Photos to movies: How to transform images into a motion picture

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When reviewing photos using the LCD on the back of my camera, it's fun to keep the navigation button held down and let the camera quickly zip through all the images. Especially since I frequently shoot in burst mode—holding the shutter button to shoot several shots in succession—the effect is like watching a stop-motion animation movie.

So on my daughter's birthday, I thought, why not do that on the Mac? Instead of pulling out just the handful of really good photos, I'd combine them all to make a movie that resembled the experience of scanning all those shots on the camera.

Here's how to do it.

1. Import the photos into iPhoto, where they appear grouped into a new Event.

2. In iMovie, create a new project.

3. Choose File -> Project Properties (or press Command-J).

4. Set the Initial Photo Placement setting to Fit in Frame. This ensures that you see each image in its entirety, regardless of whether the photos are a mix of landscape and portait orientations. Or, you can choose Crop to remove any black borders from the images, but that setting could lead to odd framing, especially for portait images. (You can change these settings later if you want.)

Setting the Initial Photo Placement to Fit in Frame ensures you see all of each photo. You can also choose Crop to fill the frame.

You might be tempted to change the Photo Duration setting here, too, but don't bother. The shortest length is one second, which is too long for the effect I'm going for. We'll adjust the timing shortly.

5. Open the Photos browser and click the Events item under iPhoto.

6. Drag the Event you created to the Project browser to add the photos to your movie. Depending on how many photos there are, this import step could take some time, so be patient.

In iMovie, locate the Event you created in iPhoto.

7. Double-click one image in the project (or select one image and click the Inspector button in the toolbar, or just press the I key) to open the Clip Inspector.

8. Set the duration as 0.1s, and select the Applies to all stills checkbox to adjust the timing of every frame.

9. If you want to change whether the photos are cropped or set to fit within the frame, select all frames (click one and then choose Edit -> Select All, or press Command-A) and then click the Crop button on the toolbar. You can then click the Fit or Crop button that appears in the Viewer.

Or, feel free to adjust any of the frames manually. When I set my project to Crop, many of the portrait photos ended up showing just sky. So, I moved the visible area in those frames to include the action. If any photos arrived with the wrong orientation, click the Rotate buttons (the arrows at the top of the Viewer in Crop mode) to turn the entire image in 90-degree increments.

For photos in portrait orientation, I repositioned the visible frame to include the action.

When you play the movie, it's just like what you experience when shuttling through the shots on your camera. Only in this case, you can apply all of the other features iMovie offers. Drag songs from the Music and Sound Effects browser or titles from the Title browser into the project to add music or text. Adjust timing for specific shots by changing the Duration setting in the Clip inspector (and making sure to deselect the Applies to all stills button).

And, of course, you can then share the movie with whoever you want by choosing an option from the Share menu, like Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes, or exporting the file.

You can view the video I made of an outing on my daughter's birthday, as an example of how to get started.

[Jeff Carlson is the author of The iMovie '11 Project Book (Peachpit Press; 2011) and is a senior editor ofTidBits.]

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