Spice up your desktop with Windows DreamScene

If you have a digital camera, you probably have a lot of great digital pictures that you don't get to see that often. Either you don't get around to printing them all, or you choose one as your desktop background and then let months go by before you get tired of looking at it and decide to change it. Well, those days are over: with Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows DreamScene, you don’t have to look at the same static image on your desktop. You can play slide shows that have your favorite pictures and make your desktop background come to life.

Picture of three monitors with different images
Make your desktop background come alive using Windows DreamScene

What’s Windows DreamScene?

Windows DreamScene is a Windows Ultimate Extra you can use to play video that loops on your desktop background as you use your computer. The video you use for Windows DreamScene can be footage you recorded with a video camera and then edited; a video file you got from someone else; a video that is included in the Windows DreamScene Content Pack or Windows DreamScene Content Pack Favorites; or it might be another video you made, such as a slide show of still photos that's saved as a video file.

To install and use Windows DreamScene, your computer needs to be running Windows Vista Ultimate. To learn more about downloading and installing Windows Ultimate Extras, including Windows DreamScene, see How do I get Windows Ultimate Extras downloads and services?

For information about Windows DreamScene and how to use it, see About Windows DreamScene.

Go wide

Windows DreamScene videos look really nice when you use widescreen photos and video (meaning the screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio like you'll find on newer plasma or LCD TVs rather than the 4:3 standard aspect ratio used on standard TVs). Many digital cameras take photos using the 4:3 aspect ratio). To turn your photos into 16:9 widescreen images, you can crop them in Windows Photo Gallery by doing this:

  1. Select an image, and then click Fix.

  2. Click Crop Picture.

  3. For Proportion, click 16 x 9.

  4. Drag the squares on the edges so the selection area covers the part you want to show, and then click Apply.

  5. Click Back To Gallery.

Make a slide show in a few minutes

Here's how you can quickly make a slide show in Windows Movie Maker.

  1. In Windows Photo Gallery, select the images you want to use by clicking the first photo, holding down the SHIFT key, and clicking the last photo.

    A good rule of thumb is to include a minimum of 6 photos that are each displayed for 5 seconds, which is the default duration for pictures that are imported and used in Windows Movie Maker. Your movie needs to be at least 30 second long for the photos to get added to the storyboard automatically (as described in the next step).

  2. Click Make a Movie.

The pictures you select are automatically imported into Windows Movie Maker and added to the storyboard—including transitions between pictures. You are already well on your way to finishing your slide show (and you didn’t even have to click anything yet in Windows Movie Maker)!

You could use the photo slide show project as it is now, and it would make a pretty good DreamScene desktop background video. But you can make it even better by making some changes to your project in Windows Movie Maker. Here are a few tweaks you could make in Windows Movie Maker to make your Windows DreamScene video look a lot better:

  • Delete the two titles on the storyboard.

  • Click the Transitions folder in Windows Movie Maker, click Fade, and then drag it between pictures on the storyboard that have a different transition applied (for example, some images might have a Reveal transition between them).

    For more information about adding transitions in Windows Movie Maker, see Add transitions and effects to pictures and video in Windows Movie Maker.

  • To avoid a jarring transition when the slide show ends and restarts, copy the first picture and paste it at the end of the storyboard so that the first and last frame are the same and will loop nicely when played using Windows DreamScene.

    To copy and paste the first picture, right–click the photo, click Copy, right–click the first empty cell at the end of the storyboard, and then click Paste.

  • Drag a Fade transition between the photo you just pasted and the one before it on the storyboard.

  • On the timeline, trim both the first and last photo from five seconds to a little over two seconds. This will reduce the amount of time the first and last photo are displayed, which will give the slide show a more seamless appearance when it repeats. To learn how to trim clips in Windows Movie Maker, see Work with clips in Windows Movie Maker.

Here’s what this project will look like in Windows Movie Maker.

Picture showing a project on the storyboard in Windows Movie Maker
A project in Windows Movie Maker that has the same picture at the beginning and the end

Now, you need to publish the slide show project as a movie in Windows Movie Maker:

  1. In Windows Movie Maker, click Publish Movie.

  2. Click This Computer, and then click Next.

  3. Type a name for your movie, and then click Next.

  4. On the Choose settings for your movie page, click More settings, click Windows Media HD 720p (5.9 Mbps), and then click Publish.

    This Windows Media HD setting only appears if your computer is running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate.

  5. Click Finish.

Play your slide show using Windows DreamScene

Here’s how to play your slide show video on your desktop using Windows DreamScene:

  1. Click the Start button Picture of the Start button, click Control Panel, and then click Change desktop background under Appearance and Personalization.
  2. On the Choose a desktop background screen, click Browse, find the folder that you saved your slide show in, click your slide show video file, and then click Open.

  3. Under How should the picture or video be positioned?, click Crop to fit screen, and then click OK.

    Crop to fit screen is one of the two new positioning options that are added when Windows DreamScene is installed on your computer. You can use either of these positions even when you’re not using Windows DreamScene.

    Picture of the desktop background positioning options when Windows DreamScene is installed
    The highlighted area shows the two new desktop background positioning options that are added when Windows DreamScene is installed
  4. Optionally, you can hide the icons on your desktop so they don't obstruct your view when the slide show is playing. To hide desktop icons, right–click the desktop, point to View, and then clear the check mark next to Show Desktop Icons.

  5. Also optionally, you can pause the slide show so that the point you pause at is displayed as a still picture on your desktop. To pause, right-click the desktop, and then click Pause DreamScene.

If you have problems when using Windows DreamScene, go to Troubleshooting problems with Windows DreamScene.

The next step: Get creative with a graphics editing program and this advanced technique

The slide show you just created will look great, but that's just the beginning of what you can create for Windows DreamScene. For example, you can turn your digital pictures into an animated desktop slide show collage for Windows DreamScene by using a graphics editing program and Windows Movie Maker.

This set of steps works best if you use a graphics editing program that has the layers feature, such as Microsoft Digital Image Suite or Adobe PhotoShop (you can find many graphics editing programs online at the Windows Marketplace website. Because graphics editing programs are all a little different, the steps in the following procedure are written generally.

  1. In your favorite graphics editing program, create a new, blank image that is 1280 x 270 pixels.

  2. Open the digital pictures that you want to use in your collage, and then add each picture as a new layer in your new image.

  3. Arrange each picture (one on each layer) in the way you want your pictures to appear. Try resizing and rotating pictures on the different layers to create interesting effects.

  4. Hide each layer except for the background, and then save a copy of that image (with only the background showing).

  5. With the background layer showing, show the next layer, and then save a copy of that image.

  6. With the two current layers still showing, show the next layer, and then save a copy of that image too.

  7. Do this for the remaining layers, and then import the new images into Windows Movie Maker. Make and save the slide show. (You can use the same steps described earlier in this article.)

The resulting video looks like an animated collage, where each picture fades in over time until all the pictures appear, and then each photo gradually fades out. Here is an example of what this will look like.

Picture showing the final collage used for a slide show
The individual pictures are added one-by-one in a slide show