How to Make a Narrated Photo Film

This CyberKenBlog post tells how to make a narrated photo film. A photo film is a video made entirely with still images. If you saw Ken Burns’ public TV film series about the Civil War, featuring still photographs from that period, which he panned and zoomed to give an impression of movement (now called the “Ken Burns effect”), then you know how powerful a photo film can be. Making a photo film without narration is a snap. There are scads of applications that will adjust the play length of photos so that the whole show lasts exactly as long as the background music. Narration, however, adds two challenges, one technical, the other aesthetic.

The technical challenge of making a narrated photo film:

How to adjust the duration of each photo to coordinate with key words in the narration. In other CyberKenBlog posts I’ve recommended SoundSlides for this task. I don’t think you’ll find a better tool.

The aesthetic challenge of making a narrated photo film:

How to write a narration script that takes full advantage of the impact of your images. Some beginners write their narration first and then drop in images here and there, like illustrations in a book. Often this results in not having sufficient images to support all the transitions in the story. Also, writing the script first reduces the impact of the images by reducing them to illustrations of concepts that are already adequately expressed through words. Don’t rob your images of their unique power to impress the mind and heart instantaneously, without words! Let your images drive the story. Here’s how to do that:

1. Use a storyboard software or the free app for Windows users, Irfanview, to arrange the thumbnails of your photos in a sequence that shows the story you want to tell. Finding a satisfying sequence may take a while.

You may want to experiment with several possible sequences. Keep in mind that what viewers experience when viewing a particular image is influenced by the images they saw just before. The visual meaning of images is not fixed, but varies according to context. Keep experimenting with the order of your photo thumbnails until you’re sure you have the best possible sequence. As you get clearer and clearer about the story you want to tell you may decide to remove certain images, or add new ones which you hadn’t considered at first. Finally you will settle on the images for yor film and their sequence. It’s time to batch rename the files in numerical order so that when you import them into SoundSlides they keep their proper place in line.

2. Open the free sound editor, Audacity, and place your recorded narration on a stereo track.

You may want to add music and sound effecxts on separate stereo tracks. Need help using Audacity? This CyberKenBlog how-to video should suffice. Export your Audacity project as an .mp3 file and you’re ready to begin your SoundSlides project.

3. Launch SoundSlides and name your new SoundSlides project.

You will be prompted to locate a folder of .jpeg files and an .mp3 file. Navigate to the folder of renamed jpegs that you have saved, and the .mp3 file you exported from Audacity.  Caution:  Put your sound files and your photos in a location where you can let them remain.  Soundslides does not copy those files, but simply maps their location on your computer.  If you move the files after working them into a Soundslides project, or worse, if you subsequently erase them, then your Soundslides project will be broken because it will not be able to access the necessary source files.

4. Using SoundSlides, drag the frame edge of each jpeg so that it begins to play at the precise instant the narration requires.

Do this for each photo in the slide show. I have found that if I have many photos in the show, 50 or more, pulling the last few frame edges is difficult because last ones get so bunched together that it’s hard to separate their frame edges. If you get stuck like this, add three or four extra photos to the end of the SoundSlides time line. This will move the frames you want to manipulate to the left, away from the bunching. You can discard the extra photos after you have finished syncing the last photo of your show.

5. Save your project and export it as a SoundSlides show by clicking “export”.

To show your SoundSlides show in a web browser, locate the “publish to web” folder from the last step and upload it by FTP to the public html folder where your domain’s files are hosted. Once it is uploaded there, rename it with the title you wish to give the show. Viewers will be able to see the show by typing into the url window of their browsers first your domain, followed by a forward slash, followed y the name you gave your show. For example, I uploaded a SoundSlides show to the server that hosts my domain, CyberKenBlog.com. I renamed that show from “publish_to_web” to returning_to_vietnam. My viewers can now see my show by typing in their web browsers: http://www.cyberkenblog.com/returning_to_vietnam.

Try it! I really love SoundSlides! Not just because it’s easy to use, but also because it makes super videos. You can configure it to stream video almost full screen. But that’s material for another post.

 

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