Note! As long as you are running a legal version of Windows, you can download Photo Story free from Microsoft. So ignore the info below in this story about the media kit and just download the program HERE.
While at the recent MVP summit, Microsoft gave us some cool new toys. I've
had such fun playing with one of them that I just have to tell you about it,
so you, too, can have a little playtime. If you enjoy sharing photos or video,
you'll want to read on.
You're probably already familiar with the Windows Media Player. It comes with
Windows. Windows Media Player is that program that pops up when you put in a
CD to listen to music while on your computer. If you don't have the latest copy
for your particular operating system, you can download updates here: Windows
Media Player Downloads. It's free from Microsoft and you can download versions
for just about every type of device you have...handhelds, pilots, Macs.
Obviously, the latest version isn't available for older operating systems. But
you can check the link above to see what's available for your system.
Note! If you haven't had much experience with downloading files and
you're not quite sure how to do this, see my article: Downloading
The latest version of Windows Media Player is version 9. This version has experienced
record downloads, which Microsoft says is a clear
indication of customer satisfaction for the new version. Personally, I love
Note! You might also want to check out this site which provides lots
of cool tips and tricks to do more with the player: Do
Amazing Things with Windows Media Player
Media Player General Overview
With Media Player, you can listen to music and see the music displayed
on your screen by setting various visualizations that move to the beat
of the music. Those of you who grew up in the 60s, watching Jefferson Airplane
perform, will be able to relate to this effect!<smile>
(Note! Your actual monitor display will look much sharper. This image
below has had the quality downgraded a lot to optimize the files size for the
Figure 1Animated gif image of media player with a visualization moving
to the music.
You can also apply various skins to your media player to make the device
look the way you want. With a smaller skin applied, you can easily allow it
to play in the corner of your monitor while working on other projects.
Figure 2Animated gif image of my favorite skin applied to the player
so I can leave it on my desktop.
But Microsoft has also added a cool taskbar control panel. So if you prefer
to minimize the player, you can control the music via your taskbar at the bottom
of your screen.
And if you don't feel you have enough default choices when you fire up Windows
Media Player, you can go to the
Microsoft web site and download more visualizations and/or skins from a
continually growing and changing list. These files download quickly and install
just as fast with a double click on the downloaded file.
Figure 3Animated gif image of a variety of additional skins from which
you can choose.
Media Player's toys are great fun. But now Microsoft has come out with a Plus!
Digital Media Edition pack ($19.95 USD) for media player that gives you
a whole pile of new toys! You can have dancers on your screen...set up
your computer as a jukebox for parties and the security feature will keep guests
away from your important data files on your computer...you can create CD labels...you
can record your old albums to your computer...sync up with your portable music
players and you even get some extra cool effects to use with Movie Maker
(which I'll discuss briefly, below).
But the application I found the most fun in the Digital Media Edition was the
Photo Story program. I love sharing photos. This usually means you either have
to display them in some clickable format on your web page or zip up a pile of
pictures to email. The result is a pile of just plain photos.
Photo Story allows you to very easily add the photos you want into a
storyboard. You can move them around to the order you want.
Figure 4Image of the Photo Story storyboard where you would organize
Click on Next and you can set various transition effects to control how the
photos float in and out of the presentation. But if you're lazy, you can just
leave the defaults and it'll still look quite nice. After that panel, the next
one allows you to add a title page. And finally, you can add your favorite music
file. Even MP3 files! Very cool! You're not stuck using some tin sounding midi
You'll have a great slide show compiled in just a few minutes. Complete with
photos that float in and out of the slide show, accompanied by your favorite
song. If you have a microphone connected to your computer, you can also add
personal voice comments over the pictures, with or without the background music
playing. View the results and make any adjustments. Then compile it into a WMV
media file that you can email to friends or link on your web site to share.
Amazingly, even though MP3 music files are huge, the resulting file is pretty
Microsoft has some very cool sample files on it's web site that you can view.
But if you'd like to see what I was able to do in a very short time, you can
check out some of my family photo shows by clicking here.
Microsoft Movie Maker
If still photos aren't enough to flip your switch, you should check out the
free Movie Maker program. You can download it here: Windows
Movie Maker 2 Download.
I enjoy taking video and transferring the video to my computer so I can take
still shots and also create little video files from various events to share
with family and friends. But when I had to upgrade to Windows XP Pro, the driver
for my old video capture program no longer worked. Greg literally spent a fortune
purchasing various video programs in an effort to get me back to the capabilities
I had before. He finally found the newer version of my old favorite program,
Video Wave (which had been bought out by Roxio). So I was happy.
Then I discovered Microsoft Movie Maker, which allows me to do a lot of what
I can do with all these expensive programs...and Movie Maker is free!
You do need to have some type of video capture card installed on your computer.
But a lot of the video programs that come with those cards aren't very good
or are very complex. Granted, if you find a good one, you'll have a lot more
features and capabilities than you'll get with Movie Maker. But for some quick,
fun movies with small file size, Movie Maker is great. And you do get some cool
effects and transitions, so you can create some pretty incredible stuff.
Figure 5Image of Movie Maker's video effect dialog.
I didn't even need to read the manual this time!<grin> Sure, I was fairly
familiar with how these programs generally work. So I was able to jump in, grab
and snip out some video of my dog, apply a portion of a song. Add video and
audio fades and compile a quick video in only a few minutes. Very cool! Sure,
it was just a short, silly snippet of film of my dog with her tongue hanging
out (which you can view, if interested, here),
but the resulting file is only 850k. You'll find much more sophisticated samples
on the Microsoft site here.
Have fun! Download the media player upgrade free. Download Movie Maker free.
And for just $19.95 you can get the Plus! pack with all the extra toys. Great