7/11/2023 | By Donna Brody

While photographs are wonderful ways to capture memories of loved ones and experiences, movies capture so much more: toddling steps of a grandchild, unrestrained joy of a youngster chasing bubbles, family members telling beloved family tales, old friends gathering after years apart. While camcorders have practically gone the way of the dinosaurs, new technology makes movie making easy. Seniors Guide writer Donna Brody, self-described as “not a computer genius,” shares her experience making a movie with her family using Microsoft Windows 10.

Because we live in a coastal community, every hurricane season my husband and I make a list of things we need to take from our home in case of an emergency evacuation. Furniture is just furniture, and clothing and shoes can be easily replaced, so mostly we concentrate on things that are part of our family history – like his grandmother’s 100-year-old rocking chair. Some of the most important items we pack are framed family photos, a book where some of our ancestral history is recorded, and numerous photo albums we have collected over the years.

But now, one of my most valued possessions is a small thumb drive I can stow in my pocket. It contains a family video two of my grandsons and I created after our four-day family Thanksgiving celebration last November.

Since my children and their families all live in different cities, from 75 to 700 miles away, we are not often all in the same place. So, we have decided to make Thanksgiving the annual holiday where we get together for several days of fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

As my excitement about this year’s gathering grew, I knew the hours and days would fly by in a blur of conversation, activities, and laughter. I was determined to find a way to make a memory of our time together that would last.

A grandmother and grandson working together on a PC laptop, perhaps even working on a movie making project. Image by Sandra Dragolovic.

Inspired by my grandson, Parker, who had made a wonderful video with his GoPro camera for his younger brother’s fourth birthday, I knew we could create something similar using video shot on our smart phones. As I had downloaded pictures from my phone to my computer recently, I had also discovered an application in Windows 10 on my PC that allows a user to upload video and photos, combine them into a storyboard, add captions, and set them to music, all to create a homemade “movie.” I couldn’t wait to try it.

The first step in this project was to enlist my two oldest grandsons, Ben and Parker, to tackle the job of interviewing family members and capture it on my phone. These 10-year-olds were the perfect age to take on this task. They came up with two simple questions: “What do you like most about Thanksgiving?” and “What do you like most about being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house?” Working from a list of our 16 family members young and old, they shot individual footage of each person answering the questions in different locations inside and outside of our home.

Weeks before they arrived, I had surveyed all seven of my grandchildren for suggestions of fun things to do during our time together. The list included a piñata, a talent show, a gingerbread house-making competition, and game nights. We ended up adding bowling, basketball and soccer matches, and catching ghost crabs after dark on the beach. The boys or I shot video or took pictures during all of these events to add to our home movie.

The four days ended too soon, and as everyone headed back to their homes, I began the task of compiling the photos and video into our family movie. Since I am not a computer genius, the process was not a quick one, but it was worth every minute of my time. The end result is one of my most precious treasures. Each family member is now recorded, how they looked and sounded in the year 2022.

A few months later, I created another short movie from photos of a girls’ trip I took with some old friends. It was easier the second time. Once I was familiar with all the editing tools and options, it went much more quickly, and I passed the finished movie on to the group.

This summer, two of my grandchildren will meet my husband’s mother, their 90-year-old great-grandmother, for the first time. I hope to be in the background unobtrusively recording the whole event for another movie. Imagine my granddaughter and grandson being able to relive this “live” moment when they are adults, and possibly share it with their own children and grandchildren.

Movie making offers a wonderful way to preserve the memories of our loved ones, even after they are gone! We only have to hope that future technology will support these efforts and today’s thumb drives won’t become yesterday’s floppy discs!

Steps in movie making using photos and videos in Windows 10

  • Choose the Photos tab from the start menu on your computer. Open the Video Editor tab on that page. Click the highlighted box that says New Video Project. It will ask you to name your video or skip that step. You may want to just use the default name, New Video, and change it later.
  • In the box on the top left that says Project Library, choose + add. This will give you the option of choosing photos and videos from this PC, from a collection, or from the web. To make a practice video, you might want to click on the web option, which will take you to a huge library of stock photos. Select about five of these to practice creating the video.
  • Once the selected photos are added to your Project Library, select one or all of them to move them to your storyboard at the bottom of the page. Each photo will show a number in the bottom corner that indicates how many seconds that photo will be displayed on screen in your movie.
  • You can drag and drop the photos in your storyboard to change the order, and you can also delete photos at any time by right clicking on the photo and choosing Remove.
  • Once the photos and/or videos are in the order you desire, you can begin editing your video. At this point you just follow the menu items above the storyboard that allow you to: add title cards, change the duration (seconds to display each photo or video), add text and choose a text font, add captions to all or certain photos, add 3D effects and filters, rotate the photos, shrink them to fit, and remove black bars.
  • During the editing process, a preview of your movie will be displayed on the right-hand side of your screen. Click the start button to preview your movie at any time.
  • Above the preview box, there are a few more options for finishing your movie: Background Music, Custom Audio, and Finish Video. Clicking on the Background Music tab will bring up a list of musical selections you can listen to and choose to add to your video. You also have the option of syncing that music to your photos and adjusting the volume. Custom Audio allows you to download your own song or voice recording.
  • When you are finished making changes to your video, click on Finish Video. Choose the option to Export, and you will have the choice to rename the video and choose where to store it on your computer. When you have completed these steps, click on Export at the bottom of the page to save your final project. Saving may take a few minutes, so be patient.

Note: The steps listed above are for a PC running Windows 10. Apple computers have similar programs found under Quick Time Player and iMovie that allow the user to make similar home videos. The GoPro camera system mentioned above also has software to do similar projects by connecting to the Cloud.

Related: Seniors Guide suggests free online games for seniors

Donna Brody

Donna Brody is a former community college English instructor who retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She enjoys freelance writing and has self published three romance novels. Besides writing and traveling with her husband, she keeps busy visiting her seven grandchildren.

Donna Brody headshot