Making a Video Book Talk with Microsoft Photo Story

Terence W. Cavanaugh


Microsoft’s Photo Story is a very user friendly program that is available from the Microsoft website at no charge. Using this program will not require a video camera or finding or converting video recordings. Instead Photo Story makes the video from stills, such as digital photographs and drawings, and sound files. To record your narration you will need to connect a microphone to your computer. The software will turn your images and sounds into a video at the end. The program will create video files which can be played using the Windows Media Player or any other video player with the capabilities of playing .wmv files (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Video book talk being played with Windows Media Player


First select the book about which you wish to make your book talk, or if this is to be a student project have the students select and read their books. It is not suggested that anyone create a book talk from a book that they haven’t read. After you finish reading the book think about the story and identify what you feel are the important or interesting aspects. You might even look for an exciting quote to include. Whoever is planning on doing the book talk should write out a draft of the talk to use later as narration.


Now find some pictures that you feel help portray the story’s elements or characters. You or your students may wish to create or scan drawings using a computer, take photographs, or find usable pictures on the internet. Creative Commons has Flickrs (, a free resource of non-copyrighted images that can be used. You can also search for your own images online using a variety of multimedia search engines, like Google ( Once you find your pictures you will need to save them to your computer. To do this I would suggest that you create a folder on the computer’s desktop for the project. This will give you a location in which to save the pictures and the project as you are working on it.


If you don’t already have it you will need to download and install Microsoft Photo Story from their web site ( Start the Photo Story program and select the option to create a new project. Creating the video using the Photo Story program is a five step process.


Step 1: Import and arrange your pictures

Import your pictures from the folder into the Photo Story project by clicking on the Import Pictures… button. Browse to the folder where you have saved your images. You can select multiple images by holding down the Ctrl key as you click with your mouse on the icon. Once all the images desired have been selected, click the OK button to bring the images into the project (see Figure 2).


Figure 2: Importing images into the Photo Story project.


You should also now arrange the pictures in the order that you want to appear in the final video, by dragging the image thumbnails and rearranging them in the sequence that is desired (see Figure 3). There are image tools that will allow you to adjust the color, rotate the image, and do basic image editing. You can also change the picture by selecting from the Edit and then Add Effect menu.


Figure 3: The picture adjustment and arrangement frame.


Once you have your pictures arranged the way you want them, click on the Save Project … button and then click on the Next button.


Step 2: Add a title to your pictures

Once you have your pictures in the project you can add titles over the pictures (see Figure 4). Type in what you want on the screen in the text box. The titles can be placed in different locations on the screen using the menu buttons. You can also change the color, font size, and font type by clicking on the select font button. Click on different pictures to add titles to them.


Figure 4: Adding titles overlays to pictures.  

Once you have all the titles created, click on the Save Project … button and then click on the Next button.


Step 3: Narrate your pictures and customize motion

In this step you can add your own audio track and decide how you want your  pictures to move and change. Each picture can have its own audio recording and individual movement.


Movement: By default each picture is displayed for five (5) seconds before changing to the next. You can change this amount for any picture by clicking on the Customize Motion… button. You can also use this option to change the way the picture is displayed. Here you can adjust how much of the image to display at the start and at the end. The computer will then create a motion effect between the two settings. For example you could have the picture start out wide and then zoom into a part of the image (see Figure 5). To change the size or position of motion, first click in the box to Specify start and end position of motion, then click on either the left or right image. Adjust the size by clicking and dragging the corner boxes to the desired size. Adjust the position by clicking and dragging the image box to the desired location. The video display will be a smooth zooming transition from the wide angle to the small focus. Select each picture and change the motion or duration if desired. The second tab here allows the user to change the transition effect between pictures. The default is a cross fade, but each picture can have its own transition from the fifty available options. Click on the arrows near the bottom of the window to change between pictures. Once you have your motions and transitions set, click the Close button to return to the project window. Now would be a good time to click on the Save Project…. button.


Figure 5: Setting the motion of the screen action.


Audio Narration: You should first write out your script and then figure out which part of your script goes with which picture. A good strategy for your script is to either type in or copy from a document the text that you want to read into the notes space provided, or you can use a storyboard sheet with your own script. When speaking into a microphone it is better not to speak directly into it, but instead across it (this avoids the popping noise of air hitting the microphone). The best kind of microphone in this case is one which is worn, such as a head microphone. Place the microphone so that it is a thumb width to the side of the mouth. When you are ready to record click on the picture to which you want to add your narration and then click on the record button (see Figure 6). When you have finished adding the narration for that image click on the stop button. If you make any mistakes you can click the Delete narration button and start again for this image. The display time will adjust to your recording time, so you will not need to go back to the Customize Motion section to change the amount of time for the image. Click on a different thumbnail picture or use the arrows under the large picture to change to another image and add a new narration.


Figure 6: Adding audio narration to the project.


Once you have the movements, transitions, and narrations set, save your project and then click on the Next button.


Step 4: Add background music.

You can now add background music that plays during your story, by either selecting from music saved on your computer or by creating new music (see Figure 7). Similar to the movements, transitions, and narrations, it is possible to have a different piece of music play for each picture or for a group of pictures. Click on the Select Music button to choose a piece of music saved as a digital file from your computer, a network folder, or the Internet. Clicking on the Create Music button allows you to adjust or customize specialized prerecorded music by selecting the genre, style, bands, mood, tempo, and intensity of the music. I prefer the Create Music option, which allows the music to be more tailored to the book talk. Click on the first picture of the project and then click on the music button. Try playing with the options, making adjustments, until you have the background that you feel goes with your book, then click the OK button (see Figure 8). The music will now spread across the entire project. You should now adjust the volume setting of the background music. I would suggest that you set it at half or lower so that it doesn’t interfere with the narration. If you wish, you can now click on another picture and set the music for that one.


Figure 7: Adding background music to the project.


Figure 8: Creating background music by selecting genre, style, mood, tempo, etc.


Click on the Preview button to see how your movie will look and sound.

Once you have the background music set, save your project and then click on the Next button.


Step 5: Save your story

It is now time to save your project as a movie file (*.wmv). At this stage the program will take the project file (.wp3) and create a separate movie file. While Photo Story gives you a variety of options I would suggest that you use the Save your story for playback on your computer (see Figure 9). You will need to go into the Settings… to select one of the built in options. I would  suggest that you pick from the Profiles 1-4 for computers, understanding that the larger screen setting will cause the movie to have a larger file size. If you are planning to create a Video CD or DVD and play your book talks on a television you should choose those options. You will then need to import the movie into a DVD/CD Video creation program to actually burn the videos onto a disc. The smallest file size would be the one for e-mail, but this one would also have the least clarity.


Figure 9: Selecting the file setting and location of the created video file.


Click on the Next button now to start the building process, in which the program takes your project and turns it into a movie file. Once this building process is completed the program will give you the option of watching your finished video or starting a new project. My three minute project, with eleven images, music, and narration, set for a 640 x 480 pixel display, took up only 3.45 Megabytes of space. This sample video book talk is available for download from You can play your book talk movie using Window’s Media Player (see Figure 1). I would suggest that you drag a few book talks onto the Now Playing List and set in the Play menu for the player to Shuffle (ctrl + h) and Repeat (ctrl + t) your videos to get someone interested in reading something new.



Photo Story 3:


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