Create a Holiday Newsletter


The holiday newsletter is still a lively art, and one of the most instantly recognizable forms of correspondence. There is no right or wrong way to write one -- it's best when a family, or individual, structures their newsletter in a manner that suits their personality. You might write a newsletter as a funny poem summarizing happenings throughout the year, or as a series of brief blurbs about each family member's recent accomplishments, written from their point of view. Be creative and your family and friends will look forward to reading your newsletters year after year! If, however, you happen to be hard-pressed for ideas this holiday season, we offer these simple tips to creating a short but entertaining email newsletter featuring a Photo to Movie slideshow of the year your family had.

  • Write in any tone that feels comfortable, but if you are representing a family, write from a plural point of view. For instance, you would use the "we" pronoun -- "We've had quite a year," or "we can't wait for Joe's retirement!" -- and not "I". Regardless of who is writing, a family newsletter is in essence from the entire family.
  • Begin the newsletter by wishing your friends and family a happy holiday season. While the bulk of the text will be descriptions of you and what your family has done, the primary purpose of the newsletter is to send warm winter greetings. You might also start by mentioning how you and your family plan to spend the holidays, and what you're looking forward to most: ie, "The tree is already decorated and awaiting Santa's arrival, although the family cat has as usual claimed it for a private chew toy!"
  • Try to represent every family member somehow in the body of the newsletter. Some of the best and most concise holiday newsletters simply run down a list of family members and update the status of each one while providing a glimmer of what the future holds. You might only spend a sentence or two per person, offering highlights: "The year our son Jon finally tied the knot with his girlfriend in San Diego! Will we be shopping for baby clothes next year?" Remain upbeat and positive throughout, offering the bare essentials. You might even have each family member write their own update, if they are able.
  • Along with individual updates, mention any fun events the family might have enjoyed together, such as a beach get-away or a trip to another state. "We loved our summer vacation in Texas and are looking forward to another trip there soon, hopefully during winter." Since the slideshow you create will essentially be a pictorial representation of your newsletter, be sure to write about any events that may have yielded your favorite photos.
  • Close the newsletter with another heartfelt acknowledgement of the holiday season, wishing everyone the best of times and looking forward to the new year. Some newsletters close with a quote from a popular poem or story, such as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol or Robert Burns' "Auld Lang Syne." Others close more like a personal letter, with extensions of good tidings. Whatever fits your family best!
  • After writing the newsletter, try adding some rich-text formatting techniques to the e-mail, if your browser and email application allow it (web-based email users: try Mozilla/Firefox for the best results). Add a photograph of the family to the heading of the newsletter, or some elegant clip-art such as the graphic at the top of this tutorial. Add bold, colored headings to your newsletter, punctuating sections with strong reds, greens, and blues. Don't over-do it, of course. But adding a little variety to your fonts will make your newsletter fun and inviting.

Now that you're done writing and formatting, it's time to link to a slideshow!

First, open up the Photo to Movie application and organize a slideshow just as you would do ordinarily. Try to keep it short for file size purposes -- we suggest a total of ten pictures. This will pare down your year to the most crucial moments. Try to imagine your slideshow as a pictorial version of your newsletter, offering viewers a swift update of your family's journey through 2007. Use one picture each from a wedding, a graduation, a vacation, a holiday celebration. Maybe throw in one or two that just show your family having fun. Put the pictures in chronological order, and add a few transitions -- dissolve or wipe from one month to the next, for example. Type in a few captions if you'd like, describing the activity in each photo. Add a brief soundtrack that sums up your family perfectly, fading the music out at the end of the slideshow. And it's time to render.

Candy Canes

Publishing for .Mac Users

.Mac users have it easy. All you need to do is:

  1. Open the "File" Tab, go to "Make Movie" and select the .Mac icon.
  2. From there, name your movie, select "smaller/low bandwidth" for family members who may still use dial-up, and click "Make Movie".
  3. After rendering, Photo to Movie uploads your slideshow directly to your .Mac account, and takes you straight to the video page. From there, copy the url where your slideshow is hosted, paste it into your email newsletter, and add an introduction, such as "See the family in action with this slideshow!". Your newsletter is ready to send!

Publishing to Video Sites

Other users may want to use a flash-based internet site, such as YouTube or Google Video. Since YouTube videos can be viewed on virtually any computer with Flash, this is a safe method for linking, although slightly more complicated than publishing to .Mac. Here are the steps:

  1. To render your slideshow on Photo to Movie (Mac OS), select the menu item File > Make Movie. Now click on the QuickTime icon at the top. For Movie Format, select MPEG-4, a file format suitable for YouTube. Choose Higher Quality Export from the quality drop-down menu. Click on Make Movie to render the movie and save it to your Desktop.
  2. On Photo to Movie (Windows), click Properties... For the movie format, choose Windows Media and Best Quality. Choose Higher Quality Export from the quality drop-down menu. Now click Make Menu... to render the movie. Save the movie to your Desktop.
  3. For advanced users, you may be able to select a video format specific to the video site to which you are uploading the video. Ideally, the video site will not recompress your video, since recompression lowers the quality. If this is not possible, however, then choose a suitable high quality format and try to choose a format with a resolution at least twice as large as the video will appear on the video site.
  4. Next, use your web browser to visit YouTube, Google Video, or another video-sharing site and select Upload Video.
  5. Many sites will have you enter information about your video, such as "title," "description," and "category". Create a profile for your slideshow that explains clearly what is included, for example: Title - "Family Slideshow 2007," Description - "See what our family did all year!," Category - "Travel," or "People". You can also enter tags to help individuals searching for your video to find it more easily, such as your family's last name.
  6. Also, if you are direct-linking to your video from your e-mail newsletter, we recommend making it "Public". This will allow the whole world to view your slideshow! You can also make it "Private" if you wish, but it will require designating the emails of everyone who is allowed to view the video -- a separate process handled by the video-sharing site. It is much easier to provide a direct link to a "Public" video.
  7. Upload your movie. Check with your video site for more information about uploading.
  8. After uploading, there is usually a brief delay before you can view your video. Wait until processing is complete, and watch your slideshow to check for any errors or audio/video sync issues. Should there be problems, you may need to return to Photo to Movie and render again using a different codec, such as the custom H.264 setting with a higher key frame rate (for more information about H.264 and key frame rates, read the tutorial in our September Newsletter).
  9. After you're satisfied with your slideshow in YouTube or Google Video, find the link url. Most video-sharing sites include the url for direct linking somewhere on the video page, as well as HTML code for embedding your video in your email or on another web page. You'll want the link that starts with "http://". Place this directly into your email newsletter text along with a brief description, such as "See the family in action with this slideshow!".

Your newsletter is ready to send, and all your YouTube/Google Video buddies can watch it, too!

Hopefully this tutorial has given you a few tips to consider when writing this year's family newsletter. Email is not always the preferred form of communication between family members and friends. But elegant fonts and photos, as well as a link to a Photo to Movie slideshow, will justify the use of new technology and make your family seem all the more closer to your newsletter recipients. Slideshows made from your own personal photos present the best and easiest opportunity for you to tell your family's story at the close of each year. We wish you and your family the best through the holidays, and hope you take plenty of pictures for next year's slideshows!

Popular video sharing websites:

Written by Joseph Jon Lanthier, LQ Graphics, Inc.

December 12, 2007 - First version