Well, maybe it wasn't quite a miracle, but I am pretty damn proud of myself for what I pulled off as Michelle's Christmas present this year.
I used ULead DVD Slideshow to create a retrospective of our 15 years together. This was not as easy as it sounds. I work from home most of the time, and Michelle is homeschooling the kids, so a secret project requiring extensive computer time, plus extensive snooping around the house gathering up old photos time, was a logistical nightmare. I started back in October by downloading a trial version of the software to make sure it actually worked as advertised, and that VCD format CD-R's would work in my DVD player. Obviously it worked, although the DVD player is picky about which brand of CD-R it will read. It likes Memorex, does not like Imitation.
Step one was assembling about 250 pictures. Pictures from 1987-1998 or so were found in several photo storage boxes in the closet in my home office. That part was easy. However, pictures from 1998-2002 were scattered all over the house in various drawers and cabinets. Eventually I did assemble a sizable stack.
Next step was to scan them all. That is just as much fun as it sounds. Again, I could only do this when Michelle was not home. So it was a 2 month process of scanning 20 here and 20 there when she was out for an hour or two. I finished up the scanning and editing in early December (I started in late October). Editing? Oh yeah, I learned in the trial run that the pictures display well on a TV as long as they are nice and bright. So I had to brighten up just about every scan. Also, many of the older pictures had scratches that really showed in a scan, and many early pictures the kids had bad red-eye problems. All fixed in the final product.
Once all the scanning was done, I started grouping the photos in a slideshow, trying to decide how best to organize things. Again, not as easy as it sounds. What was I trying to say about our 15 years together, other than that I've loved every minute of it? Eventually, the solution came and it was obvious. The slide show is organized around the kids. There are 4 chapters: Before Kids, Breck, Delaney, and All of Us, with a unique soundtrack for each chapter. Getting the music and pictures to end at the same time was a nightmare. The software is only in version 1.0. It only allows 1 second increments when changing the slideshow speed. So if you have 60 pictures in a slide show, the length changes by 1 full minute if you add or subtract a second. I had to flashback to JR High Algebra as I started figuring out how best to get the ends to line up. It ended up being a combination of additional pictures added and editing the MP3's to shave a second here and there until everything worked. (The software automatically looped to MP3, so if the slideshow did not end with the music, it would restart the song and then abruptly stop with the last photo)
I have to admit I was somewhat surprised, and very relieved, when I burned the final copy and it worked perfectly. I'm guessing I put about 40 hours into this altogether. Michelle fessed up that she found some pictures in the scanner once (oops) and also went into the photo boxes herself and noticed they had been disturbed. However, she didn't have a clue what was going on.
In a wonderful coincidence, she got me a new digital camera. Ours is an antique that we didn't use as much as we could have because of the lack any zoom ability. My new one is much nicer 3 Megapixel Olympus with a 8X optical zoom. I might start doing an annual retrospective as it's a neat way to capture the memories. From now on though, I'm starting with digital media, no more scanning!