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 it.
Titles and Credits
Last week I had an email discussion with someone who was trying to eliminate 'blackness' in the borders of his PhotoStory project.
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, at 460x345.
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 ', 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 newsletter.

Eliminating Blackness in Photo Story Borders
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 some panning/zooming. 

Look at PhotoStory's working window for Advanced Options, and use it to help understand the picture sizes needed to align with PhotoStory movies.

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 2
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 size.
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 600.
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 forum!
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.