Making Trip Photos into Movies

Making Trip Photos into Movies

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You return from vacation determined this time to come up with a way to turn the photos you took into a visually compelling story of your journey.

Last Friday, I explained how Google+, the free Storehouse app for iPad, and the Website can do that job for you. But all of them do so via “scrapbook or “visual essay,” and none of them produce “movies.”

Here are three ways that you can make your photos into a “moving” experience using software for either Apple Mac computers or the iPad.

I used still photos, music and narration to illustrate the similarities and differences between the final cinematic product created using each of those three methods.

iMovie on the Mac

Apple’s high-end video editing program is Final Cut Pro X. But its multitude of “bells and whistles” are more than the occasional filmmaker needs, and at $299.99 it’s relatively pricey.

On the other hand, if you purchased a Mac desktop or laptop computer within the last three years or so, Apple’s the lower-end, but quite powerful “iMovie” application probably came installed on it.

iMovie lets you combine still photos and video, add “titles” (words that appear on-screen, such as the name of the movie, director, and so on), music, sound effects, narration, and even scrolling credits, into a professional-looking film.

You can vary the volume of the background music, and set it so it automatically decreases during your narration. You can also control when the music fades in and out.

Instead of creating a regular movie project, you can use iMovie to make a “trailer”—like the short “Coming Attraction” flicks shown in movie theaters and YouTube to “tease” you into watching the entire film.

Once your movie is complete, you can post it on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and CNN iReport.

While iMovie is relatively easy to use, I’d recommend purchasing a printed manual, such as iMovie ‘11 & iDVD: The Missing Manual, to help you quickly find answers for questions that arise while you are editing your film.

Trimming video clips precisely and correcting color and audio problems with them can be a chore. So you might want to start your “film editing career” by just using still photos.

Such a “movie” might not sound like a movie at all. But you can make still photos appear to move by applying what’s known as “The Kens Burns Effect” to them. The “KBE” (named after the well-known American documentary filmmaker) zooms in and out, and pans across photos, creating the illusion of movement.

Here’s one of the short “movies” that I made from still photos only using iMovie ‘11.

I use iMovie ’11, but there is a newer version of the program available from Apple for $14.99 for those whose computer is running OS X 10.9.2 or later versions of the Mac operating system. That latest version lets you put your iMovie projects up in iCloud, Apple’s name for online storage, and then watch them in the “Theater” tab of iMovie on your Mac, iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

iMovie on Apple Mobile Devices

Apple’s  iMovie app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch costs $4.99 on the iTunes App Store.

The iMovie app works a bit differently on Apple’s mobile devices because they use a different operating system than Mac computers.

But both include the ability to combine still photos and video clips, add background music and narration, and share the completed film.

The latest version of the iMovie iOS app is somewhat different from the one that I wrote this detailed review back in 2012. For example, the Home screen no longer displays your film project’s name on movie marquee. But more importantly, an iMovie project created on any Apple mobile device can be uploaded to iCloud and viewed on any of your other Apple devices (as well as a Mac computer that has the latest version of iMovie installed on it) that are connected to the same iCloud account.

Here’s the version of “Driving ‘The Damned’ Road’” made with the iMovie app on my iPad.

 Creating the movie using the iPad was slightly more difficult than doing so on my Mac desktop since the iPad screen is smaller. And the iMovie app didn’t give me the same range of text size and fonts for the “titles,” nor as much control over how the “Ken Burns Effect” was applied to still photos.

The iMovie app would not let me set start of the video’s background music to a point after the “studio logo” and initial “title” screens, as I had done using iMovie ‘11 on my Mac desktop. And I had to come up with a “workaround” of sorts in order to play a different song during the scrolling credits using the iMovie app on my iPad.

The version of “Driving ‘The Damned’ Road’” made on the iPad runs 22 seconds longer than the one that I created using iMovie ‘11 on my Mac desktop, probably because I read the script for the narration at a slightly slower pace when recording it on my iPad.

But for the most part, there are no fundamental differences between the two movies.

Adobe Voice

Voice IconAdobe, best known as the developer of the Photoshop still photo editing program, sells two video editing programs for computers: Premiere (its answer to Apple’s Final Cut Pro X) and Premiere Elements (comparable to iMovie for Mac).

It recently released a free app for Apple’s iPad called “Adobe Voice” which it says will let you

‘[t]urn your story into an animated video. In minutes.”

Unlike iMovie, a Voice story uses only still photos or various “clip art” icons, and can’t include video.

The app lets you “source” photos from:

  • 100,000+ photos available from Adobe
  • Photos on your iPad
  • Those taken with your iPad’s camera while you are using Voice
  • Lightroom (another Adobe App)
  • Creative Cloud (Adobe’s “Cloud” photo storage)
  • Dropbox
  • Facebook

Don’t have just the right photos for your Voice story? You may be able to get them from Adobe by using the app’s “Search” function.

