Photofilms: Automated Slideshows for the Web

slideshow imageWhen I first started shooting video, I didn’t know how to relate that craft to shooting stills.  My  photographer friends seemed mostly given to making expensive prints.  I felt called instead to Web work, and using images to tell stories. That seemed best done with video. But I preferred shooting stills to video for a number of reasons.  I liked the relative simplicity of shooting stills.  I liked the purity of the decisive moment when the shutter is opened.  I liked the fact that a good still image remains in the mind forever.

Eventually I found that I could make automated slide shows for the Web.  It took me a long time to discover the right word for these.  They are not called slideshows, but rather, photofilms, a genre popularized by Ken Burns in his series for PBS about the Civil War.

I love making photofilms, because I’m moved not only by beautiful images but also beautiful words.  Writing a soundtrack script for a photofilm gives one exquisite control over narration.  Cobling together a cogent narration from a collection of documentary video or audio clips takes a lot of patience and persistence..  Photographer Maisie Crow show’s she’s mastered this genre in this black and white photofilm about a genetic disorder which leaves one always hungry.

Eventually I realized that in film making one doesn’t need to stick to either stills or moving pictures.Some photofilms mix the two media very artfully.   I haven’t actually done this yet myself, but I think I know how I could do it without breaking the piggy bank:  I’d make the photofilm first with SoundSlides, render that as a video, then put that .mp4 file on the timeline of my video editor and splice in the video clips where I wish.  Generally, re-rendering a video reduces its visual clarity, but not so much where still images are involved.  Using an .mp4 made from a SoundSlides show should look pretty good when rendered a second time.

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