Online Slideshow Creator Lets You Mix Digital Photos With Original Music: vMix Photo Jockey
PJ180 is vMix new slideshow creator, enabling everyone to create great photo and image slideshows fully online and with from any computer type.
vMix is an online service that enables people to publish and share their own video clips . Captured in one of our past Sharewood Picnics, I am back to it as under its official face and offerings vMix provides a uniquely interesting online slideshow creation facility.
Users can create truly effective image slideshows with titles, transition and effects, without needing to download or install any software on their computer, and vMix SlideShows provides also a license-free music library that users can tap into at no extra cost.
What is most interesting about vMix Slideshows is that, in a truly emblematic fashion of the increasing value of grassroots participation into online product making and development, it were the users themselves who "discovered", pushed for and made it possible for this unique feature to become, a key value asset and characterizing trait of the whole vMix offering.
Tom Taulli, recently wrote on
"While conducting his focus groups, Gregory Kostello (the CEO of vMix) realized that people wanted to basically create slideshows - not videos. After all, videos are large and not easy to edit. This is certainly not the case with slideshows".
While with the recent launches of Eyespot and Jumpcut demonstrate that video editing has really taken a major upturn in terms of usability and ease of use, I must concur that for most people video editing is certainly a level of complexity above putting together a slide show.
vMix new built-in slideshow-creation facility is called Photo Jockey 180 (aka PJ180) and it provides all you need to assemble rapidly ad effectively a presentation, made of any digital image, graph, or photograph you have available on your computer, along with the possibility of adding an original music soundtrack that costs you nothing more than a few credits on the slideshow credits screen.
Very soon, vMix users will be enabled to upload also their own PowerPoint presentations as well as their own audio recordings, in order expand the possible application areas to business and marketing presentations, training, education and more.
Interestingly, by virtue of its unique approach to providing a library of independent music that presentation authors can use for free, vMix also provides an interesting marketing and exposure opportunity to all those independent musicians who are looking for an alternative way to promote their works: vMix provides them with a platform for their music to be actively featured by those people creating slideshows on vMix.
For the above reasons I decided to take the time and call-up Gregory Kostello, CEO and founder of vMix to learn more in first person about the story behind it.
Here is a fully downloadable .mp3 audio file of the interview while an immediately playable version of the audio is available right below. Just press the "Play" button and, after a few seconds the audio will start playing automatically (the text transcript follows).
Here some more information about vMix Slideshows abilities and the full text transcript of my interview with vMix Gregory Kostello:
PJ180 is the free web-based application, integrated into vMix, and designed to allow you to create online slideshows with transitions, effects, captions and music soundtrack.
PJ180 gives novice users the ability to quickly upload their personal photos and arrange them to music in a easy-to-use timeline editor.
Multiple image files can be easily uploaded at once, by simply Ctrl-selecting them in your standard Browse file dialog box.
You can add transitions effects and captions to your slides by clicking on the Slide Editor tab; this way, you are enabled with full control over the playback order and duration of each photo within the program's interface.
On the vMix website, you can choose from several skins or borders to frame the slideshows. Once your slideshow has been created, you can pick an audio track from several selections of music composed by musicians and bands that have partnered with vMix.
When you are finished, the saved slideshow can be viewed through the vMix site or may be embedded directly into other web spaces, such as MySpace, Friendster or into your own blog.
Full text transcript of audio interview with vMix founder and CEO Gregory Kostello
Gregory Kostello of vMix
Gregory Kostello: Good morning, Robin, glad to be here.
Robin Good: It's my pleasure. Where are you connecting from, Gregory?
Gregory Kostello: I'm connecting from San Diego, California, United States.
Gregory Kostello: We really encourage people to create and share content. Initially, our focus was on video. But we found that a lot of people were creating content around pictures they have taken set to music. And so we wanted to really extend that and it's really part of mission to turn everyone who is viewing content into creating content.
Robin Good: So how does vMix make it possible for non-technical people, individuals of all kinds, to achieve that?
Gregory Kostello: Great question. One thing we noticed was that people were creating these slideshows from relatively complex tools. And we really want to bring these slideshows to everyone. It's amazing what kind of barriers were in the way. So we said Flash 8 especially gives us tremendous control, tremendous ability to create very specific applications, so we very quickly created what we call PJ60. It's a very simple application. It was designed to allow you, in just a few minutes, to import your images and then set them to music. And what we have done is, some background is, we, many of us were executives in the music industry, or like myself was the head of technology for mp3.com. So we reached out to artists we knew and actually licensed music so that the individual could create this content with licensed music, and then we actually do give a linkback to the artist's website, the musician's website, as part of this.
