PapaJohn's Newsletter #23 - Movie
Maker 2 and Photo Story 2
Anatomy of a Photo Story Project
You can often learn a lot about the way software works by
studying the various files it has and uses. A Photo Story project file is an
interesting one, so different from the project files of Movie Maker.
I think the story of Photo Story project files is still
evolving. Version 1 didn't have a way to save a project. It was a one-time
process to produce a story. Version 2 introduced the project file so you could
go back and re-edit the project.
Photo Story project files are large. In this week's newsletter
I'll show you why they are so big. We'll look inside one to see what
it's made of, and then in the mini-tutorial we'll explore some
aspects of a project, and the effect of a large project file on software or
Here's a sample project to dissect. It is a simple one, using
the 9 sample pictures that came with my laptop, a narration added to each, and
one of the sample music files for background.
Photo Story - Sample
Before getting into it more, a
few notes about some things going on...
• Last week's notice about my changing from a
free subscription based newsletter to a paid one was pretty quietly
received. I'll carry this notice for a few
Issue #26 will be the last issue for free
subscriptions. See the main page of my www.papajohn.org website to continue
subscription will be for 52 issues, not necessarily a calendar
year... those subscribing between now and issue #27 will receive
26 issues beyond
Dean Rowe of Microsoft made an entry in his Blog about Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 including a
version 2.1 of Movie Maker with built-in support for burning
DVDs. I've asked him for more information about it, and I'll pass
it along when I get it. It might not be immediate for most
of us, but it breaks the ice toward Movie Maker burning DVDs
• Until then, distribute your movies to phones. At
the Windows® XP Experience More event on Tuesday, Microsoft, Audiovox
Communications, and AT&T Wireless introduced the smallest Microsoft® Windows
Mobile™-based Smartphone in North America — the Audiovox SMT5600. The
Audiovox SMT5600 includes the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition software for
Smartphones and is the first Windows-Mobile-based Smartphone featuring Windows
Media® Player 10 Mobile, providing a rich new media experience that enables the
seamless transfer of media from a PC running Windows XP. AT&T Wireless is
offering the Audiovox SMT5600 starting today for $199.99 (U.S.) after rebates
with a two-year voice and data service contract.
The Audiovox SMT5600 features the CMOS VGA
digital camera with low-light capabilities, 4x digital zoom and
camcorder functionality.... and it includes Windows Media
Player 10 Mobile
....on to the topic of the
Anatomy of a Photo Story
What's in the sample project file?
I started with 9 sample pictures in the sample project for
this newsletter, all jpg files that totaled 2.22 MB. I added some narration
to each of them, added a title page using one of the same sample images (Blue
hills.jpg - 28.5 KB), then the Beethoven background music (wma file of 618
The saved WMV video from the project is 3.1 MB, but the project
file is 13.7 MB.... over 4 times the size of the combined files that I included
in the story, and the WMV video file rendered from it. Here's the list of files
in Total Commander, my file management utility.
Sample Photo Story - Files
When I was last at Microsoft, I mentioned that a Photo Story was a package
of compressed files, and asked what file type it was made of. The answer was
DAT, which my file utility can look into, but can't fully manage.
If I rename the PSC file to DAT (it actually works if
I rename it to most anything other than PSC), Windows
Explorer doesn't let me go inside it, but Total Commander treats it as a
folder and goes to the next level. Here's what's in the PSC file.
Files in PhotoStorySample
Copies of the 9 pictures are int it, renamed simply as numbers 1
The Beethoven music piece is there, now named backgroundAudio.
I had narrated each of the 9 pictures. You can see the 9 narration files...
looks like they account for most of the file size. So a 75 second video has
narration files that total 12.7 MB... narrations in WAV file types seem
pretty costly in terms of the impact on the Photo Story file
What's in the XML file?
Let's take a look. Here's the lead-in code in the file, some opening script
followed by a section for the the title page, then individual sections for
each of the 9 pictures.
XML File in a Photo Story
Project File - Part 1
After the sections about the 9 pictures, there's a final section
about the background music file.
XML File - Part 2 - Bottom of
The XML file seems more like a Movie Maker project file, with
info about the pictures used and the settings for each.
