How to Make an 80th Birthday Video

My mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, turned 80 last month. To celebrate, I made a video from pictures of her life provided by many members of the family. The video contained a selection of the 1,346 best pictures I found from the last 150 years. Recent photos were available in digital form but older images had to be scanned. I was able to use some pictures from the 80th birthday video I made for my father, Wade Dickinson. However, scanning technology has improved so many of those 2006 photographs had to be re-scanned.

Here is the process – how the video was made, with generous technical support from my husband John and music advice from my daughter Jessica and brother Pete:

  1. Decide when the story starts: establish the historical, social, and geographic context
    • I started 80 years before my mother was born, with ancestor pictures.
    • I included pictures from my mother’s parents’ childhood, courtship, and marriage.
  2. Collect many many images
    • Include pictures from each decade, if possible.
    • Show important people and places: siblings, the house where she grew up, where she went during the summer.
    • Scan yearbooks, invitations and announcements, certificates, awards, diplomas and other documents important to her life.
    • Presenting both formal and informal pictures tells a fuller story.
    • Include images from both family and work life. My mother is an artist, so I included pictures of her drawings, paintings, and sculptures.
  3. Scan pictures
    • Crop if needed to focus on what is important in the picture.
    • Leave off photo borders and frames (not always possible with old fragile photos).
    • Scan many more than you will need so that you have a choice of images with both landscape and portrait orientations
  4. Put the images into a web page photo arrangement template.
    • I used the “Keepsakes” photo layout pages which are part of Apple iPhoto – there are other programs available.
    • I included a variety of page layouts for one to six pictures per page – keeping the same color background for each page for continuity.
    • I wrote footer notes with dates and names and key places – sparingly, not on every page.
    • I had planned to display the image sequence using iMovie but that application badly degraded the image resolution, so I used iPhoto instead.
  5. Collect music to go with the images
    • We wanted a music  medley with tracks from several periods in my mother’s life.  Some songs I bought from iTunes. Jessica sang others and sent me the recording.
    • We wanted the music selections timed to start and end as certain images displayed.  This required much work.
    • John exported the iPhoto slide show into iMovie to create a timed sound track. He then exported the sound track back into iPhoto for the image display. This was complex but created the best sound/image combination using the tools we had.
  6. Decide how long the show will be – we aimed for 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Show early versions to friends and relations and ask for feedback.
  8. Make a paper book of the video for a lasting momento. This is very easy to do with iPhoto Keepsakes but there is a 100 page limit. The resulting book arrives quickly and is of good quality.
  9. This project took about 40 hours of work over two months to complete.
  10. My mother loved it!
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IMG_0621 . IMG_0831

Images Copyright 2011 by Katy Dickinson
28 March 2014 – links and references updated

1 Comment

Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews

One response to “How to Make an 80th Birthday Video

  1. Pingback: Family Research | KatysBlog

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