Newsletter #25 - October 30, 2004
Maker 2 and Photo Story 3
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
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
PS3 Sample - Here's a sample with
background music, two generated by Photo Story for
the starting and ending pictures, and the audio from my sunset video
tape that I took with the pictures. For this one, I started with a video clip
of a sunset, extracted selected frames and put them into PS3 with
one second durations. It looks like a video clip in it, but Photo Story
can't use video clips as source files. It's limited to still
PS3/MM2 Sample - This one starts with
the first story of Echo, and brings it into Movie Maker 2 to add
some spice (clips from captured WMP visualizations, audio from
Pinnacle's Studio 8, and some text).
PS3/MM2 Sample - This
last example is another combo, using 2 photo stories, and then
mixing them together in Movie Maker. Each story uses a single really high
resolution image of 7,200 x 7,200 pixels (52 megapixel). In Movie Maker,
I overlapped the two 3-minute stories, and added text and music. It demos how
Photo Story handles pictures with that resolution. The fashing frames??? They
aren't intentional. I believe they occur where the two stories start or
end their overlapping in Movie Maker.... I'll be checking it
Photo Story 3 starts with this welcome
Photo Story 3 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
Before getting into it more, a
few notes about some things going on...
• Another routine notice about the
change from a free newsletter subscription to a paid one. I'll
carry this notice one last time next week, in the last of the free
Next Week's Issue #26 will be the end of the
free subscriptions. See the main page of my www.papajohn.org website to continue
paid subscription is for 52 issues, not a calendar
year... those subscribing before issue #27 will receive 52
issues after #26. Subscriptions after that will get 52
you'd rather send a check instead of using PayPal, send an email and I'll
return it with my real name
• 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
....on to the topic of the
Photo Story 3 -
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
The limit of 150 pictures was raised to 300.
The limit (bug) of a 300 MB project file size has
Photo Story 3 can enhance your pictures and story with
'levels adjustments', red-eye reduction, image rotation, automatic removal
of black borders, and cropping.
You can add text to any or all pictures.
It handles panoramic pictures.... a feature I
haven't explored yet.
48 special transitions like Movie Maker.
The best of all is that custom motion isn't limited to a
set of preset choices. You can start exactly where you
want, and end at any other point.
The option to create background music or use an
external music file... and you can change the option to start the music at any
picture. The limit of one music file for background was removed.
Saving options were expanded to include e-mail
attachments, Pocket PCs, Smartphones and Portable Media Centers.
14 profiles are built into it for saving options... from
160x120 to 1024x768 pixels. And you can customize additional ones using
the Profile Editor utility that comes with the Encoder package, the same one
used for Movie Maker profiles.
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
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
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
Narrate and Customize
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
Custom Motion - Starting and
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
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
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
Maximum Picture Size Error
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.
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, choose the profile to render with.
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
Temporary Files During
... 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,
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.