The Photo Story PSC project file is a complete package. You can
discard the source files if you want to, as full copies of them are in the
Can you revise the pieces in the Photo Story project file
and put them back in the package, instead of having to open and
edit it with Photo Story?
Reasons to do it would include: substituting another narration or
music background file, revising the text on the title page, editing a picture,
With my file management utility, Total Commander, I can look into
the project file, and copy any of the files from it. But I'm not able
to delete a file in the package or copy a replacement file back into
it. I guess I need another file management utility that can do that.... let me
know if you have one that works.
Mini-Tutorial: Further Analysis
of the Photo Story Project File
Let's look at the properties of the Photo Story narration files,
and then at the constraints encountered when making and using large projects.
First the narrations.
I copied the narration files from inside the project file and
checked their properties. They each had the same properties as
Project File Size - Potential
Large files can tax the software and/or computer. We
know that Photo Story is limited to having a maximum of 151 pictures (150
regular ones plus one for the background of the title page). Let's explore how
well Photo Story and my Toshiba laptop handle a story made with larger picture
I'll use a 5 Megapixel picture of Echo the owl,
and some 6 Megapixel files I downloaded from the California Coast
Using the Same Picture Multiple Times
I added the same owl picture to a project, adding
it 10 times so I could pan and zoom around the same picture in different
Here's what the contents of the saved project file looked
Project File with 10 Copies
of the Same Picture
A project file for a story with a single 4 MB JPG image
used 10 times is 40 MB in size, as Photo Story treats each instance of the
picture as a different file.
The Effect of Large Project File Sizes on
Your Computer's Memory Resources
Of course it'll depend on how much memory your computer has. My
Toshiba laptop has 512 MB of RAM, reported in the Task Manager as physical
memory of 523,616K. That was more than enough to handle all of what I gave
it for this newsletter.
Does the whole file need to go into memory when opened? To check
that, I added some more pictures: 20 more owls for a total of 30. That got the
project file size up to 121 MB. Then another 10 different 17
MB pictures (BMP and TIFF) and the project file was up to 252
All was working well, so I bumped it up another big notch by
adding another 30 of the 6 MB pictures... the project was now up to 30 owls and
40 large pictures, still less than half of the 150 picture limit.
.... I was watching my Task Manager to see what effect
there was on memory resources as the video was being rendered... it went well
and the 9 MB video file had all 70 pictures and played smoothly at the higher
.... but what happened while the project file was
being saved really perked me up. I was using Total Commander to watch
the file grow in size as Photo Story added the pictures to it one at a time.
Look at what I saw.
After growing to exactly 300,000,000 bytes, a curiously even
number, and stopping there a while....
Project File Reaches 300
... CPU usage increased as Photo Story thought about what
to do, and then did something I didn't expect. It zeroed out the project file
and started over with an empty one.
I watched it grow to the 300MB size again in the second
pass, and the same thing happened, starting over a 3rd time. In the third pass,
there were only 3 more pictures to add. The final PSC file was only 44 MB.
When I looked into it, here's what I saw.
Project File After 3rd Pass
by 300 MB
It had zeroed the file out each time it reached 300 MB and
continued on. No error message, just giving me whatever was there in the final
When I tried to open this part of the project file, I got
this error message.
I wasn't surprised at the error message, but it had missed telling me
about the really big constaint:
A Photo Story project file
has a maximum size limit of 300 MB
If I hadn't been sitting here watching the story unfold, I
wouldn't have guessed.
I guess that's enough for this newsletter. Some
As we get digital cameras with more
megapixels, the 300 MB project file constraint is more easily reached...
My newest camera is 5 megapixel, so that would be about 60 pictures, a lot
less than the 150 picture constraint.
If you know the limit you can work
with it.... use the total size of your input pictures as a guide... add them up
and make sure you're comfortably below 300 MB. You don't want to invest a lot of
time into a story and then find you can't save the project file... worse
yet, after an apparently successful save, go back another day and get a
file-corrupt message and no way to recover the original project
I'll be writing to Microsoft and
adding some info to my Photo Story website.
Have a great week...