PapaJohn's Newsletter #11 - Movie
Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 - July 24, 2004
About: MPEG Files
(with a mini-tutorial about getting from MM2
I chose the MPEG topic, but driven by a request from one of
the poll responders for something like the mini-tutorial.
MPEG files are all around us. If you work with computers and watch TV you
can't avoid them. As video editors, it seems we have a love/hate
relationship with them. We hate it when Movie Maker won't import or work
with them in our projects, but we smile and accept the compliments
when viewers see our work on TV. We love how easy it is to have
PhotoStory make MPEG files behind the scenes and burn a standard VCD,
but hate it when it won't play on some of the DVD players and
those it does play on show such poor quality. These are just a few. There's lots
to love and lots to hate.
What are MPEG files? Why won't Movie Maker work with them? If Movie Maker
won't save the files needed to burn a disc that we can watch on TV, how should
we do it?
That's the subject(s) of this week's newsletter. Before getting into it,
let's stop a minute for a couple items.
Thanks to the 48 subscribers who responded to last
week's poll about knowledge and skill
levels. 38 picked a single letter and 10 split it
between two. For the dual choices, I added 1/2 to each. Here's the
tally, showing the percent that picked each. The orange bars show a
23% consider themselves 'newbies' and 77% have moderate to high
computer skills and are most interested in enhancing their video editing
knowledge. No one picked either C or G, and one chose "H", off the
chart - I didn't know where to put it, so I didn't put it anyplace.
In my quest to satisfy both groups, I'll continue to have a single
main topic, but I'll divide the newsletter into two parts. The first will
review things from advanced perspective. I'll follow that with a procedural
style mini-tutorial about one part of the topic. So the main topic
this week is MPEG and the mini-tutorial is about using MPEG-2 files to get from
MM2 to a burned DVD.
The advanced readers can stop after the first section, and the others can
jump right to the beginning of the mini-tutorial.
Ad-ware and spy-ware seem more and
more in center stage. The latest local service calls to friends and
family with computer-related issues end up concluding that the abundance of
ad/spy ware on the systems was bogging them down.
The leading suspect in a recent wave of MM2 users losing most of the
video effects and transitions in their collections is ad/spy ware.
Speculative and not conclusive at this point, but the idea is not being
Personally I don't use ad-ware or spy-ware controls. But I do use virus
protection. My e-mail address is all over the place and I tend to rely on the
various controls in the system. But I'm very prudent about the places I go
on the web. I'm the only user of my computers, don't
do general web-surfing for fun, and am cautious of accepting anything from
an unknown source.... I'll even wait a couple days before
opening attachments from those I know, unless I'm really
confident it's OK.
= Moving Picture Experts Group.... a group that
develops standards for lossy compression of digital motion
Here's a link to the MPEG group
website, and a copy of the opening paragraph from it, complete with
embedded hot links to the home pages for each of the standards:
"This is the home page
of the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) a working group of
ISO/IEC in charge of the development of standards for coded representation of
digital audio and video. Established in 1988, the group has produced MPEG-1,
the standard on which such products as Video CD and MP3 are based, MPEG-2,
the standard on which such products as Digital Television set top boxes and DVD
are based, MPEG-4,
the standard for multimedia for the fixed and mobile web and MPEG-7,
the standard for description and search of audio and visual content. Work on the
new standard MPEG-21
"Multimedia Framework" has started in June 2000. So far a Technical Report and
two standards have been produced and three more parts of the standard are at
different stages of development. Several Calls for Proposals have already been
Browsing the MPEG website is
interesting.... for some. It's gets pretty technical.
and PhotoStory/Movie Maker
The two MPEG standards we're
interested in are:
MPEG-1 - VHS
quality files used for VCDs, the ones burned directly by PhotoStory. 352x240
pixels (NTSC) and 352x288 (PAL)
MPEG-2 - SVCD and DVD
quality files for discs burned by other software, starting
with PhotoStory and Movie Maker saved movies. 480x460 (NTSC) and 480x576
(PAL) for SVCD. 720x480 (NTSC) and 720x576 (PAL)
Historical Notes About
Resolution: the first recognizable image of
a person's face from a video camera to a display was on
Oct 25th, 1925. Within a few years the buzz about high definition started. Early
images with 8 scanning lines had to be 'high definition' if they had 60 lines.
