How to Synchronize a Narration Track with Slides, Using Windows Movie Maker

This post covers how to synchronize a narration track with slides using  Windows Movie Maker.  In a video editor it’s tedious to adjust the length of still images so that they change in synch with the narration.  But if you make the visual track first, and record the narration as you watch the video track playing, and then place this recorded narration into the music track of Windows Movie Maker, you will have a story line perfectly synchronized to the images which appear on the screen.

Movie Maker is part of Microsoft’s free suite of programs called Essentials.  When you download the Essentials suite you can choose which programs you want to install.  Check Movie Maker to install it.

After installing Movie Maker, download all the clips and pictures from your camera and place them in one folder.  This will be your Movie Maker project folder.  Do not move this folder to another location on your computer once it has been stocked with resources, because Movie Maker makes a map to where those resources are located, and if you move the folder Movie Maker won’t know where to find them.

Next, in Movie Maker’s home window, arrange the clips and still images in an order that best tells your story.  Video clips often have speech.  You may want to incorporate that speech in your story line, as I used the students’ self-introductions in my movie.  Your still images, of course, will not have a narration track yet.  Don’t worry about that yet.  Concentrate on the arrangement of visuals.  After you have arranged the clips and images in an order that suits your story, trim the undesirable portions from each clip and set the number of seconds you want each still image to play, imagining the words that you will speak to accompany each image.  Next, save your project and play it back.  Make sure that visually it tells the story that you want to tell, and also, that the tempo of the still images fits the narration that you have in mind.

Next, set up a program to record your narration.  For this step you will need a microphone of some kind, and a recording program that produces mp3 files.  A digital field recorder is very handy, but not required.  Test your setup to make sure that your microphone’s volume is set high enough to record clearly.  Play back what you have recorded to confirm that you have a good volume.

Now, here comes the crucial step:  Get ready to start your recording with a click of your mouse or a push of a button.  Set the cursor of your movie project at the very beginning of Movie Maker’s time line, and click it to play the movie.  As the movie plays, speak into the microphone the words which you to want say pertaining to each image. When the movie stops, stop recording.  Save your recording as an mp3 file.  You may need to trim off empty space at the beginning and/or end of the recording if you did not start or stop the recording precisely.  You can do this with Audacity, a free sound editor.  When you have completed this step you will have input for the audio track that will accompany the still image portion of your movie.

Next you will plug this input into the movie.  Here’s how:   Open the Movie Maker home window.  Click at the point in your story line where your first still image appears (the one that begins the series of stills which you have narrated).  Next, click on the “add music” icon at the top left of the Movie Maker home window, and select “add music at the current point.”  This will plug in your narration at precisely the right point to coordinate with the slides portion of your movie. Note:  Movie Maker doesn’t care that you are adding words instead of music.  The “add music” button is for adding sound of any kind.

Now go to the top and far left portion of the Movie Maker home window and in the pull down menu there select “save project.”  Play your project back to make sure you have achieved the desired result.  If so, select “publish movie”.

As a photographer I like using stills in my movies to tell a story.  To clue the viewer in on who is telling my slides story I have found it’s artful to start my movie with video clips (motion pictures) so that the viewer connects a voice with a face.  That way, when I cut away to the stills portion of my movie, the viewer remembers the voice and knows who is telling the story. Ending a movie with more video, as I did in the movie of this post, is a pleasing symmetrical way to structure the work, but not absolutely necessary.

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