At Last, Tim Tams Found in the U.S.A.

HOW-TO: Make a DVD Slide Show (Part 3)


In part 2 of this series we just finished creating a single section of photos in the slide show.  I am defining a section as a one-to-one mapping of a series of related photos to a single song.  With one section of photos created, the next step is to fit audio to that section.  In order to do this, we need to do the following:

  1. Find the length of the video section
  2. Get the song in MP3 format
  3. Determine the target length of the song
  4. Make the song to be the correct length

These steps are pretty straight forward, but there are some nuances to be aware of.

Find the Length of the Video Section

Below is another screenshot of the main workspace area of Camtasia Studio.  Notice how the timeline view at the bottom allows us to find the total length of the video section so that we can determine how long the audio needs to be.  This particular screenshot was taken after the audio had been added, so you can see how it fades out at the end of the video.

Get the Song in MP3 Format

I'm horrible at picking out songs and usually leave this task for others to do!  The one thing I will mention is that you will need to have your music in MP3 format in order to be able to edit it later.  There are two places for you to buy your music:  1) Retail stores, 2) Over the internet.  CD's are the easiest to work with if you already own them.  Simply rip the CD to your computer and then you've got the MP3 files to work with.  If you need to purchase a new song, I recommend doing it online.  You can buy most songs for $1 online so when you only need one song from an album, purchasing online definitely beats buying a new CD.

When buying online you have to worry about the evil monster called DRM (Digital Rights Management).  DRM is intended to keep people from sharing their music files over the internet, but it's a hassle for people who actually pay for their music because it limits how they can use it.

<begin rant>
All I'll say about the effectiveness of DRM is that people who are against paying for music will continue to find places to download it for free and people who want to pay for their music end up with a lower quality product wrought with restrictions.  It's basically a lose-lose situation.
</end rant>

When looking for music online, first check Amazon because all their music is all DRM-free.  If you don't find your music there, then go to iTunes which sells a mix of DRM-free music and DRM music (mostly DRM).  If the song you're looking for is only available as DRM music, then you can convert it to MP3 format (which is DRM-free) by using the utility, MyFairTunes.

Determine the Target Length of the Song

At this stage it is important to remember that while this is the best time for matching song length to a section, the audio will be added at a later stage when you're authoring your master Camtasia project.  This master project will be a composite of all your audio-less section videos plus all your music tracks (the reason for this was explained in Part 2).  When you compose this master project of section videos, just as you added visual transitions between your photo clips, you will also add transitions between your sectional video clips.  These will add an additional second to each section's length.  I will typically start the music as a section begins to fade in and then end the song when the next section begins its fade-in.  Also note that the first section will not have a fade-in since it can't fade in from a previous section.

It may be helpful to consider an example.  Suppose we have 3 sections that are all exactly 1 minute long and we need to figure out how long to make each of our 3 songs.  This would be the formula:

Song1 = Length(Video1) = 1:00
Song2 = Length(TransitionA) + Length(Video2) = 1:01
Song3 = Length(TransitionB) + Length(Video3) = 1:01
Total Video Length = 1:00 + 1:01 + 1:01 = 3:02

It is important to note that if you want to adjust the length of your video, you can do this by simply right-clicking one of the photo's in the timeline and then clicking Image Duration.  I usually do this when the video would be too short to include a particular portion of a song that I want to include.  By increasing the video length for photos throughout the show, I can very easily lengthen the video and fit in the parts of the song I want--or simply have the song end at a logical break in the lyrics.

Make the Song to be the Correct Length

This step address the problems of having more pictures than you have music and more music than you have pictures, both of which require editing audio files.  The program that I use to edit MP3s is Audacity.  Audacity is a fantastic free audio editing software package that can take care of fade-ins/fade-outs, deleting portions of songs, and much, much more.  There is very good documentation for how to use Audacity on their website, so I won't go into the details here.  For my most recent slide show, I used version 1.3.3 Beta and I found it stable enough to recommend that you use it as well.  One thing to note is that because of patent issues Audacity does not come with support for MP3 files.  But it is very easy to install MP3 support as their wiki explains.

When fitting music to a particular length, you can essentially copy/paste sections of a song to increase the song length (listen to "I Get Around" in our show and see if you can find where it loops) or, more easily, delete portions of the song simply by highlighting the section to delete and pushing the delete key (all the rest of the songs in our show needed to be shortened).  Similarly, highlight the first or last 3 seconds of the song and click Effects > Fade-in or Effects > Fade-out to handle fades.

Once your MP3 files are created, you can import them to your Clip Bin in Camtasia and drag them to the timeline in the same way you did the photos to verify that the length lines up.  Remember that if you're working on a section that is not the first section and you accounted for the transition time, the audio will be one second longer than the video.

Wrapping It Up

Doing a video-based slide show versus a PowerPoint-based slide show is much easier when dealing with aligning photos to audio.  I would always run into issues with PowerPoint not playing the slides back at exactly the same speed each time which made matching audio to the sections very difficult.  This process becomes much easier when working with the video from the beginning as we're doing in Camtasia.  Next, we'll take a look at producing all our sections to audio-less videos and creating a master project that can be used to create our base video file complete with the music.


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