Writing a journal of my childhood memories has been a personal project of mine for the past two years. This Christmas, I wanted to surprise my father with an eBook filled with photos and childhood memories.

The eBook has been challenging and with Christmas close, I decided to narrate a few stories and create a special slideshow. Finding the right Royal Free, soothing music to compliment the narration was challenging. This is where Songfreedom came to my rescue.

Songfreedom is an affordable music licensing platform where photographers and cinematographers can go to find the perfect song for their story. My buddy and fellow author Levi Sim introduced me to their service. I went to their website, clicked on Instruments then selected Strings. I clicked on the first song, Restless by Frederick Capozio and loved it (especially for $9.99). I downloaded it and began my project.

Narrating the Story

This project required me to narrate the childhood memories. To record your voice you need a good microphone and recording software. A high quality mic like a Blue Yeti is ideal, but an inexpensive headphone mic like a Logitech ClearChat will work great as well. There are plenty of high quality and free recording software. Adobe Audition is included in the complete Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. This is a professional recording software that has a learning curve. A free option is Audacity for Windows.

Start by writing the narration. Rehearse it a few times until it sounds natural. Try to talk as if you speaking directly to a person. It sounds easy, but trust me, there will be plenty of retakes. Don’t expect to read the script and get the recording in one take. If you make a mistake, keep recording. Pause for a moment and clap your hands really loud. This will make it easier to find the mistake when you edit the audio.

Mix down the Music and Narration

I used Adobe Audition to lay the music over the narration. There are plenty of free mixing programs that can achieve a similar result. I lowered the volume of the music to have it play subtly in the background. You want to hear the music, but you don’t want it to distract from your narration.

Slideshow Software

There are many great programs for creating slideshows. The key is to find one you feel comfortable with and can get the job done. Since I have the complete Adobe suite, I used Adobe Premiere. Premiere is overkill for a project like this. I used it because I wanted to learn more about the program for future projects.

If I were on a major time crunch, I would use an automated solution such as ProShow Web or Animoto. Lightroom and ProShow Gold Desktop would have been a great alternative too. Add your photos along with your mixed down narration and music. Time where you want each photo to appear. Using automated programs gets a little tricky. You have to take a guess, render the video and reedit it until you have it just right. This is where the desktop versions shine. You can drop the photo on the timeline, give it the correct duration and move onto the next.

Adding Credits

The photos I used were taken by my family members and of course they gave me unlimited permission to use them. I would have loved to photograph my parent’s wedding in 1949 but, well you know I was wasn’t born yet. Songfreedom gave me a jpg image with their logo, the name of the song and artist. I just added the image at the end of the video to show I had a licence to use the music.

Distributing your Video

My father lives in New York and I live in Florida. I wanted my sister to surprise him Christmas morning by playing the video on their TV. I could have burned a DVD and mailed it, but that would take too long. Uploading the video to YouTube or Vimeo and sending a link is much easier. If you want the video to be private, select unlisted. On a side note, YouTube notified me the music was copyrighted and for me to send proof I have a licences to use it. It was a simple form to fill out and knowing Songfreedom would step in if there was a problem made me feel comfortable. Since my sister has Apple TV; Chrome Cast or Amazon Fire will also work, we decided to use Plex to stream the video. Plex is a centralized home media playback system with a powerful central serverthe Plex Media Serverthat streams its media to many Plex player Apps. The Server is available on many platforms like Windows, OS X, and many flavors of Linux, as well as many NAS devices like Drobo or Synology. I added the video to my Home Video folder and my sister instantly had access to it in New York. I saw my father’s reaction over Facetime, it was priceless!

Creating a special video like this is can easy, once you know what tools to use.

Christmas Video for my Father

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