Monday, June 15, 2009

Making a Father's Day Video

Give a man a video, he gifts for a day; teach a man to create videos and he gifts every special occasion.

...or something like that.

So, here is what you do to make a Father's Day video. First you take a program like the free easy-to-download Windows Movie Maker. This program requires you to have a 600 MHz processor, Windows XP, 128 MG of RAM, a 256 color video card, and a sound card and speakers (or headphones). If you plan to record your video to a CD, you need a CD drive with the capability of writing to the CD. It would also help to have an internet connection, which you obviously already have.

Not much to require, is it? Pretty easy stuff. Optional other equipment needed depends on how you plan to get your materials into the video. If you want your old baby pictures included in the video, you could use a scanner. Another option is to take them to a photo processing store (or the photo department at Wal-Mart) or Kinko's. They can scan your photos and email them to you or create a CD, post them online or download them to a thumb drive for you. Some copiers also have the capability of emailing color images, so check around wherever and whenever you are near a copy machine (surreptitiously, of course).

Obviously, the first step is to gather your images and get them on your computer. Many of my projects have this task covered already. Those people I am creating videos for are on Facebook, and their photos have already been uploaded to their online photo albums. In this case, I can simply right-click and save the images to a folder I've labeled "movie pics" on my computer.

Once you have all of the images in your properly labeled folder, open the program which you've already have downloaded the program, right? If not, do it now and come back to


In the task window on the left-hand side of the screen, click on "Import pictures". Browse to the folder which holds all of your photos and select all of them and click "Import".

Now you have all of your pictures in the main window, but they aren't yet in a video. One by one, drag and drop them into the window at the bottom of the screen. Make sure you see the words "Show timeline" at top of this window. This indicates that you are in storyboard mode, instead of timeline. Do this in the order you want them to be displayed (you can edit this easily later).

Once you have all of your pictures in the video, it is time to take the most important step. Now is the time to add a song. The song creates the mood and conveys the message of the video. All of the photos revolve around this song. You may already have a song in mind. Maybe it's your father's favorite song, or perhaps it is a song that simply reminds you of your father. (For me, that song is "Kind and Generous" by Natalie Merchant.) If neither happens to be the case, has a gazillion songs for you to choose from. Downloading songs (especially ones of good sound quality) are hardly ever free, but if they are, they are almost never legal. Amazon makes it very simple and cheap for you to snag your song. Most mp3's cost 99 cents or less, and if you are lucky, you could find it free.

Here are some suggestions, though.

Contemporary Songs:
Father And Daughter by Paul Simon
Daddy's Little Girl by Michael Bolton
Do I Make You Proud/Takin' It To The Streets by Taylor Hicks
Butterfly Kisses by Jeff Carson
Ready, Set, Don't Go by Billy Ray Cyrus
I Wanna Be Like You by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Oh How The Years Go By by Vanessa Williams
Lean On Me by Michael Bolton
That One Is My Dad by Keni Thomas
Kind and Generous by Natalie Merchant

Old Country Songs:
A Boy Named Sue (Live) by Johnny Cash
Thank God I'm A Country Boy by John Denver
So Much Like My Dad by George Strait
They Don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy Anymore by Loretta Lynn
Lean On Me by Anne Murray
Love Without End, Amen by George Strait
Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line (Live) by Waylon Jennings
Daddy's Hands by Holly Dunn
Seein' My Father In Me by Paul Overstreet
Daddy Never Was The Cadillac Kind by Confederate Railroad
Daddy Won't Sell The Farm by Montgomery Gentry
You've Got To Stand For Something by Aaron Tippin

New Country Songs:
Song For Dad by Keith Urban
He Didn't Have To Be by Brad Paisley
Stealing Cinderella by Chuck Wicks
In My Daughter's Eyes by Martina McBride
My Little Girl by Tim McGraw
I Loved Her First by Heartland
Let Them Be Little by Billy Dean
Tough Little Boys by Gary Allan
Lean On Me by Rascal Flatts
Lessons Learned by Carrie Underwood
I Hope You Dance by Leann Womack

R & B Songs:
Dance With My Father (Album Version and Radio Version) by Luther Vandross
Wind Beneath My Wings by Elisabeth Withers

Rock (Alt Rock) Songs:
With Arms Wide Open by Creed
Daughters by John Mayer
Stand By Me by Playing for a Change
My Hero by Foo Fighters

Classic Songs:
Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) by Billy Joel
Unforgettable by Nat King Cole featuring Natalie Cole
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life by Stevie Wonder
Lean On Me (Single Version) by Bill Withers
You've Got A Friend (LP Version) by James Taylor
You've Got A Friend In Me by Randy Newman
That's My Dad by Paul Peterson
It's For My Dad by Nancy Sinatra
My Heart Belongs To Daddy by Eartha Kitt
My One True Friend by Bette Midler
Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler
I'll Be There For You (Theme From Friends) (LP Version) by The Rembrandts
My Father's Eyes (Album Version) by Eric Clapton

For Fathers Who Are Deceased:
My Heart Knows You Were Here by Laura Pursell

For an extra twist, try Comedy:
My Dad's Car by Bill Cosby

Finally, for videos "made by kids":
Rubber Ducky by Inside Out A Capella
I'd Do Anything by the Cast of Oliver

If none of these songs interest you, search for your favorite. It's bound to be there.