Robin Good: That's a cool idea, very good. So you are not only providing the facility whereby I can easily upload digital images and set them to music, but you're also providing me with a selection of music tracks that I can use for free on my slideshows. Is that correct?
Gregory Kostello: That's absolutely correct, and I'm very happy to say that we just licensed 6.000 new tracks which we'll be loading into the new version of PJ over the new few weeks.
Robin Good: And how were you able to create such a licensing scheme or an agreement whereby these artists are willing to let their music be played? You know there is so much discussion today about music that needs to be protected, that needs to be paid for, and then there is another side that brings forward all the opportunities that musicians would have if music went around more like what they are, just like you're doing, offering exposure through music to the artist which then can monetize in other different ways. So my question is, are you in contact with a special group of musicians that sees things in this way, or did you make a special agreement with traditional musicians who are starting to see things in a new way?
Gregory Kostello: We are very lucky. We're actually reaching out to both independent artists and to signed artists. So we have been able to do both of those. One advantage we have is that some of the people who actually work at mp3.com are artists themselves, musicians, and have a great network. As well, one of our co-founders spent the last five years working for Universal Music. Things have really progressed a lot in the last few years. The music industry really has started to embrace digital media, and the big part of it is, as well, that because we automatically link, based on what the artist wants to, at the end of your slideshow, so the end of the slideshow, it actually moves to where the artist wants it to go. So this is a way of giving promotion back to the musician. And quite frankly, a lot of people, when they listen and watch slideshows, want to know "Where can I get that music?".So it works out for everyone.
Robin Good: Absolutely, great idea. My compliments for that. That's the way to go and I'm sure it's going to set an example and a model for others to follow. Well done, Gregory. So, if I have a set of digital pictures on my computer, be that a PC, a Mac, or Linux box, I can go to vMix, register, sign in, and then upload these images to create the slideshow. Now, is this slideshow made up of just digital images or could I use it even to make a presentation, where I could have, yes, music, but maybe I would also want to have some voice narration?
Gregory Kostello: It's a great question. We are actually considering voice narration, which we think is going to be very useful. We want to figure out a way to do it very simply. We will have the ability to do audio uploads. We are trying to make it as user-friendly as possible, so the team is spending a lot of time figuring out that very proper interface.
Robin Good: I look forward to that. And possibly as soon as you get people into visualizing and perceiving your service as a presentation making tool of some kind, as well, they are soon going to be probably asking as well how to upload their own PowerPoint presentations and add music or voice narration to it.
Gregory Kostello: Well, hopefully we'll be a lot more fun that PowerPoint to create your presentations. I find, I don't know about you, but I find PowerPoint to be very functional but not terribly friendly. So we try to make our tool assuming you have very little technical background, and really let you focus on what you do best, which is creating content.
Robin Good: Yes, I absolutely agree with your comments on PowerPoint, but it is still a very widely used tool, and for which there is a great demand for adding music and narration to, because, again, the tool doesn't make it too easy. And since the ability today to make your presentations known corresponds with the ability to have them online, it seems that the ends would meet somehow. But I do see that you are coming from a totally different direction than the type of presentations and slideshows you're creating, at least for now, of different kind. But, still, I will consider interesting spending some more thoughts on that possibility, certainly in the future.
Gregory Kostello: I think it's a very creative idea. In fact, you are not the first one to recommend that. We have heard that from other business users, that they thought this would be a great tool to share their slideshows. Our target audience was really geared at people on their personal expression, talking about their family and friends and their personal activities. But, you know, it's interesting when you create a tool, you never quite know where people are going to take it, and we hope our tool will be flexible enough that people will use it in very novel ways.
Robin Good: But why don't we activate right now a new feature for vMix, which we can enable in this instant, which is to tell all those non-technical users that have PowerPoint presentations from which they would like to take out some slides and add them into vMix slideshow with music and, in the future, narration too, that they can do that right now. They can simply go to their PowerPoint, open it up, and choose "Save As", and select as file type a .jpg type of image, and PowerPoint will allow you to save those individual slides as photographs, as images, which you can upload immediately to vMix and take full advantage from this very moment of the fantastic features they offer.
Gregory Kostello: That is a great idea. Very creative.
Robin Good: Let's see, though, what is indeed the difference about the two different levels of these slideshow-making service that you are providing. I've heard of two acronyms, PJ60 and PJ180. Do you want to share some more about the difference between the two?
Gregory Kostello: Yes. Part of it's in the name. PJ180 allows for three-minute songs to go with it, up to three minutes. PJ60 was really fixed on 60 seconds. We also allow for a lot more control. For example, transitions between each slide is, so the different dissolves, cross blends, colors, there's a lot of different examples of things that people have really asked for, and we really wanted to add those features. We also need to change the interface, anticipating that we would have thousands of songs available, thousands of tracks, it was really important to rethink the interface around that. And so we have done a good job on doing just that.
