Images (be they still or moving) and music were just plain made to be experienced together. Would Braveheart be as powerful a film without James Horner’s magnificent soundtrack? Do you still feel a twinge of terror when you hear John Williams’ “dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun” theme music from Jaws? Look what music videos have done for (to) the music industry. At their best, music videos expand the artist’s message, perhaps even giving new meaning and vision to the music. At their worst, music videos can propel singers with better bodies than voices up the charts. But, I digress.
Adding music to a digital photo slideshow, if done properly, can turn even the most artistically mediocre collection of photos into a moving emotional experience. "Done properly" are the key words in the last sentence. Here's some things to think about if your goal is to do it right.
The first question you need to ask yourself: "Self, how long is my slideshow going to run?" To answer that question, do a little simple math. Slideshow length equals the number of photos in the show, multiplied by the time each photo is displayed, which needs to include the time required for any transitions between photos. See? Simple.
How long should each photo be displayed? That depends. Your audience requires a certain amount of time to “get a good look at” each of the images in your slideshow. If the audience is familiar with the people/places in the photos, you might be able to get by with displaying an image for a relatively short period of time. Are there group photos, where you’ll need to give the audience time to look at each face? Is there something subtle going on in a photo that the viewers need a few seconds to figure out? Let’s assume you can use an average “screen time” of four seconds per photo.
But, what if you’re planning on using an emotional one-second dissolve between each photo. So that really means at least five seconds per photo. Let’s assume you have fifty photos in your slideshow. You can see that at five seconds per photo you have 250 seconds (four minutes and ten seconds) of great theater to score. If you’re thinking of using a song or piece of music that’s, say, three minutes (180 seconds) long, you can see you’re going to run out of music before your last photo is displayed.
You’re saying, “But, Pete, I can just fix that by having my slideshow software set the photo durations to fit the song length”. Yes, you could do that, but look what happens. If you tell your slideshow software to squeeze the fifty songs (including the dissolve transitions) into the 180 seconds, you’re going to end up with 3.6 seconds per song, and that’s probably not enough time for the audience to interpret and enjoy each image.
What can you do? You could just have the song repeat, then end abruptly with the last slide, but that’s cheesy. If you have the tools and the know-how, you could modify the song to make it longer by repeating instrumental phrases (like they do in some TV commercials and radio “bumper” tunes). Maybe there are two shorter, complimentary songs that you could use together. Or, you could just choose a different, longer piece of music.
What if you have the opposite problem - your song is longer than your show? You could increase the duration of each slide, but just as you can frustrate the audience with not enough duration, you can put them to sleep with too much duration.
Next time: more on making your slideshows sing.
© 2005 Peter F. Zimowski