Sunday, July 8, 2012

Slideshowin' Off

Part of our never-ending wedding planning includes the ubiquitous slideshow presentation. I am sure you have seen them in at least a couple of weddings - photos from birth to present of the bride and the groom, followed by shots of the couple since they started dating. Today's technology is making these a lot easier to create - I remember running an actual slide projector at a friend's wedding almost 10 years ago!

We knew we wanted a video element during the reception, but in the back of my mind I wasn't sure how we would work it out since we don't have any movie making software or a fancy Mac. Turns out, I didn't have to make things so complicated. After a bit of research and google searching this weekend, I realized that the slideshow could be done on my current computer with FREE tools!

The Software
After searching around for free downloads, I actually took a minute to look at what was already loaded onto my Dell. Wait a second - what was Windows DVD Maker and why had I never noticed it before?? I opened up the program and quickly caught on. By dropping all of the photos into the folder - and easily rearranging them - the slideshow built itself.
Within another menu, you can choose the music that accompanies the slideshow and set the timings of the slide transitions to fit the length of the audio. More on how the music choices were made and edited below. 
The menu choice for the "play" button could be changed to our preferred fonts for our wedding - Peignot Demi & Peignot Bold. Stay tuned for a full write up of how we created our invites, programs and more using this modern font. Fun Fact from Wikipedia: Peignot was used during the first three seasons of The Jerry Springer Show.
Background photos for the menu screen can also be customized in a lot of different ways. I just went with the standard full screen photo as opposed to some of the jazzier options.
The Music
Certain elements of our wedding were in formation long before the actual engagement. Nothing as vital as the dress I was going to wear or the ring Bob would pick out, but creative ideas for the Save the Date and music for the processional and recessional stuck in my head years earlier and luckily Bob has been amenable! Likewise, some songs that I knew I wanted involved in the reception somehow were also top of mind. The choices for our three song snippets for the wedding slideshow then came about pretty easily.

Bob's photos - God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. Bob has mentioned before that he loves this song and its lovely melody adds a nice pace to the photos without being too slow.

Lydia's photos - Romeo and Juliet by The Killers. Listening to Dire Straits always reminds me of my childhood ("I Want My MTV. . . "), but this rendition, from their compilation Sawdust, is pretty killer.

Bob & Lydia photos - Burnin' Love by Elvis Presley. We both love a good Elvis song and I think the lyrics and beat fit photos of a young couple falling in love over time pretty darn well.

My one goal with our slideshow was to keep it short. No one wants to sit and stare at the screen for 10 or more minutes. After all, that's precious time getting taken away from dancing! It just so happened that each song had a perfect fade out opportunity at around the minute and a half mark, which would make the total slideshow a little less than 5 minutes long.

Now how to edit the songs? I started with a go-to tool I have used for work projects called Audacity. A free download, this easy to use software allows you to cut, amplify, rearrange and more. My first challenge was the filetype. My music from CDs were in my iTunes library as .m4a. Audacity can play with .wav files. I thought for sure I would hit a dead end because the music industry needs to protect their songs, and rightly so. But after a little more google searching, the answer was right in front of me.

1. Open iTunes
2. File > Preferences > Import Settings > Import as: WAV encoder.
3. Find your song and right click on it. Now the option to "Create WAV version" should appear.
4. The WAV file will be saved just under the original file.

I opened each file in Audacity, zoomed in so the chopping points were obvious and cut out everything after a minute and a half. I then highlighted the last few seconds and chose the "fade out" option under Effects. You export the file as .wav and save wherever you need it.
Then, all you have to do is browse for your files and add them to the DVD project. I thought I might need to combine all three files into one song, but the Windows tool makes a seamless transition from one file to the next.

The Photos
Because I have not actually burned the project to a DVD yet, I am leaving myself some room to play with the photos that I chose for the slideshow. Knowing the length of time of the songs and the preferred length of each photo to appear, we landed on having 18 photos displayed for each section. This allows about 5 seconds of airtime per photo which is enough to digest the whole picture but not so long that you get bored. Using the feature "Cross Fade" for transitions - called "Ken Burns Style" on some sites - adds a bit of storytelling beyond the typical PowerPoint star wipes. Although, who doesn't love a good star wipe??

From birth to present can be a tall order, especially when dealing with boxes upon boxes of childhood photos and a limit of 18 photos. We tried to get a good mix of each age range, feature all the key relatives and friends and focus on life events like senior photos, graduations, travel and more. We averaged 6 photos ages 0-10; 6 photos from 10-20 and 6 photos from 20-30 (well, 30 for some of us, 29 for the younger of us two :-)
Bob is going to do a pass through when he is home this weekend to see if he can find some more options for his section, but using a scanner and a Shutterfly scrapbook his Aunt made for him a few years ago actually proved quite fruitful. A quality scanner is a good thing to have for a project like this.
The photos of Bob and I were a little easier to organize; meeting in 2007 meant all applicable photos have been archived on or on my computer network. Ranging from our first Halloween together (one month into dating) to a San Diego Padres game (9 months into dating) to rockin' it out in the photo booth of a friend's wedding (1 year into dating) to a pose in front of the Great Pyramids of Egypt (3 1/2 years into dating) to our housewarming party for our purchased condo (4 years into dating) it runs the gamut.
One outstanding item I stil have to add is an end screen. Rather than end with a photo, I am trying to find a quote or phrase to close out the slideshow. Something like, ". . .and many more memories to come." Any suggestions are welcome!

I'm saving the finished product for the wedding so no sneak peeks just yet! Our venue has a plasma television attached to the wall with DVD player so we'll test out the disc during an upcoming vendor walk through to ensure it will go off without a hitch. Fingers crossed the DVD burner works correctly and the finished product comes out well on the big screen.

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