There is no question that the biggest “new” advancement in the photo booth industry is social media integration. As we scramble to seek ways to use social media to our advantage in the industry, I caution that we not forget the real-time environment during a photo booth event. Before we concern ourselves with how to WORLD will see our prints, let’s not forget the guests that are actually there at the event. How do we engage the guests with our handy work? It can be the actual paper prints we output, but it’s also the slideshow!
Depending on the market, some vendors offer slideshows, and other don’t. Some vendors charge extra for them, others don’t. I am sure there are several factors why photo booth vendors vary so greatly on this aspect of the business, but for me, I decided even before starting my photo booth build that I wanted a LIVE slideshow and that I was going to include it at every photo booth event at no additional charge.
On Photoboothowners.com and other photo booth websites, this topic has been discussed ad nauseam. What program do I use, how do I extend my desktop, and more importantly, how do I “auto update” my live slide show automatically. There are many different ways to tackle this issue, but to do it over wireless and to do it with some form of tablet/personal device (a.k.a. not a full fledged personal computer) , there are very few options. With the purchase of a couple pieces of relatively inexpensive hardware, you can create a completely expandable, auto updating, live slideshow presentation system at will make your completion “green with envy”.
The Eye-Fi Card
Eye-Fi, Inc, a company headquartered in Mountain View, CA, has a line of SD cards with built in wireless routers (802.11 b/g/n on the 2.4Ghz band). The price range on these products are $39.00 to $99.00US. For my experimentation, I used the Eye-Fi Connect X2 ($39.00). This card can be used in most cameras equipped for an SD card.
For our experimentation, we will not be putting this card in a camera, but connected directly to our photo booth main computer via the SD to USB card reader provided in the packaging. If you are using Breeze photo booth software (http://www.breezesys.com), in your output settings, you can save your prints to a second file location (this is the same location where you can crop the 2×6 print from the 4×6 “double strip”). I simply choose the Eye-Fi’s DCIM folder as the file saving location. You must be careful of your file names however! The Eye-fi card will only transmit images with filenames that follow the 8.3 format (filename.ext).
The instructions to setup the Eye-Fi Connect X2 via the Eye-Fi software is pretty straight forward. You will also need to download the Eye-Fi iOS app from the Apple App Store. The Eye-Fi iPad/iPod app is a free download. The iOS app is required to create the iOS profile that is required for the two devices (Eye-Fi & iOS device) to communicate. Once the iOS profile has been created on the iOS device, the iOS app is really no longer necessary. In my opinion, the iOS Eye-Fi app is not very good. I don’t find it very user friendly, and my biggest gripe is that it only copies the photos into the iOS photostream. There is no way to setup a separate location for the photos to be stored (album). This is a problem if there are other pictures in your photostream that you don’t want to show in your Photostream slideshow. There is a better application to use. Let me introduce, ShutterSnitch!
ShutterSnitch (and the “iOS device”)
ShutterSnitch ($19.99US-available only on the Apple App Store), developed by Brian Gerfort of 2ndNature, is the only application I have been able to find in either the Android or iOS market that allows for auto update slideshow presentations. ShutterSnitch will wireless transfer images to your iOS device from your Eye-Fi, Transcend Wi-Fi, Toshiba FlashAir, PQI Air card, or PTP/IP. The ShutterSnitch app is only available for the iOS. ShutterSnitch is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch 4th generation, and the iPad. It requires iOS 4.3 or later. This means if you don’t have an “iSomething” device, go buy one! It’s hard to beat the flexibility and convenience of an iPod Touch or an iPad. I am a BIG, BIG, BIG Windows® guy, believe me, “this is saying something!” If I can do it, you can do it too;o)
One of the reasons that I was so excited about discovering ShutterSnitch was because it will also work on the iPod Touch 4th generation. You can find refurbished iPod Touch 4th generations for $159.00US or less. The iPod 4th generation would be a good alternative if you can’t afford the extra cost of an iPad.
Once the setup is complete, you simply connect to the Eye-Fi card as if it were a wireless network. This is called “Direct Mode”.
