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Written by Mark Evilsizor
From his column Church Techchurch-tech-05-15-1

Recently, I was helping a friend prepare for the untimely funeral of her sibling. She had a collection of photos she wanted to share to bring viewers into the story of her brother's life. For something this significant, she wanted to go beyond simply using PowerPoint and assigning one image to each slide. Carousels of slides were great in their era (I always looked forward to missionary night at church and seeing images from faraway places), but Ken Burns has shown us we can do better. If you want to present pictures with some narrative and engaging drama, Microsoft Movie Maker is a great free tool, and I will help you get started.

Before opening the software, gather your image files. Think about how long you would like your presentation to be (a nicely paced video will use about 10 images per minute). Pull together more than just formal portraits; include off-guard casual ones that reflect the full spectrum of a person’s life.

Most likely, you will have printed photographs as well as digital images. To get the prints into the computer, you need a scanner. Scan one image per file. If you try to scan multiple images at the same time, you will just create more work by needing to separate them on the computer afterward. If no scanner is handy, use your mobile phone to digitize prints by taking a picture of each of them. Cropping or simple editing can be done using free tools like Picasa or Irfanview.

Once you’ve gathered image files into one folder, make sure you have the software you need. Microsoft Movie Maker is included in many versions of Windows.

Now that you have your images and software, start it up. Once in the program, you can click to add videos and photos. In the dialog box that appears, navigate to the folder where image files are located, select all of them, and click “Open.” At this point you have essentially created a movie of a PowerPoint presentation. To add motion and make it significantly more interesting to viewers, you only need one click. In the “Auto Movie” themes options, choose “Pan and Zoom.”

After this, it will ask if you want to add music. Music enhances most presentations, so if it is appropriate for the occasion, click “Yes.” Then, navigate to the audio (mp3) file you want to use and click “Open.” To preview your freshly made video, select “Play,” and I think you will be surprised at how, with just a few clicks, your images have been transformed into an engaging, emotional story.

If you are pleased with what you have (or have exhausted the time you have to work on this project), skip this paragraph and move to the last step below. But if you have a little more time, you can tweak and adjust the video to make it even better. In the “Timeline,” rearrange the still images by dragging and dropping them. Depending on the occasion, you may want to arrange them chronologically, or you might intersperse them to contrast different times in life. Also, review the title screen to add your own, and edit or delete the built-in credit slides at the end.

Movie Maker allows you to control the direction of the animation, add captions, and more, but be careful not to get too carried away with these options. I have seen too many videos where swirling eddies of images distract from the story being told.

At this point, you have a Movie Maker project file. Click “Save Project” to keep your work in process. If you want to show the video on your computer, you are done. Click the “Play” button, and the “Full Screen” button, and your video story will appear.

But if you need to move your creation to a different machine, perhaps a DVD player or the presentation computer at your church, you need to take one more critical step. Your project file (the one you created with the program) contains only references to the images and music in your video. If you give this to someone, they will not be able to watch your video. It’s kind of like handing someone a list of books to read without giving them the actual books. To create a video file that will work on any computer, select “Save Movie.” This will drop down a list of options. For most situations, “Burn DVD” is what you want. Once you choose this option, just name your file and click “Save.” It may take your computer a few minutes to build this file depending on how many images and effects are in your presentation; however, once complete, you have something that can be shared on any computer and used at your event.

Whether it is a wedding, funeral, graduation or a gathering of friends, personal videos are a great way to tell powerful stories. I highly recommend using Movie Maker to add new life to your presentations and draw viewers into the stories you are sharing.

Now, what engaging story would you like to create?


Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.

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