Friday, May 27, 2011

How I made a YouTube video slideshow without expensive software

YouTube recently added several video editing and production options. If you want to make a simple slideshow with an instrumental soundtrack, a little piece of video, maybe a map and some text with interesting transitions, you can do it without editing software. 

YouTube offers three video-making options: GoAnimate, Xtranormal and Stupeflix. The first two create fully animated computer graphics movies. GoAnimate generates human-like characters, while Xtranormal animates animal- or human-like creatures. Both offer the ability to design the characters, insert a script for the characters to speak and adjustments on the setting (outdoors vs. indoors, etc). 

The first two services didn't fit my needs: Xtranormal doesn't offer a kitchen set for my cooking videos; GoAnimate has a kitchen set but no red-headed "actresses."

So I tried making a brief little slideshow with Stupeflix by adding photos from a few of my favorite blog posts. Uploading the photos into the system is easy, if the photos you need are loaded into a Picasa, Flickr or Facebook account.

I did encounter a major problem. You can use the program directly from YouTube without joining Stupeflix, but you will not have the option of previewing your creation before uploading it. I was not the only one who noticed this. Other users posted complaints about the issue over a month ago, and as of May 25 the developers hadn't responded. It doesn't make sense to leave out a preview feature. Think of it as making a meal using ingredients you have never used before without a cookbook. Not a recipe for success, that's certain.

There's also no way to add drop shadows or dark outlines to the white caption text to avoid unreadable text on white areas of images. You do not have a choice in the style of font used, and only a few templates offer choice of text color.
This is a screen shot from my YouTube page. Notice there are only three template options. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

If you take the extra step and sign up for a free account, your options widen. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

The YouTube-bundled version of Stupeflix has three different template options. If you decide to set up a free Stupeflix account, you will have access to seven template choices. More options are available, if you're willing to pay for them.

Stupeflix offers five different pricing plans for additional features such as making high-definition (HD) videos. They range in price from $29 to $499 a year, depending on features and whether you want the application logo as a watermark. However, it's more cost-effective to purchase iMovie on Apple Macintosh for $15 or a comparable Windows application to avoid the video watermark or if you don't think you'll make more than several videos a year.

If, after a little playing around with the Stupeflix bundle on YouTube, you decide you like it, the free account is quick to set up with an email address and password. There's no survey to fill out.

With a free account, each video will be limited to one minute. If you opt for a paid subscription, the videos can be longer. But for a slideshow with up to 10 slides, a little bit of music and some text, do you really need more than 60 seconds to make your point?

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