Creating a video montage

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Photo montages, or slide shows, shared as part of a reception, special event or celebration are a powerful opportunity to remember, reflect and share glimpses of someone’s life. In today’s economy, however, this party-planning “line item” might not make the final cut. But you may have the software needed for a professional-looking slide show already on your computer.
Today’s video-editing programs are meant to compile many forms of media–photos, video clips, text, illustrations and audio–making an engaging, compelling special occasion montage easy. But whether you produce a video on your own or enlist someone else to help, there are a few points to keep in mind to make the entire process more efficient and for creating an engaging video montage that tells your story while keeping viewers interested.

Things You’ll Need

  • Whether you own a PC or a Mac, you most likely have the basic software (Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, respectively)
  • Scanner
  • Audio files
  • Build a storyboard. A photo montage that bounces back and forth through the years with seemingly no sense of continuity may feel fun for you but can be jarring for your viewers. Consider the story you want to tell with your montage. Are you showing a bar mitzvah’s life from birth to the present? Do you want to depict an engaged couple’s history and interests or create an anniversary presentation highlighting various family member’s memories? Deciding on a plan gives your project framework and will help as you search for photographs and music and organize your materials.
  • Timing is everything. There’s a fine line between a perfectly orchestrated slide show and an assault on a captive audience. Generally, an amenable length for a video montage is about four to eight minutes, depending on the pace of the show and particularly the music. (Six minutes of slow ballads, and your guests may begin to doze.) Having a time frame will give you a guideline for your photo search. A rule of thumb is about three or four seconds per photo, or approximately 15 photos a minute. That’s about 60 photos in a four-minute slide show.
  • Organize your memories. For some, this can be the most time-consuming aspect–exploring old photo albums, rifling through digital storage or scanning framed pictures. Once you choose the elements, keep them organized and accessible. You might put all of the media in a dedicated folder on your computer or save them all to a data CD. If you are preparing these elements for someone else to create the montage, it’s important to label the files somehow to make it clear how they should appear in the show.
  • Choose meaningful music. Take any video clip or array of pictures and imagine how the emotional response might change with various pieces of music–whether rock, classical, inspirational, or reggae or the score from a suspense film. Your sound track will change the overall feel of the presentation.
  • Learn the lingo. Today’s video editing programs have their various features and idiosyncrasies, but they share some similarities in terms of basic building blocks. Usually you can import various forms of media (photos, video, audio) into a “collection” (or in iMovie, an “event”). Copy pieces from these to a working time line, which is where you will edit these items and add titles, transitions and effects.
  • The effects of effects. Transitions and effects are another of these slide show “black holes” that can keep your attention for hours on end. Simply … they are fun. Yet, use them in moderation. If your audience is noticing your transitions–screen wipes, swirls, flips and spins–rather than your photos, you are missing your mark. Find effects and transitions that complement your show, that make sense with the music and the theme, that improve the impact of your story rather than overpowering it. For example, a spinning transition accompanying a bopping rock song adds power; for a more reflective picture, ease in or use a soft dissolve.
  • Share your story. So you’ve got an entertaining slideshow–now what? You have some options, and it depends on what will be available when you share your show (a laptop and projector? a DVD player and television hookup?). Save the show to your computer in a usable format, probably a .WMV file if using Windows, although an .AVI file may be more universal if it is to run on another computer (for instance, using a DJ’s equipment). If you have the software, such as iDVD on the Mac, you may want to create a DVD.