The world is full of stars these days - movie stars, that is. Thanks to the Internet, everybody and his cousin can now star in his own production, using techniques straight out of the Hollywood playbook. And not just plain-vanilla YouTube videos, either; the sites I have in mind will let you assemble your video and photos into a smart-looking production, accompanied by music or voice, and interspersed with special effects. These are the kinds of videos you see at friends' weddings and bar mitzvas, the kind you've always wished you could have at your own party. With these sites, you can.
Remember the old high-school slide show, where the teacher would douse the lights while some nerd clicked a button and advanced slides of whatever the subject of discussion was, while the teacher gave a "voice-over" explanation of each picture? Well, that is definitely not the slide show experience you get at Slide (http://www.slide.com/), a free site that turns your photos into smooth-looking video production you can proudly display on-line for all your friends. To create a cool presentation, choose a theme from Slide's extensive list (colors, patterns, backgrounds, etc.), upload your images (up to 300 or so) or add them from sites like Facebook, Flickr and MySpace, apply effects (tints, ripples, embossing, etc.) and add some music from Slide's extensive library.
When you're done, you can share your work with anyone on-line, either inviting them to the Slide site or e-mailing your production (the slide shows are Flash presentations, so if you want to download them, Google "download flash presentation" for numerous options). Slide is an easy-to-use site with an extensive help section, making it perfect for first-time "producers" who wants to turn their photos into something special.
Why settle for a slide show, when you can have what looks like a slick MTV-style video? That's the philosophy of the folks at Animoto (http://animoto.com/), which lets you upload photos, video and music, and mash them all up into a sharp-looking video presentation using dozens of tools. The site has amazing transitions you can insert between photos for a sleek or wild look, the ability to insert text into your photos and a plethora of effects, from the bold to the weird; it all combines to turn your photos and video content into what for all the world looks like a professional video, the kind you pay hundreds or thousands of shekels to have produced for you.
You can register for Animoto for free and produce as many 30-second on-line videos as you want for no cost. However, the site has various pricing options if you want to download your video or even produce a commercial video. For $35, you can download a full-length DVD quality video - one you can proudly show at an event, for a fraction of the cost of a professional service.
Your photos are interesting enough for a great presentation, for sure. But variety is the spice of life, and if you want to spice up your presentations with content from "out there," check out Masher (http://www.masher.com/), the BBC's own video mashup site, which lets you mix your uploads with stuff from the BBC's vault. The content comes from the BBC's Motion Gallery, a treasure-trove of videos, images and music that the company has licensed for use in Masher productions. Upload your own music, photos and video to the free Masher site and intersperse it with thousands of videos and photos from the gallery, then add some BBC music and you've got the makings of a BBC classic.
There's a really wide variety of options, so it's useful to check out what others have created using the site (be sure to check out the classic "Monty Python Meets Star Wars!"). Most of the videos are generic (didn't see any Dr. Who, for example), but they've tried to cover as many interests as possible, from war scenes to gardening to travelogues to slapstick comedy. Ditto for the music (there's no Beatles, but there are a lot of pieces by Paul Mottram, who's the genius behind many of the BBC's most famous show themes). And the clips and music are certainly not limited to British scenes and sounds - there are numerous clips of Israel, and several klezmer songs, for example (you can even get "The Star Spangled Banner" sung in a crisp London accent).
You can share your creations on social networking sites, or e-mail them. But Mashup's not a place to "work" producing a video for the rest of the world to watch - it's a site for you to have fun. Creative minds will have a field day here.