Because we give people a lot more control, the interface had to become more sophisticated. It's still very, very easy to create the initial slideshows, which you still wanted to preserve. We also wanted to give people who wanted to be very creative the ability to have a lot of different controls over their presentation, so we added those features in. Other examples were... people asked for more control over captions, and so one thing you're going to find is... we added things like thought balloons and little talking balloons so people can put comments right into their slides. It's really a lot of fun people are starting to have with it when we were doing the beta test, and it was really responding to that.
One thing that's also very interesting is our approach to development. We will be releasing new versions of this incrementally, probably every other week. And that is really to keep up with the fact that there is so much demand for types of changes people are looking for, but always with the mantra of having great design and making it very, very easy to use.
Robin Good: When did the service first launch?
Gregory Kostello: We first launched in October of last year. PJ came up in December of last year, and really we were working on it almost night and day through the first few months, so we did, an example was, we launched with Shanice, who is an independent artist - I'm sorry, an artist from Arista Records - and Shanice included some great new tracks for her album, and then we did a whole contest around creating a Valentine's Day card, sort of a digital Valentine's Day card, and we put different skins on it, so we allowed people to put different skins so you could basically frame your creation, really based on your mood or what you are trying to convey. And this was what we did in February of this year. Now, the new version gives you a lot more control with the same types of great skins that you have.
Robin Good: So what are the key next features coming up?
Gregory Kostello: Extended music library, is one. Expanded skins, two. Caption control, three. The ability to really control the transitions, extended length, and then, it's preparing for really being able to take your content and really share it with the world. So it's really a base for incremental change that will be happening over the next couple of quarters.
Robin Good: Great! Let me ask you a difficult one, Gregory. Who do you think are your closest competitors out there?
Gregory Kostello: It's hard to say. We haven't seen anything else quite like this. I think the closest you might see is something like iPhoto from the Macintosh, but that is really a full application, it's not really a web application per se. You create something and then you have a file that is a result of it, you create sites from that. But we really try to do is change how people use content. There might be other applications out there; I just am not familiar with them right now.
Robin Good: Good. I just published today a review about the tool that comes close in some ways to this one, is called Slide Story, at www.slidestory.com, and the review is available on MasterViews, which is my site devoted to presentation and PowerPoint-related technologies, tools, methods, and tips. Anyhow, that may be one, and in fact I'm hard pressed to come up myself with more. One last question for you, Gregory is what is your business model if everything for us is free?
Gregory Kostello: Great question. It's a lot like your website, I imagine, in that we are advertising-based. There is I think a tremendous amount of opportunity there, as more and more people go online. I'm sure you have heard the statistics and you have looked at the numbers, at Google' s huge growth on online advertising, the move to the web. It's something we have been talking about for years, and I think it really has caught on the last couple of years with that huge growth. So we are an advertising-based model.
Robin Good: Great. Well, I leave it to you, if you have one special question for me; it's the time to fire it.
Gregory Kostello: Well, it's not such a question, but I love the site. I guess I do have a question. What was the impetus behind the creation of your website?
Robin Good: Say that again, Gregory, I didn't catch that quite clearly.
Gregory Kostello: You seem to be very passionate about the Web 2.0; in fact I think you have one of the best sources on the net for that. What drove you to want to create your blog and your website?
Robin Good: Oh, it was basically an unstoppable need for sharing what I know, for making other people feel good and take action from the ideas, tools, discoveries, learning experiences that I did. That has been my driving force since the very beginning, and I was only lucky and thankful to the evolution of the web that there are now ways I can also monetize and support that desire.
Gregory Kostello: Well, you did a great job; I use you as a key source for us in discovering what's going on in the world, so I really appreciate your site.
Robin Good: Thank you, Gregory, we're doing our best to improve it and to make it become even better than what it is now, by gathering more information and news. You will see some new features coming up shortly also on our sites. But, here from Robin Good, live in Rome, Italy, this is all for today with Gregory Kostello, vMix, this new online service that allows you to create slideshows with your pictures and add music to them that is also licensed for you, original music that you don't have to pay for. It makes it easy, it allows you to add transitions, special effects, captions, and more, while sharing with everybody else online, without needing to install or configure any software. I would like to thank Gregory and his great team, including Jordan Rounds, who is the chief engineer that I know has been sitting next to you today, ready to jump in for any difficult question, and I leave it to you for final remarks, the URL, and any other thing you want to say to our readers and listeners today. Thank you, Gregory, and over to you.
Gregory Kostello: Thank you very much for the opportunity. We love to get feedback on our, any of our tools and any of our software, so please leave comments, send suggestions. I read every one. And thank you again for the opportunity to participate.
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