Photo Story - So, you want to be a movie director?
by Alan German
Do you have
dozens of digital photographs from your recent vacation,
or visit to your grandchildren, and need to package them
in a novel way for viewing by friends or family? If so,
the tool for you might be Photo Story from Microsoft and
gasp! its a free download. But, a
word of caution, the program only runs under XP, so users
of earlier versions of Windows need not apply.
The program is essentially a multi-function wizard that
guides you through the various steps necessary to develop
a fully-contained movie file with your chosen
photographs, added titles, spoken commentary, and even a
music soundtrack. At each stage, you can opt to include
the feature being offered, or move onto the next stage of
As you might imagine, the first step is to identify a
number of digital images that are to be the basis of the
presentation. This is achieved by using the Import
Pictures button to insert a group of images onto a
film strip or linear story board. The initial
order of the images is not important since any individual
picture can be selected and moved along the length of the
story board using left- and right-arrow keys, or by
simply dragging the image to the desired location.
Similarly, if you want to add more images, or delete one
or more existing images, such changes are readily
Once you have a suitable set of images, its time to
move on to the next step where you can add text to
your pictures. One obvious thing to do here is to put
some text on the first image in the series for use as a
title slide. You can select a font of any size, colour
and attribute, but control over placement is limited to a
few, fixed choices for left-to-right and top-to-bottom
alignment. One neat feature that can be added at this
stage is a special effect to completely change the
look of the picture with options such as sepia,
coloured pencil, and grey outline. An appropriate choice
here certainly makes for an interesting title slide.
After adding text to one or more images, the next stage
is to optionally add comments as a narrative voice-over,
and to choose the type of transition between images as
the series is displayed. You can choose the time for
which each image is displayed or have the program
determine this automatically. There is a wide range of
transition effects, such as cross fades and page curls.
In addition, there is the added ability to specify
starting and ending positions for the transitions by
moving and resizing frames on thumbnails of the image.
The result, which can be previewed, is a very neat effect
with the view either zooming in or out as one image
changes to the next.
The next choice is to add background music to your movie.
Different tracks can be added to different images or
groups of images by selecting one picture as an anchor
image and assigning a piece of music to start when this
image is displayed. The music will then play until either
the music track or the slideshow ends, or another anchor
image is encountered with a different track assigned to
it. Any music tracks in use are noted along the time line
of the story board as musical note symbols. Tracks can be
associated with a selected image or just dragged onto the
time line at any desired spot.
The final choice is how to save your newly-created
masterpiece. The normal option will be to Save the
story for playback on your computer. The WMV file
produced can be viewed in Windows Media Player. There are
also options to send the story in an E-mail message, or
to set up the story for playback on a Pocket PC, a
Smartphone or Mobile Media Player. Each of these options
results in the program writing out a WMV movie file;
however, the sizes of the various files are different; at
least in part resulting from the images being made
smaller for display on the smaller screen formats.
Photo Story also provides a range of in-story editing
functions such as cropping or rotating an image. In
addition, there are some rudimentary controls for
adjusting colour levels, contrast, and fixing
red-eye conditions. A tool to remove
black borders can be applied to automatically
crop any images in portrait format since the main display
is for images in landscape mode. A preview of such a
cropped image allows you to accept the change, to modify
the crop selection, or to reject the change in favour of
manual cropping using the programs edit capability.
It should be noted that any changes remain internal to
Photo Story; they do not affect the original images
stored on your computer.
While this program is dedicated to the task of packaging
a series of images for subsequent display as a slideshow,
it does this job very well. The program interface is
simple to use and yet offers many features. And, because
of this combination of ease of use and power, the process
of setting up a slideshow, complete with a custom title
slide and a music track that fades out at the end of the
show, is exceptionally quick.
So kudos to the programming team that created Photo
Story, and to Microsoft for making their work freely
available. Its almost enough to make me want to
switch my Windows 2000 machine over to running XP!
Photo Story 3 for Windows XP (Freeware)
Originally published: January, 2007
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.