PapaJohn Productions

Newsletter #20 - Sept 25, 2004

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 2


Movie Maker, Photo Story and TMPGEnc
Last week I used TMPGEnc to help get MPEG-2 files from a DVD into Movie Maker for editing. The other, perhaps more usual, direction is to use it to create high quality MPEG-2 files from Movie Maker and PhotoStory projects, for use in DVD authoring and burning software. Let's explore that this week.
I'll start with two kinds of wmv files: (1) the short PhotoStory sample file from the main page of my PhotoStory site, and (2) one of the new wedding video files made with MM2.1. That'll be one rendered with the Media 9 image codec and another with the Media 9 video codec. The only Media 9 video codec we won't use is the one for screen capture.
TMPGEnc version 2.5+ will take the wmv files and render them into high-quality MPEG-2 files for use in DVD software.... I won't take it as far as I'd like - checking how well the MPEG-2 files work in a MyDVD project. My Toshiba laptop is in the shop... with the DVD burner and software on it, I'm doing this newsletter on my old Dell laptop with minimal software. 
Before getting into it more, a few notes about some things going on...

 Microsoft released a new Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility to help assess MPEG-2 decoders in certain situations. It's a simple app with one window as seen below.
My Toshiba laptop has my most complete set of codecs.... I checked 3 other computers and didn't find any MPEG-2 decoder listed by the utility on 2 of them - the old Dell laptop filling in for the Toshiba and an HP MCE computer. On my Dell desktop, it showed 4 decoders and said none of them are compatible with the new synchronization feature of WMP10 or with MCE software. The new synchronization feature is the process used by WMP10 to get video files from the computer to a Portable Media Center such as the Creative Zen I was checking a couple weeks ago.
MPEG-2 Video Decoder Checkup Utility
Decoder  Checkup 
Here's the link to download the utility:
The website has all the info about it. Don't do anything drastic or spend money if your decoder isn't in the list or shows up as not being compatible. One of the decoders listed above was working fine when I tested the MPEG-2 files created for this newsletter on the Dell desktop.

 The website menu has two new major branches, one for PhotoStory and another for what I'm calling 'Living Projects'.
I continue to be intrigued by the synergy between PhotoStory and Movie Maker and want the info about that synergy to unfold in the Movie Maker website rather than the PhotoStory one.
The 'Living Projects' branch started with a newsletter reader writing to suggest a newsletter devoted to the creative aspects of editing a wedding video. As you know, I've been working on a wedding project and looking at some wedding videography sites for inspiration.... so the topic is timely. I'll do that newsletter next week.
You also know that I've recently been working on a wedding website. To keep that project and others as they come up to be more visible to users of the Movie Maker website, I added the branch and access to the wedding website.
The technical aspects of camcorders, computers and software like Movie Maker and PhotoStory are one thing. Creativity and inspiration when shooting and editing videos are entirely different things. I'm not sure I'm the right person to help you in that area, but I'll share what I think about it.

 The book about Windows Media hacks was hacked.... the publisher O'Reilly decided to fold the project rather than finish it. Being just a paid contributor, I'm not close enough to the decision makers to know or comment on the reasons. When the dust settles, I can take my 14 submitted hacks and use them elsewhere.
On the same day I received word of the cancellation, I submitted the initial draft of a proposal for another book... this one about Movie Maker and PhotoStory for intermediate to advanced users.
....on to the topic of the week

From WMV and DV-AVI Files to MPEG-2 DVD Files
Install Software and Gather Some Sample Files
Rather than just using the two types of WMV files as inputs to TMPGEnc, I'll get a couple DV-AVI files too. I'll use MM1 to render a DV-AVI type I file from one of the WMVs, and MM2.1 to render a DV-AVI type II from the other. That'll give me 4 files to process through TMPGEnc, 2 types of WMV and 2 types of DV-AVI.
My Dell laptop is pretty bare, so I had to round up some software and files to work on the newsletter. I copied the sample PhotoStory and a WMV file made by MM2.1, downloaded and installed the latest version of TMPGEnc 2.5+, and copied the MM1 executable. This version of TMPGEnc is available as a download that is fully functional for 30 days, so if you don't have it and want to follow along closely, you can get it (less than a 4 MB package) from:
The website says the newer versions are easier to use then 2.5+. If you are using a different version, your specifics might differ from those in the mini-tutorial.
The first page of the TMPGEnc Project Wizard is a great reference about MPEG files. Lots of newsgroups and forum posts ask about the differences among VCDs, SVCDs and DVDs.... the first page of the wizard provides all the answers. First you select the MPEG file format you want in the menu at the left.
Remember that MPEG files are based on standards.... a necessary thing if you expect to have them play on all the televisions in the world.... there are two major divisions just as with computers. On TVs there are NTSC versus PAL. On computers we have Macs and PCs.
If you're in North America like me or in Japan, select one of the 7 NTSC choices in the menu. If you're anywhere else, select one of the 5 PAL choices.  On the right it'll give you a great summary about your choice. I've opted to create high quality MPEG-2 NTSC files.
The only other choice on this page is for the audio part of the file. There are 4 choices for DVD quality MPEG-2 files: CBR (constant bit rate) or VBR (variable bit rate) with Linear PCM or MPEG-1 Layer II (MP2). I'm opting to go with higher quality VBR audio with Linear PCM.
TMPGEnc Project Wizard - Page 1
TMPGEnc Project Wizard - Page 1
My video choice of NTSC high quality is a 'no-brainer'. I'm in North America, the input files are standard 4:3 aspect ratio, and the short sample files would easily fit on a DVD.
If extra-long playing time was needed, the NTSC (Low resolution) choice in the menu would be appropriate. It would sacrifice some video quality (720x480 pixels versus 352x240) for a longer playing time (up to 155 minutes versus up to 245 minutes.
My audio choice was driven by the info TMPGEnc gave me when selecting each of the 4 choices. It said VBR was higher quality than CBR.... and then advised if I selected MP2 that I could get up to 155 minutes on a DVD if my DVD software converted the audio to PCM. It seemed to suggest that it would be heading to PCM anyway, so why not have TMPGEnc do it during this part of the process?
I'll consider this the end of the lead-in section of the newsletter.... and the rest of the TMPGEnc wizard the mini-tutorial. That'll be where the input files get selected, the detailed settings made, and the MPEG-2 files rendered. 

