Tips for making a movie from your photos: a composer's perspective


Tips for making a movie from your photos: a composer's perspective

May 25, 2011

Drawing from over 15 years of experience working with combining images and music, I greatly enjoy making movie slideshows from my favorite personal photos. Combining these priceless images with a great music track (more on that soon!) can be an emotionally compelling experience. I have used different versions of iMovie as well as Premiere Elements and have found certain concepts that, if kept in mind, will make for a more effective video no matter what movie making software you use.

Start with a great music track

Choosing the right soundtrack is important. It sets the vibe for your photos and gives you the framework and timings you will need to build your slideshow movie. If you pick a song with lyrics, be careful that the lyrics remain on-message. Depending on your music tempo, transitioning from one photo to another every two bars (eight beats) is a good starting point, but some photos need to linger a little longer. A longer look for a photo also means more time for an effective slow zoom. Once you figure out, according to your music's tempo, how many seconds eight beats take you can make all of you photos last that amount of time.

Stick with classic transitions

Go with what you see the top directors use in their films -- smooth fades, crossfades, fade to black and back again. These are the classic transitions that look totally professional. Try to resist using the eye-popping, swooping, spinning, and other disruptive options. These may look more interesting when building your movie, but in the end they become a huge distraction that takes the viewer out of the experience. An occasional fade to white (and back out again) at a key emotional moment can be wonderful.

Easy on the zoom

Using the "Ken Burns effect" looks really fantastic. For non-Apple users, this is a slow zoom effect where the camera perspective seems to glide across the picture. It can be beautiful, however, it can also become dizzying if the zoom happen too quickly. Try to keep it subtle. An almost imperceptibly slow zoom can be surprisingly intimate and powerful. Try to keep your subject in the photo in a somewhat stable position so that your eye doesn't have to track across the screen as it zooms. You can use a zoom in or out on virtually every photo if you keep the moves varied and slow.

Add a little video

Sometimes the best way to create some variety is to introduce a short video clip of 10 to 15 seconds. Mute the sound of the video clip so that it doesn’t interfere with the music mood. If the movie is not widescreen, it can look really nice to create your own letterbox effect by placing black bars on the top and bottom of the frame.

Hopefully these tips can help you make your home movies even more satisfying to create and watch. Here are a few links to some great tutorials for additional movie ideas.

Tips and tricks for iMovie transitions
12 Cool Tips and Tricks for iMovie
6 Quick Tips for Using Adobe Premiere Elements


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