ShutterSnitch places the incoming images in Albums called “Collections”. It is easy to organize all of your different events and not have to worry about deleting them between events. The feature that prompted my quest for a slideshow presentation system is the ShutterSnitch Slideshow feature. The slideshow feature works within a specific Collection. This means that last week’s photo booth prints will not show up in this week’s slideshow. The slideshow will auto update and if chosen, add the newest transmitted image to the front of the queue in the slideshow.
The latest update to the software (2.9.8) has added a new setting to the Slideshow feature that is HUGE for us in the photo booth industry. The setting is called “External Screen Orientation”. You can choose Normal, Rotated clockwise, Rotated counterclockwise, or upside down. You might ask, why is this important? The issue is with the Apple iOS. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Apple does not allow the rotation of the external monitor output to be rotated. Meaning, if you hook up your iOS device to a TV or an LCD Projector, “UP” is always “up”, no matter the orientation of the iOS device itself. There are ways of changing the external orientation by jailbreaking the iOS device, but I wanted a solution without jailbreaking. Now you still might be asking,” I still don’t understand what this has to do with the photo booth industry?” Well, here it is… If you are using a portrait oriented 2×6 template, it has A LOT to do with us. A 2×6 strip is normal formatted in a portrait orientation. A TV or even an LCD projector is oriented in a landscape configuration. If we are going to make the most advantage of the available screen, our slideshow images must be portrait oriented and not landscape. This would then allow us to change the physical orientation of the monitor, TV, or LCD projector to a portrait orientation therefore making our images present larger. The iPad 2 and newer will output a screen resolution of 1080p. The iPod 4th Generation will output to 720p. This is more than adequate for our purposes for an image slideshow. Depending on your final output device, you can either use the Apple 30 pin to VGA Adapter or the Apple 30 pin to HDMI adapter.
The TV, LCD Projector, or the iOS Device
By using a flat LED TV instead of an LCD projector, you cut down on your tripping hazards as the projector needs to be either out in the audience, or behind the rear projection screen. Either way, unless you have what is called a “short throw” projector, you need to have at least 10 to 15 feet of space to make a decent size slideshow. A TV can be placed anywhere, preferably up against a wall, limiting the trip hazards and limiting the temptation of the “shadow puppet” entertainer;o) When using my iPod touch, it is simply attached to the back of my TV with Velcro®. You could also simply use the iPad as the presentation monitor, but in most circumstances, it’s just too small.
The main advantage to this system is that it is NOT tethered to your booth. I typically have the slideshow placed in a strategic location where the maximum amount of guests can enjoy the slideshow. Depending on the model of Eye-Fi card you choose, the distance the card will transmit images will vary. There are reports that the Connect X2 (lowest cost card) will only transmit about 45 feet. I have experimented with my setup and had no problems transmitting to a distance of 85 feet just a few weeks ago in a large open space (no obstacles). Your “mileage” may vary. All the pitfalls of wireless communication are also in play in this setup. My Eye-Fi card actually sits atop of my booth, which helps with range. The card reader is connected to a USB extension cable (36-in) which is then connected to the computer inside the booth. On another point of interest in using this setup to increase the range, if the Eye-Fi card and the iOS device are on the same WiFi network, the Eye-Fi card will transmit the images via the WiFi network instead using the “direct mode” (Eye-Fi to iOS device) that is described in this documentation.
I hope that you have found this documentation “entertaining and instructive”.
Jon Luckey has been a middle school business teacher for 15 years and a small business / residential computer consultant with a specialty in geriatric computing services for 13 years (Luckey Technologies). Jon is happily married to Elizabeth and they have two daughters.
Jon was raised on a large dairy farm operation in Northeastern Indiana. He holds degrees and licenses in Elementary Education, Social Studies Education and Computer Education. In February 2012, Jon had his 20th Anniversary as an Amateur Radio Operator (“ham”) with an FCC Amateur Extra Class license. LUCKTECH PHOTOBOOTHS is a service of Luckey Technologies and services areas within a 100 mile radius of Fort Wayne, IN.