Video slideshows can be a great way to showcase an event or create a tribute to someone or something. They can bring your still photos and video clips to life in a way that people can enjoy for years to come. Unfortunately the techniques used can mean the difference between a good project and one that leaves the viewer bored or underwhelmed. These techniques can take a long time to learn through trial and error so I’m going to share some guidelines here.
There are several pieces of software you can use for making these projects. I personally have been using CyberLink PowerDirector for many years and find their tools have a good balance between features and usability. They also have a great forum for help and learning new techniques.
Subject Matter, Workflow, and Music Selection
Your subject matter should be the first consideration when starting a slideshow. A 1st birthday party has a whole different feeling than a New Years eve party while documenting the birth of a child can actually have the same technical aspects of a memorial slideshow for someone that has passed. I have created all of these examples in the past and there are a few things to consider.
- Is this slide show meant to evoke a certain emotion or feeling?
- What am I trying to convey by this slideshow when it’s watched?
- What is the pace I’m going for? Fast and fun? Somber and thoughtful?
- What are the tastes, heritage, and background of the target audience?
After you have answered these questions you can start your workflow. Here is an example of how I layout a project.
- Gather media needed for the project. I edit all photos in external programs for red-eye and cropping prior to starting the project but edit video with in the program.
- Gather external graphics from the internet as needed. These can be satellite photos of the location from Google or the logo or sign from a place during the event. These will help to tell the story. Scanning invitations, wedding announcements, obituaries, etc. can add a lot to the production value of a slideshow.
- Import the media into your software workspace and start the timeline. Normally timelines go in chronological order unless there is a specific reason why they shouldn’t. A note to parents. Do not get stuck on specific dates that are close by each other if the event is not important. Holidays should be in order but if your child did something cute one week before another and the slideshow flows better with the images out of order it will help the project in the end.
- Now that you have all of the pictures and video in the timeline you might think that your ready to choose the music. This is a big mistake. You first need to set the duration of the slides so you know how long the slideshow duration will be and choose music selections accordingly. I will break away from the steps here to cover duration.
Slide duration has a lot to do with subject matter. A somber event merits a longer slide duration than a normal lets say birthday party. It gives the viewer time to reflect on the person or subject and the time and place the picture was taken. This is also true for emotional events like births and wedding ceremonies. Fun active events that cover a lot of content can get away with faster slide durations as the soundtrack you choose will probably be a faster tempo and these events can have a lot to cover. As with most things in life the hard road normally produces the best result. I’m speaking of setting your slide duration individually as opposed to a global setting. The professional photos of a newborn taken in the hospital can stay on the screen longer for instance than the proceeding shots of the family members holding the baby. This can add dramatic effect to the video. Likewise in a social event a group photo should stay on the screen longer than random party-goers doing shots at the bar. It gives the viewer time to digest the people in attendance and possibly spot themselves or people they may know in the crowd. Here are some basic guidelines.
- Basic shots– 3 seconds
- Graphics involving text – 5 ~10 seconds
- Group photos – 4~5 seconds
- Action shots or nonessential photos – 2.5 seconds
- Professional or dramatic photos – 4~5 seconds
- Memorial or location specific shots – 4~5 seconds
- Comedic shots intended to be short – 2 seconds
Once you have a basic idea of the duration of your project it’s time to choose the music. The song selection can set the tone for the entire show. This step should take some time and require you to really think about the subject. Think about what the intended audience enjoys or songs specific to the occasion or event. These can be patriotic songs for the fourth of July or loving songs for a new child. This can be the difference between a great project or one that just leaves the viewer confused or underwhelmed. Do not choose the length of the slideshow based on the slides choose it based on the music you really feel goes with the subject. You can always edit the slide duration and remove pictures to match the soundtrack. Occasionally if nothing can be cut you can fade out the last song on the sound track in an appropriate place and not have the show feel like it ended abruptly.
