Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret

Turning Memories Into Montages

As many of us return from summer vacations, we’re anxious to gather our digital images and videos to share with friends and family. But it doesn’t always happen as quickly as we might hope. Even the most diligent photo sharers can become easily frustrated by the time it takes to upload multiple images to a photo-sharing Web site. And sharing digital videos on these sites usually won’t work, forcing you to confine memorable video footage to your computer’s hard drive, rarely to be watched again.

This week we tested a new Web-based program called OneTrueMedia, www.onetruemedia.com, which lets you create a montage combing both still pictures and digital video clips in just a few minutes. It features a fast uploading system to store your media, and offers themes, background music and text slides to go along with your montage. The site even supplies free stock photos and video clips that can be mixed in with your own material.

These projects can then be emailed, turned into high-resolution DVDs, posted on a Web site or downloaded in high-res for viewing on your computer or video iPod. You can keep your montages private or make them public.

OneTrueMedia.com lets users create montages of their digital videos and photos. Here's an example: www.onetruemedia.com/familyvacation

OneTrueMedia.com lets users create montages of their digital videos and photos. Here’s an example: www.onetruemedia.com/familyvacation

OneTrueMedia Inc., a Silicon Valley based company, cleverly chose to emphasize simplicity rather than fancy extras on its site. It works on both Windows and Macintosh computers, and with the leading Web browsers: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari. Because it uses a Web-based format, you won’t have to download any applications to use it, and new and improved versions of the site are promised every six to eight weeks.

We tested the OTM site by making various montages with our digital content, and were impressed by the handsome finished product that we were able to create with only a little time and effort. We also ordered a DVD of one montage, and found it to be a remarkable keepsake. But OneTrueMedia has a few hiccups, including fuzzy image pixilation during slide transitions and clumsy organizing, leaving room for improvement.

A free 60-day trial version of the site comes with a gigabyte of storage, or the Premium version can be purchased for $4 a month or $40 a year. Premium comes with 20 gigabytes of storage and use of attractive extra features that will jazz up your montage. The site also lets you create photo books using your media. Finally, if you have old videos or slides lying around the house, you can mail them to OneTrueMedia, and it will convert the content for use in your account.

We focused on the photo and video montages. We started by logging into a Premium account that the company set up for us. The first step for creating a montage was to choose a theme — four were free and another 19 were available with the Premium account, including Baby-Girl, Road Trip, Wedding-Classic and My Band. All themes come with preloaded appropriate music, but the Premium themes also come with attractive preloaded slides. Both can be changed.

Katie chose a Premium theme called Friendship and added a montage title, subtitle and description before adding photos of a recent trip with friends in the Add Content next step. A list of supported files was shown on the screen, so we knew which types of videos and images were compatible with the OneTrueMedia site (almost all were).

It took her less than two minutes (with a broadband connection) to upload 10 large photos to her account, and after doing so, she could immediately watch a preview of the montage with the click of a button. It played, music and all, and if you’re happy with the montage at this point, you can share it right away.

Walt chose a simple, free theme and uploaded dozens of photos of a beautiful Buddhist temple he’d visited in Hawaii, and several unrelated video clips. All of this took less than 20 minutes, though that’s partly because he has the very fast Verizon fiber service at his home. He ended his montage with a stock video clip of hula dancers supplied by OneTrueMedia.

By default, random image effects are automatically set up for each slide, like a Ken Burns documentary, to give life to your still photos. These image effects include zooming in or out and panning left to right. In addition, the photos and videos are set to transition from one to the next using movements like dissolve, reveal and fade through black. But some of our photos and videos became fuzzy and pixilated during these transitions.

OTM explained that the shareable online version is low resolution, viewable for users of many speeds — not just super-fast connections. The company plans to eliminate these pixilation problems by offering higher resolution versions as more and more people get faster connections. But we think it should just offer two versions now — for faster and slower connections.

The high-resolution DVD that we received didn’t suffer these problems, but it’s annoying to deal with fuzzy pictures — period. By changing your slides to close-ups of the images and by not using transitions, you can reduce blurriness.

Katie added more images and a couple videos to her montage; once your videos or photos are loaded onto the site, they can be pulled up again for use in any project. We arranged the media in an order that looked best, but this part of the site could be much better if it used drag-and-drop methods like many new Web applications do. Instead, you must enter a sequential number below each photo and select Update before seeing the new order of your montage.

This process took too long and discouraged us from fiddling with the order of our images as much as we would have liked. OneTrueMedia says it hopes to offer drag-and-drop sequential ordering by late September.

We liked the song that was automatically set up to run with our Friendship montage — “Bring It On Home” by pop country group Little Big Town. We also browsed through the site’s 160 songs, and uploaded one of our own tunes from our computer. Your montage can last for up to five songs, and if you don’t have enough footage to last that long, you can set the spot in your montage where one song should stop and the other should begin.

To break up our footage, we added text slides and a few professional-looking stock images from the site. We also added captions to a few photos; these are available only with Premium accounts. At each step of editing your montage, you can preview how it looks from that point on, or from the beginning.

When we were done, we found that our montages were rather moving, thanks to the right music and the artistic transitions. We shared them with friends by entering their email addresses; they received a message containing the first image and a link to see the finished products. Whenever you edit the montage, a button on the site can update the shared version.

OneTrueMedia will only get better with time, and right now it offers a simple solution that will make your digital memories look really attractive. Your friends and family will wonder how you became clever enough to put the whole montage together — and that’s a memory worth savoring.


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