Mini-Tutorial: From Movie Maker and PhotoStory through TMPGEnc
I'll do the same thing with each of the 4 sample files to see if there's any differences in the way TMPGEnc accepts and/or processes them.
Wizard - Page 2 - Select Source File to Convert to MPEG
The note on page 2 says source files can be dragged and dropped into it. I tried that first and it worked fine for each.
All I had to do was drag and drop a source file onto the page and the wizard filled it all in. The only differences I saw with the different files. were that the two WMV files showed as non-interlaced as in the figure below, while the two DV-AVI files showed as being interlaced with the bottom field first.
TMPGEnc Project Wizard - Page 2
Wizard - Page 2
Wizard - Page 3 - Filter Settings
The page showed the same options for both WMV and DV-AVI source file.... by default nothing was selected.
TMPGEnc Project Wizard - Page 3
Wizard Page 3
Clicking on the first item, the source range, takes you to this window.... it's not just about selecting a range of frames to use for the MPEG-2 file, you can cut parts of the video out, or shift the audio relative to the video by toggling the audio gap correction value.
Source Range Filter
Wizard Page 3 - Source Range
Check the 'Clip frame' option (on the main page 3 window) and it'll open a window that allows you to clip or crop the video. I have about 6 lines at the bottom of my analog videos that are always out of sync with the rest of the lines, a normal byproduct of starting with a Hi8 tape.... I can let those lines go through Movie Maker and crop them off here.
Check the 'Noise reduction' option and work on reducing video noise.
Selecting the 'Other Settings' button on page 3 of the wizard takes you to many more setting choices.... one of which is an audio setting window where you can do something you can't in Movie Maker. The fade in and out settings of Movie Maker are less than a second. You can see from the below figures that you can apply fade in and fade out times as long as you want. It defaults to 500 milliseconds but I've changed them to 5000 for 5 second fades.
Other Settings - Audio effect
Audio Effect
Wizard - Page 4 - Bit Rate Setting
Here's the key page for those who want more video on a DVD than an hour. The figure below shows the page with the default settings when I opened it. High bit rate means high quality. The default of 8000 kbits/second (close enough) equates to using 1.75% of standard DVD disc capacity for this sample short movie.
It won't let me move the bit rate higher than 8000, but it lets me change it to as low as 2000, where it says this video will use 0.65% of the disc, almost tripling the duration - extrapolating that gets you to about 3 hours on the disc. Remember that back on the initial page, the info said we could get up to 155 minutes.... here's the key to actually getting it.
The extremes might not be appropriate, but if you have some wedding videos that total 1 hour and 10 minutes, it might be more appropriate to change the bit rate to fit them all on the disc rather than editing them down in Movie Maker or spanning 2 DVD discs.
TMPGEnc Project Wizard - Page 4 - Bit Rate
Wizard Page 4
Wizard - Page 5 - Output File
We're done with choosing. Either encode your video now or do a batch process. I've never done a batch one so I'll try it with these 4 small ones.
TMPGEnc is pretty user-friendly. I noticed the other day how much I could continue doing in the foreground as it rendered in the background....
If you're in a hurry for an MPEG file and have something else to do in the meantime or don't mind being slowed a bit in your other computer tasks, go into the Task Manager and give TMPGEnc a higher priority.
TMPGEnc Project Wizard - Page 5 - Output File
Wizard - Page 5
My first attempt at running a TMPGEnc batch process didn't work. I didn't go back to try it again. The files were small so I just rendered each to get my 4 sets of MPEG-2 files (an .m2v for the video and a .wav for the audio). No problems during the rendering.... and all played fine on my desktop computer with WMP10.
That's as far as this one goes. Some closing remarks:

Always fun... never knowing what hurdles I'll bump into as I do a newsletter. And this one being done totally on my minimalist Dell laptop: 265 MHz CPU, 144 MB RAM, 4 GB hard drive with 1.3 GB free.
I make few DVDs and don't usually get into the nooks and crannies of TMPGEnc, so the newsletter was a good opportunity to explore some areas I hadn't.
There was one crash of TMPGEnc. When I was jogging around the settings pretty quickly with a WMV source file. The event viewer showed the crash was associated with ntdll.dll. But it was the only crash of an app on this computer in the past 5 days, didn't occur again, and didn't seem significant.
The DVD software on my Toshiba is MyDVD.... it does a great job but has minimal choices in settings. If nothing else, you can see from this newsletter that the side road to MyDVD via TMPGEnc provides more than enough opportunities to make changes after saving a movie or PhotoStory, and before authoring the DVD.
TMPGEnc has a high reputation for quality... it's a valuable tool at a very fair price.
With my Toshiba in the shop I couldn't feed them to MyDVD for a DVD project. I'm confident they would have worked fine if it was here. I have yet to have a problem making and burning a DVD with it.
A side note for PhotoStory... I tried using one of the .wav files from this TMPGEnc process as background music for a story. I got an error message saying that .wav files can't be higher than 44.1 Khz in sampling frequency.... checking the properties of the .wav files shows they are 48 Khz.At least the rejection came with an appropriate error message that explained it.

Have a great week...