PulpMotion 3 review
To say that PulpMotion 3 is just a slideshow application is rather like calling Photoshop a simple bitmap drawing program. Aquafadas' software takes the creation of slideshows beyond the mechanical transitions that we see in iPhoto, and features some dazzling special effects.
You can display your images in a vast range of styles. For example, you can flow through an art gallery, where your photos are displayed on the walls, view them in a book, a traditional photo album or even a magazine with pages that turn automatically. In fact, with more than 150 themes to choose from, the hard part is picking which one to use. And it's a tough decision: you're only allowed a single theme per show, and changing your mind half way through can mean a lot of extra work.
As well as moving smoothly from image to image, you can specify areas of interest on each one, such as a face, and the slideshow will zoom in and out of that region. Select multiple areas of interest and the show will glide between them before zooming out to show the whole picture or, if you use Faces in iPhoto, PulpMotion can convert these to areas of interest automatically.
Images can be dragged into PulpMotion in sets from the Finder, or from the built-in viewer for iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom libraries. Each image can be panned and zoomed, and have a variety of special effects added - from colour correction to Ascii art conversion. You can even add movies as well as still images, and they will play smoothly as they spin through the theme.
Customisation applies to every area of the application, from modifying fonts and theme backgrounds to writing your own text - not just for captions, but for the background text in the magazine and book themes, if you have the time and inclination.
You can set the length of a slideshow manually, or match it to a piece of music. In the Advanced version, there's even a sound editor that lets you blend songs together to create a seamless soundtrack. To make the images fit more closely to the music, you click a button to make the movie advance to the next image, with timing that coincides with highlights in the song.
Finished slideshows can be output as QuickTime movies, with shortcuts for exporting movies to popular destinations such as Mail, GarageBand and YouTube. It's also possible to export standalone slideshows that come with their own player. And you can export at a range of sizes, from iPhone up to full HD.
PulpMotion comes in two versions: Standard and Advanced. The Advanced application adds 20 extra themes, the ability to create and edit zones of interest, animated text, import support for Aperture and Lightroom, and the ability to add a custom audio commentary.
With so much user control on offer, it's inevitable that there's a fairly steep learning curve. You have to learn how to jump in and out of Editor mode, how to set areas of interest and transitions, and how to manage and customise your themes. The application opens with a set of movies that show the operation of each part of the interface, and handy pointers in the form of post-it notes pop up to help guide you through the process. It can be hard to get started though, and PulpMotion demands a thorough understanding of the editing techniques in order to get the best out of it. Despite the best efforts of the programmers, it's far from being an easy application to master.
PulpMotion is capable of truly spectacular slideshows, which look far more like professional movies than the term 'slideshow' suggests. Fully integrated with iLife, it's a powerful and comprehensive way to showcase both images and videos in a slick and fully modifiable package. But mastering the interface remains a major problem; and if you don't like an aspect of the tricky and sometimes over-flashy themes - and there are no simple ones to choose instead - it can be hard to work out how to modify it.