Now, to get the song into your video, you follow the same steps you did for the photos. This time, however, you click on "Import audio or music" from the left side and browse to the audio file. Click "Import" and then drag and drop it at the beginning of the video in the bottom window.

Now is a good time to view your video for the first time, but first let's save it. You know how to click on file/save, I'm sure. You also know how to name it and to save it in an easy to remember location. The most memorable, I've found, is the desktop.

So, now it is saved, let's view it. Click on the first picture in the bottom window and then click on the "play" arrow in the right square window. By default, each picture displays for about five seconds. If you have enough pictures, your music will probably run out before your pictures do (somewhere around 40 pictures). You can then just delete your least favorite pictures or you can edit how long each picture displays. Keep in mind there is a reason the default is five seconds. That gives the average viewer enough time to view the picture and feel the emotions you hope they will feel from viewing it. For this reason, I recommend deleting least favorites over shortening the display time of the photos.

If, on the other hand, your pictures run out before your music has ended, you need to add more pictures or increase the display time. If any of the pictures have more than two faces in them, you can add an extra second for each face. It might also be a good idea to move this picture to a special part of the song, like a repeat of the chorus or where the words of the song perhaps match the event depicted in the picture. For example, if the picture is of a family reunion, you might move the picture to a part of the song where the lyrics are about family. The added display time will not be noticed as much when the lyrics fit the picture. This can even enhance the video. Also consider doing this for any picture that matches the lyrics of the song.

So, if you choose to shorten or lenthen the display time, switch to "timeline" by clicking "Show timeline" in the bottom window. All you have to do next is click on that specific picture and drag the right side of it to make it shorter or wider. A new window will show you the length of the photo's display as you move your cursor back and forth.

Keep playing with it by adding or deleting photos, moving photos, and increasing or decreasing each photo's display time until you are really satisfied with the length and quality of the video. The best videos result in the most emotional output (a complicated way to say they should make the viewer cry). Once you are satisfied, if not crying yourself, you could skip to "Finish Movie", or you can keep enhancing the video by adding special effects and transitions.

To add these extra touches, you again use the left task window. Options are to "View video effects", "View video transitions", "Make titles or credits", and "Make an AutoMovie". These options make the difference between homemade looking and professional looking, in my opinion. You can have a photo slowly zoom in or out, you can add a sepia tone to the photo, or you can add a "video camera" look to it. The options aren't endless, but they are aplenty. Here is where I'm taking off the training wheels and letting you test your creative skills for yourself. There is nothing you can do wrong here, so have fun.

When you are ready to wrap up your video, you'll use the left task window to click "Save to my computer". I suggest saving two versions of the video. Save one for "Best quality for playback on my computer" and one for "Best Fit to file size". The first is a best quality video and the second is for uploading or emailing. I try to keep the videos I am sharing to below 6MB. Most videos you create here are going to be well above that, so when you save as "best fit to file size", reduce the size to 6MB or less. The loss of quality will not be noticable. If you aren't satisfied, you will always have the first version to try again with. When you are finished saving the two versions on your computer, you can then save it to a CD if you wish. The very last thing you should do is save the project as a .mswmm file (Microsoft Windows Movie Maker). This file is the raw file you can use to edit the movie later.

Many new TV's can play these videos from a thumb drive. If your father has one of these, you can plug the thumb drive into the TV when he isn't looking and then viola! you have just surprised him with your father's day gift (that cost less than a dollar but is crammed full of memories and emotion). Another way to give it to him is to post it on Facebook (provided he is one of your friends on Facebook). You can also set it to play on his computer, or you can mail him the CD (with a custom crayon colored cover) or include it in the gift you actually spent a lot of money on. If you have one of these new TV's, maybe you should cook dinner for the whole family and play it on your TV. (Well, I tried.)

Now, having given you all of the tools to make this yourself, if you still feel that you are just too pressed for time and you want someone else to do this for you, email me at christiglaser(at)gmail(dot)com and I will gladly do it for you. In fact, I'll even give $4 of every order to the Alabama Chapter of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation. (Everything I do, I do for you... and the MG group.)

I hope you have a wonderfully amazing Father's Day with your family. Hold every moment with your father dear to your heart. Forgive if you need to. Love with every breath, and leave him with a kiss.

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