The only problem I ran into was that when searching for photos by place name, the search results sometimes included photos that I knew were from nearby places, not the location I had specified. And since captions don’t accompany the photos, you may not be able to tell if images actually match what you were looking for.

If you have taken photos with a digital camera, you can copy them to your iPad from your camera’s SD memory card using an iPad Lighting to SD Card Camera Reader (there’s a separate model for older iPads that use the 30-pin connector).

If the photos were taken with your iPhone, or are stored on a computer, you can transfer them to the iPad over WiFi using the Photo Transfer app.

Like iMovie, Adobe Voice lets you add narration and background music to your story.

This promotional video demonstrates how the app works.

These are the basic steps in using Voice to build a story that stretches over multiple “Pages”:

  • Tap on +Create A New Story
  • Answer “What’s Your Story About?” – Title or Idea
  • Pick a “structure” or “story arc”
  • Record narration associated with the “Page”
  • Add icons, photos, and/or or text to the “Page.”

After completing one “Page,” hit the + sign at the bottom right to add another.

At the top of the Voice screen there are three tabs:

  • Layout
  • Themes
  • Music

Under Layout you can pick:

  • One Thing
  • Two Things
  • Fullscreen photo (works best with horizontal or “Landscape” oriented photos)
  • Thing + Caption
  • Thing + Full Photo

The app will apply the “Ken Burns Effect,” but you have no control with how it works. If you try to display a photo shot in vertical (“Portrait”) orientation in full-screen in Voice, the app may cut off the top or bottom of the photo when it applies the “KBE.”

Themes are templates that set the background, text color and type style, and also whether there is framing around photos.

Voice has so many Theme from which to choose that I won’t list them all, but here are a few that I considered using for my Voice story:

  • Simple
  • Film
  • Playful
  • Satin
  • Simple
  • Wander

“Music” gave me at least a few choices under each of these “genres”:

  • Happy
  • Playful
  • Relaxed
  • Rousing
  • Thematic
  • Thoughtful
  • Uplifting
  • Warm
  • My Songs (music on my iPad)

Clicking on a song selection lets you preview it.

Background music will automatically “duck” (lower) so it plays more softly during the playback of your narration, but you can’t control its volume level.

Unlike iMovie for the Mac, you can only use one song, and it will run from the beginning to the end of hour Voice story.

Because I was trying to replicate “Driving ‘The Damned Road’” that I made with iMovie, I used “Cattails” from my iPad’s Music library, the same song you hear play before the scrolling credits in the versions made on my Mac and iPad.

The background music appears to continue looping throughout the playing of your story, and it automatically fades in at the beginning and out at the end.

While Adobe Voice has greater limits than iMovie on how background music is handled, adding narration with Voice is incredibly simple.

Narration is recorded on a single “Page” at a time, so if you have several “Pages,” you’ll have to decide which ones will include narration.

You simply hold down the “Record” button, recite your “lines,” review the recording, and re-record it if necessary.

Abode Voice doesn’t have a “Titles” feature like iMovie, so I created blank pages with “Title” text and inserted them between “Pages” with photos.

iMovie lets you control how long each still photo or video will display. Adobe Voice sets the timing and you can’t alter it.

The iPad has to be held vertically when you are creating a story with the Voice app, but it can be held horizontally when viewing Voice stories.

You can share a completed story on Facebook, Twitter, by text message or e-mail. (Apparently your Voice stories are also uploaded to the Adobe Voice “gallery” where others can see them, unless you choose to make them private).

However, even though I signed in with my Facebook credentials while using the Voice app, I still had set up an Adobe account.

Every time that you share an Adobe Voice project, the app seems to upload it the Adobe “gallery,” even if that’s already happened. The upload process seemed pretty slow to me.

You can also get a link to your story and insert it into any document or application that accepts hypertext links.

It’s also possible to embed a Voice story into a Website or blog, as I’ve done below with my “Driving “The Damned Road’” project.

To me, Abode Voice projects seem more akin to a scrapbooks, photo albums, or slideshows, albeit ones that include narration and music, and much less like a video, even one made entirely out of still photos using iMovie.

Choices, Choices

iMovie for Mac computers is the hands-down winner for creating movies that have a “Hollywood” feel to them from either still photos and/or video clips. The iMovie app is a close second, and will be useful to those who want to “make movies” while traveling without a laptop computer.

But Adobe Voice stories can be entertaining, and recording narration with the app is actually easier than doing so with iMovie, particularly if you flub your “lines” and have to re-record them.

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