Add Some Music to Your Memories

The honeymoon, the birthday party, the family vacation. These and other big events tend to draw Kardashian-level photo coverage, what with everyone and their brother armed with digital cameras and multi-megapixel phones and tablets.

The question is, what do you do with all those photos? How can you arrange them in such a way that you’ll actually want to look at them again — and make them inviting for others to view?

Think MTV: Turn them into a music video. Thanks to simple software and Web tools, you can turn any batch of photos into an animated, engaging slideshow, complete with a musical soundtrack of your choosing. Then you can choose your delivery method: DVD, Facebook, YouTube, even a password-protected online viewing room.

Before you get started, however, make sure to back up your photo library. You can do this any number of ways: copying it to an external drive, uploading it to an online service, and so on. The best security suites include Web-based backup capabilities for just such purposes. Because you never know when a system failure, malware attack, or house fire will wipe out your precious data — photos and all.

The first thing you’ll need to decide is how you’re going to create your slideshow. You have two basic options: software or a Web service. Let’s look at one standout from each category.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Available as a free download from Microsoft, Movie Maker turns photo collections into musical slideshows with amazing ease. Just click “Add photos and videos” to import your pictures, then “Add music” to choose an MP3 or other audio file to serve as the soundtrack. Next, click one of the handful of available AutoMovie themes, which will automatically apply a title overlay and transitions (such as fade or pan-and-zoom). That’s all there is to it.

If you want a little more customization, you can mix up the transitions, apply visual effects to one or more photos, and so on. And when you’re done, Movie Maker lets you share your slideshow on Facebook, YouTube, and other services — or save it to your hard drive.

Animoto offers easy click and drag commands.

Animoto

This movie-making service works its magic entirely on the Web. You can upload your photos and/or sync them directly from the likes of Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa — thereby making it easier to add not only your own snapshots, but also those of your friends and family members.

Once you’ve compiled your collection, Animoto whips them into an animated slideshow, with your choice of music and a decidedly Hollywood-style flourish. The results look like something that took you hours of painstaking work, not minutes of simple clicking. And if you’re not happy with the video, just click “redo” — Animoto will generate something entirely different.

You can share the finished product almost anywhere online, or download it for archiving and/or DVD burning. Animoto costs $5 per month, but there’s a free option that limits you to 30-second movies — a good way to test-drive the service.

The secrets of slideshow success

A good photo slideshow should last anywhere from three to five minutes — about the length of the average song. Assuming each image appears for five seconds, you’ll need 12 photos per minute, or roughly 36 to 60 photos for your entire movie. With those numbers in mind, you can cull the very best of your snapshots.

You’ll also want to choose a song that really fits the theme, like a Beach Boys tune for a summer-vacation montage or something romantic to accompany a wedding montage. Song selection is half the fun, so feel free to experiment until you find just the right tune.

Finally, keep transitions and special effects to a minimum. With so many options at your disposal, it’s easy to go overboard — but it's usually best to stick to slow fades and simple pan-and-zooms.

[ This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of TechHive. ]

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