Pixellu is a startup known for making extraordinarily intuitive and time-saving software for professional photographers. A company started by photographers for photographers, Pixellu aims to help streamline the workflow of product delivery, effectively giving photographers back their time, while simultaneously adding value to the final product the photographer delivers.
Their first product, SmartAlbums, gave photographers the ability to quickly design album spreads efficiently and professionally through a drag-and-drop interface and intuitive design. With the advent of SmartAlbums, photographers with little or no design background could suddenly create gorgeous album spreads in a fraction of the time it takes to design an entire album using traditional design software like Photoshop. It even allowed one photographer to deliver a wedding album to clients on the same day as their wedding. Last year, Pixellu came out with their second product: SmartSlides. SmartSlides follows in the footsteps of SmartAlbums with the primary goal of creating a time-saving and efficient workflow for photographers who’d like to offer their clients a slideshow option. It seems clear that Pixellu’s aim with their products is to help photographers save time by simplifying processes that have been difficult and time-consuming in the past. With this in mind, Pixellu has just released a significant update for their SmartSlides software in the form of “Automatic Beat-Matching.”
For any professional photographer (namely, wedding photographers) who focus on providing products with their services, being able to give the client a slideshow can be crucial to adding value to the photographer’s overall services. Slideshows can be a powerful tool as the music and photos paired together can create an emotional experience for clients, which is ultimately the goal of providing a slideshow to a client. With the ability to have songs automatically beat-matched, it makes the pairing of music and photos even more closely associated and can create a more seamless experience.
What Is “Automatic Beat-Matching”?
Simply put, the Automatic Beat-Matching feature within SmartSlides allows the user to quickly pair a song with photos and create a slideshow wherein the transitions change perfectly on beat with whichever song is chosen. This isn’t a new feature in regards to slideshow-specific software, but having the ability to have the song and photos automatically beat-matched without having to map each picture to a specific beat manually is new. Pixellu’s team professionally beat-matched their entire music library so that photos match the rhythm of each song perfectly.
How Beat-Matching Works Within the SmartSlides Workflow
In the past, I’ve been accustomed (with other slideshow software) to choosing the photos I’d like showcased in a slideshow first, then deciding music to match. With Automatic Beat-Matching in mind, SmartSlides workflow is a bit different. You begin the workflow by first selecting a song within the SmartSlides library. Along with the song length, Pixellu also provides the number of photos you’re able to include within your slideshow to perfectly fit the length of the song while also being beat-matched. This means you’re choosing a song for the sound and feel, while also considering song length and how many photos you’ll need to select to span the entire length of the song.
Once a song is chosen, you’re able to begin uploading photos to the SmartSlides interface. If the number of photos you’ve uploaded doesn’t match the specific amount of photos required to seamlessly beat-match a song, you’ll be given the option to either subtract or add more photos or to trim the song. You also have the option of adding photos to a new segment for longer slideshows.
Each track in SmartSlides music library offers two options for Automatic Beat-Matching. Essentially both options affect how quickly the images change during the slideshow. With the “Slow” option, you’re able to select fewer images, with each photo having a longer view period during the slideshow whereas the “Uptempo” option allows you to choose almost twice as many photos with a much shorter view time for each photo.
The Music Library
Although SmartSlides’ music library is much smaller in comparison to say, Animoto’s music library, the song selections are very good. Normally I’d expect the licensed music within slideshow software to be rather cheesy, but this isn’t the case with SmartSlides. While using Animoto to make slideshows, I’d often find myself spending at least 30 minutes just trying to find a good song to use for my slideshow. Contrastingly, I don’t see the smaller music library within SmartSlides as a bad thing because the music is so well curated. However, if you’re someone who prefers more music options, Pixellu has already stated that they’ll be significantly expanding their music library later this year.
You’d think that adding more features to what is supposed to be a time-saving and simplified process would add time, but Pixellu did a great job of incorporating Automatic Beat-Matching in a way that adds no time at all to the overall process. The entire slideshow creation took me just 2 minutes to complete (about 15 minutes total including uploading over 50 high-resolution images and publishing the slideshow). That's 2 minutes of hands-on work with 13 minutes of letting my computer and Internet do their thing while I multitasked in the background. I then made a second slideshow and uploaded only web-sized images, and the entire process from creation to publication (including image upload) took me 3 minutes.
Some photographers may be looking for a more robust slideshow platform with many options, and if you’re one of those photographers, SmartSlides isn’t for you. Bells and whistles are not the end-goal for SmartSlides and Pixellu. SmartSlides caters to photographers who are looking for ways to offer more to their clients in less time. Having the ability to have a song automatically beat-matched to photos is an added bonus. As a wedding photographer, I already photograph the wedding day, cull and edit the photos, upload the pictures to a gallery, then have to design a wedding album. All the technical parts of my job on top of the day-to-day administrative and marketing that I do to stay at the top of my game. The idea of adding another product, like a slideshow, to my packages is daunting. This is particularly true with software that I’ve used in the past. I could see myself easily adding slideshows to my packages with SmartSlides in my arsenal based solely on the time-saving alone. Though you don’t have all of the music or theme options other software may offer, you do have an efficient and quick workflow that adds little to the working photographer’s plate while still giving the appearance of a professionally produced slideshow. That, to me, is gold.
What I Liked
Naturally, I love the time-saver that SmartSlides and the addition of Automatic Beat-Matching achieve for my workflow. With Beat-Matching specifically, it adds a whole other level of professionalism and intention to the slideshow that in the past could only be accomplished through time-consuming process-intensive software. I also love that SmartSlides not only has the beat-matching ability, but it does so automagically, which is a huge plus for those looking to save time.
Another bonus is that SmartSlides is web-based, so there is no having to upgrade software or take up space on my hard drive. When Pixellu updates SmartSlides, like adding a new feature like Beat-Matching, the update is already there and ready when you log in to use it. Yet another great time-saver. Photographers who already use SmartSlides will find the feature ready to go the next time they log into their SmartSlides account.
What I Hope to See in the Future
It would be nice to have the option of customizing the beat-matching with songs. Maybe there is part of the song that I’d like the photos to change on every beat and another part of the song that I’d like the images to skip a beat or two before they transition. To be fair, I do see why customization may not be an option, particularly with time-saving being an end-goal of the software. I’d also like to see the ability to upload my own licensed music that is compatible with Automatic Beat-Matching. As it stands right now, only the default songs within the SmartSlides music library can be automatically beat-matched.
Overall, Automatic Beat-Matching is a great feature added to a platform whose aim it is to speed up and simplify a professional photographer’s workflow. I recommend SmartSlides to anyone looking to add more value to their photography without having to dedicate more time in front of a computer. I’ve been a big fan of Pixellu since they released SmartAlbums, and I find that the simplicity and speediness translate very well with SmartSlides, and if Pixellu continues to add neat time-saving features like Automatic Beat-Matching in the future, I’ll keep using their software well into the future.