PapaJohn Productions

Newsletter #25 - October 30, 2004

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3


Special Edition: 'Photo Story 3'
It finally happened... the development, beta testing, speculation, and rumor phases are over... Photo Story 3 was officially announced and released on Wednesday. The verdicts are coming in, pros and cons, as you'd expect for anything done by Microsoft. Rave reviews, some negative comments, and issues we are just beginning to hear about and understand. For me, the continuing development of Photo Story is why I started my Photo Story website for version 2, and why I'm folding my version 3 website into a new major branch of my Movie Maker 2 site.

Microsoft expanded the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Program and Photo Story 3 is one of 7 additional bonus items for participating. It's a free download for those who opt into the program. If you don't already have it, go get it. Here's the download link:
WGA is being used by Microsoft as part of its effort to combat software piracy and create a better experience for users of genuine Microsoft Windows software. The bottom line is that, if you have a legitimate copy of Windows XP, you can download a free copy of Photo Story 3. I already had a copy but wanted to check the normal process to get it; I did that Wednesday afternoon and let it install over my previous setup. All went well.
The tricky part for me was finding the Windows XP key... it's a 3 strikes and you're out process. I made it after taking 2 strikes. My Toshiba laptop came with a Toshiba DVD, not a Windows XP disc. I ran a Belarc report, which includes keys for installed software... I messed up on my first attempt to enter all 25 characters right - strike 1. I found a typo and tried again - strike 2 and I didn't know why. Is it because my laptop recently went out and came back with a new hard drive, with a ghosted image from someplace other than what was on it originally? With one strike left, I found a Windows XP sticker on the bottom of the laptop with a different key, and it worked. That got me to the download package and the installation.

I've been playing with PS3 a good bit, and I like to illustrate things with examples. Here are a few. Two were made with Photo Story 3 and two are combo projects, using both Photo Story 3 and Movie Maker 2. I both apps, but I'm particularly intrigued by what you can do when you use the best of each and work them together, doing things not possible with one of them alone.

Photo Story 3 starts with this welcome window.
Photo Story 3 Welcome Window
Welcome Window
In this newsletter, I'll explore the new version a bit. There won't be a mini-tutorial, just an overview.... with some details of course.
Before getting into it more, a few notes about some things going on...

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 Another day, another couple deadlines. Besides the weekly newsletter tonight, today was the deadline for my final submittal of an article for MaximumPC's winter quarterly special.  I submitted the 176 MB zipped file for the CD to be included earlier this week. It'll be a 5 or 6 page tutorial titled 'Make a Killer Flick with Movie Maker 2'. The issue will be on newsstands December 7th and be there for 3 months.
 I was asked to checkout the proDAD Adorage package for Movie Maker 2, which I'll start doing this weekend. it's a package of special effects.
....on to the topic of the week

