useful examples can be found at the dvd-slideshow’s documentation page.


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4 Comments on “Creating a DVD Slideshow in Linux”

  1. Larry Says:

    Thanks for the writeup, I’m about to attempt a similar project and this should be helpful. Did you end up editing all of your images to a certain aspect ratio and resolution?

  2. Steve Says:

    Hi Larry,

    I would generate the slideshow (often in low quality), watch it, make changes, and repeat. They should be automatically centered and scaled to fit. For some photos, especially portrait photos, I cropped off pieces to make them use more of the screen… but for most, the default was good enough. The process did, however, take a while. Good Luck! 🙂

  3. Steve Says:

    To anybody coming across this page, Mistelix looks like a very promising solution for Linux! But I haven’t tried it yet.

  4. Anyon Says:

    Thanks for the excellent walkthrough. The software and your article were a major help to me in solving a pressing matter.

    In return, I’ll make the following observations which might make someone else’s life easier:

    a) dvd-slideshow is an script in /usr/bin (in Mandriva 2010.1, after installed)… the author already fixed some “kilo” factors in audio bitrates, but as of dvd-slideshow version 0.8.2, some corrections must be made… look for “-ab” and then add a “k”, changing the audio bitrate, e.g., from 48 to 48k;

    b) “man dvd-slideshow” has no reference to an “nomenu” option; oddly, using it causes dvd-slideshow not to find the file generated by dir2slideshow. It was a pain the constant message “input -f file doesn’t exist” when it was right there;

    c) at least in Mandriva, sox must be installed;

    d) things work nice with crossfading but using wipe makes dvd-slideshow ask for “bc” (is that the calculator?)

    All in all, results were pretty good and did the trick. I didn’t find (yet) a way to make transitions random.

    Thanks for the useful article, again.

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