In 1935, the British government defined HDTV as video with at least 240 lines, a
good bit below today's MPEG-1 VCD files.
A demo of 441 lines at the New York World's Fair in 1939 (the
year before I was born) was hailed as the advent of HDTV in the US.
Today the new dual disc packs have high definition WMV-HD
files with 720 and 1080 lines.
All digital television broadcast
systems are standardized on MPEG. If you're getting it from TV or
heading that way with your movies, then you'll be working with some kind of MPEG
The first MPEG-2 standards were issued
in 1996. The standards specify exactly
what constitutes a legal bitstream. A legal encoder generates only legal
bitstreams. A legal decoder correctly decodes any legal bitstream. MPEG2 does
not standardize how an encoder accomplishes compression. It's about results, not
methods of getting them.
MPEG-2 covers 4:3 or 16:9 aspect
ratios, and accommodates progressive or
MP3 files are formally MPEG Audio
Layer III... there may be something here, most MM2
users have problems with MPEG-2 files and some have problems with MP3
files. Maybe they are related.
.... DVDs, VCDs, SVCDs are discs
with MPEG files on them (MPEG-1 on VCDs and MPEG-2 on SVCDs and DVDs). Part
of the MPEG-2 standard was that decoders had to be backward compatible and
be able to handle MPEG-1 in addition to MPEG-2.
.... recorded TV files in the Windows
XP Media Center Edition, with their DVR-MS extension, are some type
of MPEG-2 files.
.... digital camcorders that don't
record in Digital Video (DV-AVI) files record in MPEG-2.... transfers via USB
connections are a clue that the files are MPEG-2.... those that record
directly on DVD disc are MPEG-2.
.... MPEG-1 codecs are free. MPEG-2
codecs require licensing fees.
Mini-Tutorial Part 1 - From Movie Maker
to MPEG-2 for DVD
Your VCD and DVD burning software may or may not accept WMV
files as inputs. And they may or may not accept the type I DV-AVI files that
Movie Maker 2 produces. But all disc burning software uses MPEG files to make
TMPGEnc gets rave reviews by everyone.... for
quality. And gets pointed to as taking a long time to render MPEG
files. I'll use it to illustrate the process, using version Plus
I'll note any settings that I make or adjust.... if I don't
mention one, it means I just go along with what TMPGEnc uses as the
The opening menu is page 1 of the project wizard, where I'll
pick DVD/NTSC as my goal for this session, a high quality DVD (note... I
should have picked the NTSC (16:9) option on this screen, as my file
from MM2 is widescreen).
On the next page of the wizard, select the source file....
either browse to it or drag and drop it from
your file browser into the video file field. This version of
TMPGEnc will handle both DV-AVI type I and WMV version 9 files
saved by MM2. I'll drop a 1 minute widescreen clip into it, accepting
all the default settings on this and the upcoming pages.
The audio file entry is filled in automatically, telling TMPGEnc
to use the audio stream in the DV-AVI file.
On page 3, select any filter settings... some interesting
choices that I'll skip over for now.
Page 4 is one of the more interesting ones. It's here that you
select the bitrate.... that's what MPEG-2 quality versus size is all
about... higher bit rates mean higher quality, and more time to encode the
movie. It also means bigger files and shorter playing time on a
disc. You get to pick the balance point.
I didn't do any picking yet.... see that it knows that
my video is 1 minute and 1 second long, and if I opt for the settings
at this point, it'll use 1.65% of the capacity of a DVD.
Page 5 is the end of the wizard, where you tell it where to
put your output MPEG2 file. See that the check is on 'Start encoding
immediately'. I'm putting the new files in the same folder as my saved
I gave it the OK to create the m2v and wav files,
which didn't exist. It did the rendering pretty quickly because this
was just a one minute test file.
The intelligent wizards in today's software are really great.
They assess your needs and do their best to get you through the process as
easily as possible.
If you look over your selections and decide to change something,
just use the Back and Next buttons at the bottom of the windows.... it'll
remember the settings in each of the 5 pages.
Before I press the OK button to start a long rendering
session, I'll give all the settings some more thought. Here's what I
• I'm sitting here at Barnes & Noble and will be packing
soon to go home.... no, I don't want to start a rendering session now... start
it when you know you'll have time to let it run and finish.