Photo Story 3 - Overview
In a word, the new version of Photo Story is fantastic. It's moved from a slide show app tucked in with a pack of utilities for $20 to a main feature, right up there with Movie Maker as high-end free software. :)
I had a hard time getting those interested in developing high end slide-shows to use Photo Story 2. When they tried it and also Movie Maker 2, they decided to keep going with Movie Maker 2 - mainly to use the special transitions. I expect this bias to change with Photo Story 3. Here are some highlights of the new version:
After the welcome window, you import your pictures.... the little icons under the preview monitor are for levels adjustments, red-eye reduction, rotation by 90 degrees, and editing (rotate or crop, Auto Fix contrast or color levels or red eye reduction, add special effects - choose from 10 effects).
Import Pictures
Import and Arrange
Drag and drop them from your file browser or import via the menu. The other feature on the page is for removal of black borders.
Many of the choices take you to other sub-windows.
The Next window is for adding text and special effects (the same 10 you can get to on the previous window). Version 2 was limited to text on the title picture. Version 3 lets you add it to any of them. If you add text to an image, it's pasted to where you put it, so the text moves with the picture when you apply motion effects.
Add Text to Any Picture 
Add Text
Choosing Save Project... on any window saves the project file, now with a wp3 extension. The project file is, like version 2, a compressed file with all the source files for the project copied into it. With the right utility, you can reach in and copy a file from it.
Next comes the window to narrate and customize the motion. The narration seems the same as it was before but the motion feature is much better... it's outstanding!!! I have to show you that window after this one.
Narrate and Customize Motion
Press the Customize Motion... option under the monitor and go to this working window, where you can pinpoint the starting and ending position. The picture I'm using in this one is 4072 x 3054 pixels (12 megapixels).
Custom Motion - Starting and Ending Positions 
Customize Motion
The tightest I can go into this picture is 246 x 185 pixels... an area of just over 1/3 of one percent of the total area of the picture.
Using a picture of 320x240 pixels, the tightest I can go in is to 19x14 pixels.... again an area of just over 1/3 of one percent.
When I extrapolate that, thinking of rendering to an 800x600 video file and using the tightest points.... how many megapixels would the starting picture have to be to have the tightest zoom as 800x600 pixels... so the video is a sharp as it can possibly be when saved at 800x600? A few calculations shows it's a picture from a 118 megapixel camera (13242 x 8904 pixels). Of course I had to make one that big and try it.
The 118 megapixel BMP weighed in at a file size of 354 MB.... and the error message taught me something. The maximum size of 7200x7200 equates to one from a 52 megapixel camera. That should do for a while.
Maximum Picture Size Error Message
Maximum Picture Size
I made a 7200 x 7200 picture and tried it. With black borders, the total was effectively 9600 x 7200 pixels and the tightest zoom I could do was to 579 x 434 pixels.... that would make a pretty high quality video using the tightest zoom. I tried it, but the rendering was taking so long I aborted the process abnormally.... more on that later.
The second tab in the window provides 48 transitions to pick from, and lets you set the duration from 0.1 second to as many seconds as the lesser of the two picture durations... extend the picture duration and you can then extend the transition duration.
 Select Transitions 
The final window before rendering is to add background music. Select a file as you did in version 2, use the new create music feature of version 3 (high quality midi music), or mix them... by mixing I mean select a different background music file for each image, not overlap the music files.
Add Background Music
Background Music
After adding music, choose the profile to render with.
Saving Profiles
Profile Options
The profiles are .prx files in the Photo Story 3 for Windows\Profiles\1033 subfolder. As with Movie Maker 2 profiles, you can create custom ones using the Profile Editor.
You can see in the above picture that I made a couple personal ones to be able to create widescreen 16:9 stories. They work well.... but all the work in Photo Story 3 is done on the assumption you'll be rendering it in normal 4:3 aspect ratio, so you need to think a bit about your input picture sizes. I'll get into that in another newsletter.
... back to some comments about that rendering I started last night, the one I aborted part way through because it was taking so long. The story was using a single 7200 x 7200 pixel image. Today I let the render go on, watching CPU, memory and hard drive usage. I learned a couple things.
My laptop uses a C drive for the operating system and an E drive for other stuff. Photo Story 3 is on the E drive, but there are no options in it to select a folder for temporary files. As the story was being rendered, I noticed the file wasn't building up where I told it to, so the data had to be flowing into temporary file(s) first, and then from there to the final one. Where were they?
.... I found them in my C drive, in this folder:
c:\Documents and Settings\User\Local Settings\Temp\PhotoStorySession_\PSPreviewImage_
 Temporary Files During Rendering
Temp Files During the Render
... in my C drive where I don't want them. Of course they disappeared as soon as the rendering was finished.
What about last nights temporary files when I closed PS3 abnormally? I found them still in a PSPreviewImage0 folder.... by abnormally shutting it down, they hadn't been cleaned up.
The temporary files have interesting names and sizes... more about them another day, after I explore them a bit. I looked at some of them and my guess is they are key frames made at regular intervals, using just the pixels from the selected area.
That's enough of an introduction for this newsletter. As always, it gets long and large.

I asked Microsoft which newsgroup we should use for Photo Story 3. We'd been using the one for the Plus pack, but the new version is a stand-alone product. I was told that, at least for now, use:
I'll see you there and in the forums at WindowsMovieMakers. It wouldn't surprise me to see a new one for Photo Story 3 someday.
The feedback about Photo Story 3 is just starting to roll in. What will be the new issues? One item of note that I learned yesterday, not a new issue, more of a basic limitation when playing photo stories. The special player to view WMV files on Macs has the Media 9 codecs hard-coded in them. They don't download from a server in the background as they do for the Windows Media Player. And the hard coding doesn't include the image codec needed to play photo stories. If you are sending a story to a friend who uses a Mac, run the story through Movie Maker first and give them the movie file instead.
Other interesting issues or limitations will surely come out of the woodwork as time goes by. And I have a lot more limits to test in it. I'll do another newsletter in about a month and explore Photo Story 3 some more.