Monday 6 February 2023

Constructing Slide Shows

I first wrote about preserving family photos in a blog post titled Digitizing Memories (7 March 2017). Our photo albums remain in storage boxes but the scanned pages are in the cloud where family members can look at them anytime. Perhaps we will eventually find a place where we can set up shelves and put the books back on display and people can then thumb through them again.

Since that post, I have been meaning to address related subjects involving 35mm slides and 8mm movies. Here is the next part about slides.

I am an incorrigible slide-show maker. For decades now, I have been putting together presentations using photos from our family albums, to celebrate weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. It has been a way to share memories with the whole family. Learning how to do it has also been greatly helpful in putting together the many presentations I have made to the genealogical community.

It seems like centuries have past (well, it was in the last century) since I was doing slide shows with 35mm projectors. I have hundreds of slides from both personal (family) activities as well as professional (geological) pursuits. Prints of some of them were made years ago and put into photo albums. The vast majority, though, have not been scanned and remain hidden away in metal storage boxes. I can inspect them on a hand-held, single-slide viewer, but I gave away/sold my carousel projectors and screens years ago, so I can’t do a regular “slide show” anymore.

One of the projects on my to-do list (which never seems to get shorter) is to digitize all the slides for preservation and possible reference in the future. I do have a slide scanner but it has seen limited action.

The first electronic or digital slide show was one I made was for our daughter Tamara’s wedding in 1999. It was on VHS tape. Many people reading this may remember what that was. That media went out of use and favour with the advent of the DVD and more recently with conversion of video and still picture files to MP4 and other formats that can be stored on personal computers, in the cloud or on a smart phone.

For that first one I found some people whose business it was to digitize photos (among many other digital projects), Myron and Malcom Achtman at Adita Video Inc. in Calgary. I took them photos of my daughter from the time she was born along with a couple of songs on DVDs (Daddy’s Little Girl and Thank Heavens for Little Girls). Yup, that was before you could download them from iTunes.

With a script I wrote and some narrated comments by me, they scanned the photos and put it all together with the music to produce a VHS tape that I showed at her wedding reception. It was not very long (less than seven minutes) and the quality is not as good as I can do today, but it was a hit with the audience and something I am still proud of having done.

I did a similar thing for the 2001 wedding of James (our son) and Alice (his bride). This time I took copies of old photos I had scanned, music I had downloaded, recordings by the parents of the bride and groom, and some videos copied from television and recorded on video cameras. That one was much longer at 21 minutes but still just as much of a tear-jerker as the one for Tammy. Myron and Malcolm put this one directly on to a DVD. I had progressed a bit farther with the technology.

After the wedding projects, I found some software that allowed me to make slide shows on my own. The one I have become comfortable with is put out by AVS4YOU (AVS Video Converter and AVS Video Editor). The basic version is a free download. I can input scanned photos or videos, add music and narration, and other special effects, and do all kinds of things to produce a seamless video file. Then it can be saved in a number of different formats: AVI, DVD, MOV, MP4, MPEG, and others.

Most recently I have saved the finished files on my computer and in the cloud rather than put them on DVDs but I have made copies on DVDs for family members.

For presentations I use PowerPoint. These are basically slide shows as well. The program allows me to add narration to each slide if I want to have them available for recorded webinars.

My last major slide show was one I put together for Christmas 2020 when the family was unable to visit in person. We played it live on Zoom on Christmas Eve so that everyone could view it together.

Slide Shows! They are wonderful ways to share memories and easy to put together. And when they are done you can send them around the world through file transfer services like WeTransfer.