• Page 5 shows that my output won't be a single MPEG2 file.
It'll be two separate files. The video will be in an m2v file
and the audio in a wav file. Is that what I want? Yes, if my
DVD software can handle the two files. No, if it can't. I'll assume it
When at home and the files are rendered by
TMPGEnc, here's what I see in my file manager.... the widescreen
DV-AVI movie saved by Movie Maker and used as the source file for
TMPGEnc, the video m2v file that should have been widescreen but
isn't, and the audio wav file.
Note that the combined size of the 2 m2v and wav files
is about 1/3 the size of the DV-AVI file.... the compression settings at
work.... still pretty big when you consider they are 33% the size of the DV-AVI
file, while a high quality WMV file would be about 7%.
Mini-Tutorial Part 2 - From
MPEG-2 to DVD
I use Sonic's
MyDVD, version 4.5, on my laptop (only because it came bundled with
the laptop and its DVD burner). I'll use it to take the new MPEG-2 and wav files
to make a DVD.
On the opening screen, I pick 'Create a DVD-Video
Then, on the main working window I (1) select the 'Get
Movies' icon, (2) browse to my new m2v file and select it. (3) MyDVD goes
through an importing process and the video ends up on the screen in the icon....
I guess the audio goes along with it.... no mention of audio by
Note a few things on the above figure. The little meter at the
lower left says I have 4.60 GB remaining for a 4.7GB DVD disc.... that aligns
with the indication we saw in TMPGEnc.
My next step
is to save the project.... using File > Save as - this is a quick step.
Once the project is saved, I preview it... using the menu
Tools > Preview... I say OK to the note about not seeing the motion menu
yet (it needs rendering first). The preview shows the movie playing
in MyDVD... it looks and sounds great. A couple notes about it at this point.
The audio is playing fine with it, so it confirms that the wav file tags
along and is associated with the m2v file. It previews in standard 4:3
mode - yup, I should have selected the 16:9 option.
At this point I could simply press the red button at the bottom
of MyDVD and burn a DVD disc.... but I'd want to do some
finishing touches first.... at least change the titles for the DVD and the clip
from the defaults. That's the minimum to get going.
I won't actually burn a disc for this exercise.... but I'll have
MyDVD make a set of DVD files on my hard drive, the same files it would put on a
disc, and play the virtual DVD on the hard drive. Use Tools > Make DVD Folder
> tell it where you want it.
The disc itself needs a different kind of file than the MPEG2
files we use on computers. Remember it's being setup to play on a DVD
player/TV. So vob type files get created and put onto the disc.
From MyDVD's help file: VOB - Video object
file. The basic media file of the DVD-Video format. VOB files contain video and
Here's what the new set of folders and subfolders now looks
like. Lots of folders and files, all automatically taken care of by MyDVD.
Remember we used the 59.9 MB m2v file as the source file for the DVD, and
the associated wav file was 11.5 MB. I actually did the saving a couple times,
and MyDVD created new sets of folders and files each time. One set is enough.
Look at the bottom folder in the tree to see the final set of files made
for the DVD.... it includes a vob file of 72.6 MB and another of 16.3 MB....
(maybe video and audio files somewhat larger than the input files from
When I double-click the largest of the vob files on my
laptop, up pops InterVideo's WinDVD software and plays it as if it was
a DVD.... it looks and sounds fine.... but still no widescreen, as now
That's as far
as I'll take the process for this newsletter.... my batting average for burning
discs after this point is 1000, and creating a coaster just to tell
you I did it isn't needed. I burned a few a couple weeks ago that had a 22
minute movie on them.... and I did it the easy way..... taking a high
quality WMV file from MM2 and going directly into MyDVD with it.... skipping the
TMPGEnc process. The viewing quality is still great!!
We all have different setups, use different conversion
software, different DVD software, etc. This mini-tutorial shows you one path
from MM2 to DVD. You can work on the specifics of your own.
Video file types can be confusing....
and MPEG-2 files can be difficult to work with. But Movie Maker 2 users who want
to edit files from TV or DVD, or make discs that play on a DVD player will
need to setup their process to do it.... like I did here, use a one minute video
clip just to learn about and test all the steps of your process.
Here's another link to MPEG.ORG, with
lots of info about MPEG files:
A good, but heavily technical book
about this week's topic is Digital Video and HDTV by Charles