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My First Movie Plus Project

Pastor purchased a small collection of religious Christmas images online. The advertisement was pretty deceptive, claiming the CD contained over 400 images. Yes, there are over 400 images, but in reality there are only 25 original pieces of artwork. The remaining 375 or so images are simply variations of the original 25. Yep, that makes 16 variations of each image! Oh well.

Pastor asked me to come up with a slideshow for the next few Sunday services using some of the images and quotes or scripture. I made the first slideshow for this Sunday (2 days ago) and played it before service and during breaks. Oh, I guess most people don't know that I do the video ministry at my church. This usually involves preparing lyrics for the songs we are to sing in Powerpoint and sermon notes, if Pastor has any prepared. I also show the occasional ministry DVD or multimedia presentation. I enjoy it. This involvement gives me a sense of value to the service, and a way to apply my talents in a directly positive and edifying manner. I have been working in this ministry position for well over a year now.

I received Serif Movie Plus 4 in the mail several days ago and used it to create the Christmas slideshow for Sunday. The video I composed ended up being under two minutes long, so I burned it to a DVD and played it in a loop. Movie Plus is an awesome program! When I first saw how much control it offers I was ecstatic. Infinite video and sound layers with transparency and keyframing is enough to get me pretty excited. I am no longer limited to working with video segments, joined by transitions and simple text layers. I can do pretty much anything I want by creating bitmaps or video footage with a common background color, and blend it in by using a blue-screen technique (making the background color transparent).

The Christmas video was created using several simple effects:

  1. The background images were taken from the CD the church purchased. By using keyframing, I was able to set their transparency to fade in and out. I was also able to move them around and change the zoom level by setting a start and finish position and size. This functionality was very quick and easy.
  2. The smoke or cloudy effect was achieved by using a volumetric 3D rendering I created some time before using Bryce 4, a fine product for those on a tight budget. I applied a colorize effect to make the smoke an offwhite color - the original rendering is blue. I then applied a chroma-key effect, making the darker regions of the smoke transparent, leaving the wispy white cloud effect.
  3. I created the text layers using Fireworks (any program could be used). Movie Plus doesn't have a native text tool, but there is really no need. Since any layer can have transparency, I simply created an image with white text on a black background. Using keyframes, I was able to move, scale, rotate and skew the text as desired. Simple fading and blurring were applied to transition the text in and out.

Click here to see the final product. Of course, I had to compress the movie to a sensible size for my website. The original rendering is very crisp and runs very smoothly. I was very impressed with Movie Plus' resampling ability. Even when an image or movie is stretched significantly, the pixels are averaged, and the video remains quite smooth. Note: I didn't add any sound to the video because its duration was so short. Instead, I had the sound guy play a Christmas CD along with the video.

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