PapaJohn's Newsletter #7 - Movie
Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 - June 26, 2004
The first six were about Movie Maker 2. Someone
suggested it's time for one on PhotoStory and this is
Last week I had an email discussion with someone who was trying
to eliminate 'blackness' in the borders of his PhotoStory
Let me illustrate the 'blackness' issue. My PhotoStory website
has two little stories. The one on the main page uses 4 pictures
and no black borders show up. But 2 of the 4 pictures in the
story on the other page show them.
I don't mean the few pixels around the frame that I add for accent on
the website page, like the border around the owl at the right.... I mean
the thick top/bottom or left/right black bars such as those on the picture of
the Grand Canyon below. I opted to leave the black top/bottom borders
on that picture because I would need to crop it to avoid them. The picture
was taken by a professional photographer and I'm using it with his
permission; I don't feel it's right to crop it.
Our discussion started with an exchange of thoughts about the aspect
ratio of each picture needing to align with the standard 4:3 ratio, but ended up
with a revision of one of my website pages, to provide specific dimensions
to use for each of the 4 choices of saved project file sizes.
A few days later, I was corresponding with someone else. The subject was
a custom profile for PhotoStory 2. He didn't want to
use 320x240 size or 640x480. He wanted one in between,
After some testing that included profiles from the Encoder and
profiles tweaked with the Profile Editor, I drafted an email telling him
that PhotoStory wouldn't support his custom profile....
....but I had one more test to do. You guessed it.... I ended
up attaching a new profile to the email, for a video size of 460x344.
He reported back that it worked great!!!
I'll share with you how I did that profile.
A couple items before continuing with the weekly topic:
Shortly after distributing last week's newsletter, I received an email from
someone asking for a copy of my newsletter. When I sent it, I got another
one fairly quickly saying '...no, not that one, the one about doing
Picture-in-Picture effects...', the most popular one so far. Rob
Morris generously offered to archive
the newsletters online so anyone can
get an older issue. The link to the archive page is:
No good electronic newsletter would be complete without popups, sidebar
ads, or embedded spyware. Something has to help pay the bills, so I've
added a new section to the end of the newsletter, a summary of the
products and services I offer that are related to Movie Maker 2
and PhotoStory 2. Some like this newsletter are free, and others are
reasonably priced. I'll be including the list at the end of each
Eliminating Blackness in Photo Story
If you will be saving a PhotoStory at
the 800x600 size, and you carefully make each of your pictures
800x600, why do you get black borders? I expanded the Gather
Pictures > Intro page of my PhotoStory 2 website last week to address that
issue. The core reason is because you or PhotoStory has opted to do
Look at PhotoStory's working window for Advanced Options, and use
it to help understand the picture sizes needed to align with
PhotoStory will automatically add some black border(s) for two
reasons: (1) to preserve the image aspect ratio if it's not aligned with the 4:3
ratio that PhotoStory works at, and (2) if you opt for zooming that needs more
pixels than provided by your source pictures.
The picture of the gardens that I'm using in this example is
aligned with the 4:3 aspect ratio, so you don't see any black borders in
PhotoStory's working window. But the working window doesn't tell you the
rest of the story. It doesn't note what pixel size the image is, nor
does it yet know what saving option you'll be choosing, nor how it'll look when
actually panned/zoomed in the final rendered movie. So, at this point you
and PhotoStory think it'll be fine, without blackness.
It does show that the zooming will be such that it'll use
about 3/4 of the image, and the panning will be from upper left to lower right.
This is a good clue, but gives no procedural advice.
By some trial and error testing, I determined the rule of
thumb to avoid black borders is to use an image size with enough
pixels to align with the cropped area shown in the working window. If the saved
movie is medium quality at 320x240 pixels, then there will be no black borders
if the cropped area of the picture is at least 320x240 pixels.
What's the cropped area size? How does it translate into the
minimum size needed for a source picture? Most people don't care about
the math involved, so I'll just give you the final numbers.
To avoid blackness, determine the dimensions of your saved story
and use this table to see the minimum sizes your pictures need to be. They
can be larger than the minimums, but not smaller.
If your source files don't meet the minimums, use a
graphics utility like IrfanView to resize them so they do. It's not usually
advised to resample pictures to larger sizes because it
introduces pixelization, but in this case, a few more pixels
versus blackness... it'll be a good tradeoff.
Custom Profiles with PhotoStory
What didn't work: The Encoder has a nice set 88
profiles (.prx files) that make a great study place to learn about the
settings used in a custom profile. But telling PhotoStory to use any of
them doesn't work... it just doesn't see them as valid profiles.
And taking a custom profile used in Movie Maker 2, and
tweaking it with the Profile Editor, give the same results... PhotoStory
doesn't recognize it.
What did work: There are two downloadable
profiles that are made specifically for PhotoStory. We know they work. They
are also prx files, one for 800x600 and the other for 1024x768 sizes.
Although the two extra PhotoStory profiles are prx files,
you can't open them in the Profile Editor. But they are text files and
easily edited in Notepad.
The figure shows the bottom of the profile for the 800x600
The profile for 1024x768 was identical in all respects except
the 3 sets of numbers that I circled. They were 1024 and 768 instead of 800 and
The person emailing me was looking for a size of 460x345 (a
4:3 aspect ratio, just a smaller video size).... so I changed the numbers
to 460x344 and emailed it to him. Worked like a charm!!! The saved file
played perfectly and he had shaved a meg off his file size.
I rounded his 345 number off to 344 as my training with the
Profile Editor is to not use odd numbers in pixel dimensions.
I did some more testing.... what happens if I go up
to 1600x1200. PhotoStory on my laptop crashes instantly when
I point to that profile.
Widescreen 16:9 ratio is more and more in favor these days and
the only options in PhotoStory are standard 4:3. Can you make a widescreen 16:9
aspect ratio profile? Yes, rendering and playback in Windows Media Player
is fine. But I have some more testing to do to be sure I'm using the right pixel
dimensions. Maybe you'll want to explore it and post your findings on the
My table to avoid black borders will need a
couple footnotes with formulas to use for minimum picture sizes... but
that's for another day. This newsletter needs to get in the mail.