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 to DVD) 
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 graphical view.
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 dismissed.
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.

MPEG = Moving Picture Experts Group....  a group that develops standards for lossy compression of digital motion images.
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 issued."
Browsing the MPEG website is interesting.... for some. It's gets pretty technical.

MPEG 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 file.
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 interlaced material.
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 discs.
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 2.5.
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 default.
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).  
TMPGEnc - Opening Menu
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 movie.
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 noted:
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 can.
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 Project'.
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 MyDVD.

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 audio.
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 TMPGEnc).
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 expected.
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 Poynton.