Here are some resources to help with your song selection……
Songs for Sons (I suggest Let Them Be Little)
Transitions and Effects
At this point you have a storyboard or workflow added to your timeline. You have selected your music and have it added to the audio track. you have gone through and adjusted the quantity and duration of your slides and video to match your soundtrack. Now it’s time to add some flair. In my experience for sentimental shows simple movement effects work the best followed by a fade. For activity events you can go crazy with all of the other tools that your software may offer. Because movement transitions are the mainstay of the video slideshow I will focus on these.
First some definitions. The effect is what happens while the slide is on the screen. Examples of movement effects are Pan and Zoom, Vertical Up, Vertical Down, Left Up, Left Right, Zoom In, Zoom Out, and so on. In essence it is how the still photo moves across the screen. There are also fancier effects like Broken Glass, Pop Art Wall, etc but these can either add or detract from your project depending on your intentions. The transition is what happens between slides or videos. Some examples are fade, blur, cross, and drain. Once again these can either help or hinder depending on your need. Your best bet is to experiment with these and find out what works with your project.
I have had the best results by using the atomatic effect feature in the software to add an effect to all photos in the timeline then edit them as needed. This feature will save you time as it will minimize the amount of editing you’ll have to do. Do not rely on this solely to make your project. The automatically added effects in my experience turn out perfect around 20% of the time with another 20% needing slight tweaking. For a good project you will need to manually go through each slide and verify and adjust the effect. Once again this will make or break the slide show. For instance the built in feature will botch portrait photos 9 times out of 10. This is because it will try to fill the screen with out adding black bars which virtually ruins portrait shots.
Your software should have some form of a manual effect editor. In Power director this is achieved by two boxes and is called motion designer. The size and placement of these boxes controls the effect on the slide. A larger starting box and a smaller ending box zooms in and the reverse will zoom out. The same size box in different places will pan from one to the other. Preview is always available and should be used. Here are some tips for these types of transitions.
- A large difference in the size of the boxes will create a fast effect which will be hard to focus on given the duration of the slide
- For dramatic or professional photos boxes of similar size and location will still add movement but will allow the viewer to observe the photo
- Two effects of the same type will clash in a slide show. For example two zoom in effects in a row can feel like your traveling through a tunnel. Try not to duplicate two effects in a row.
- The effect should either start or end on the focal point of the subject.
- Group photos should stay relatively centered with slow transitions
- If an action and response are in the same photo zooming out from the action tends to build anticipation
- Do not add effects on text slides. It makes them very hard to read.
- Portrait photos will have black bars on the side but the photo is what is important. Design the effect as to not compromise the content of the photo
- Left to right panning can be used for group photos if the slide duration is adequate for the subjects to be identified
- If backgrounds are important in a photo to describe time or place use a slow moving effect with little zoom or pan
Media Management and Planning for the Future
This is a hard lesson learned. Plan ahead when dealing with the media you are using for these projects. In the end you may have pictures, video, text, and audio files all included in your project. The location and names of these files are all tied to your project. Because of the size of HD video and large JPGs you need to come up with a system for storing these files in a manner that is consistent over time. There is nothing worse than spending days on a project then years later needing to open it up and having your media scattered and renamed across multiple locations. When this happens your software will ask you to locate each file manually in your project and it’s up to you to find it. Here are some tips to help with this.
- If you can dedicate a drive to keep your project files. Do not rename or move them and you can always open up an old project and go right back to work.
- If these are family photos use one scheme for organizing your media and stick to it.
- For all other media like audio and screen shots make separate folders and leave the files there. These are not part of your music collection they are audio files for your project. Treat them as such.
- Always Produce multiple versions of your finished project and keep them safe. If you are creating a DVD or web video you may be tempted to create the file in the software and be done. The resolution will be lower and so will the file size. Sometime down the road you will wish you had a 1080p version of that video and you will not be able to locate all of the files to recreate the project. Eat the storage space and create them at the time of editing.
These are all lessons I have learned with practice and hours of work I hope it makes your next project a little better.