PapaJohn's Newsletter #27 - Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - Nov 13, 2004
 

 
Review: Video Effects and Transitions
 

Last week I finished the tutorial for MaximumPC's special winter edition. It's being printed and heading for bookstands December 7th. The most significant editorial comment about my first submittal of the sample movie was ".... that's pretty good, but can you add some of those special effects and transitions?....". With that comment and the posts I see daily, it's obvious everyone loves special transitions and effects. Let's explore them a bit.
 
Hollywood films and books about making them say they should flow along smoothly using simple cuts between clips, nut using special transitions. I go to the movies every week and check, and yes... there's mostly an absence of special transitions... but it's hard to find a 5 minute stretch without seeing some kind of CGA (Computer Graphics Animation) - special effects.
 
From another perspective, those getting into home movies from slide-shows like Power Point are so used to having a different transition between each pair of clips that they overdo it. Maybe TV productions fit this mold too. I just got off the treadmill, watching CNBC and checking it for... effects and transitions. They use a different one about every second during the show, and the commercials use them even more often. Must be a back room full of ex-Power Point slide people.
 
We're not making Hollywood films, so I'll stop discouraging people from using all these neat things, and help them figure out how and when best to... whatever you use, they should be professional quality items, well selected and appropriately used. Fortunately for Movie Maker users, most of what's available today are professionally made.
 
In this newsletter I'll review the current state of transitions and effects for Movie Maker 2. It's an evolving, growing area...
 
... before getting into them, a few notes about some things going on...
 

 
Notices
 
• This is the first issue for regular subscribers only. Thanks again for making the decision to keep going with it (and to some new subscribers who waited until it wasn't free to being subscribing).
 
My latest rule of thumb for posting copies to the archives for free access is the Issue Date + 6 weeks. That'll place this one online about Christmas day.... that's the kind of lag there will be.
 
• I mentioned last week that Sonic's MyDVD 4.5 accepts wmv files from Photo Story 2, but not from Photo Story 3, while MyDVD 6 accepts files from both versions. I got this response from Sonic's tech support:
 
".... I've downloaded Photo Story 3 and took a look at it and the way it deals with its files. It seems to make slideshows just like Movie Maker. It exports all videos out as WMV files. While we support this format, it's usually not the most compatible format. To get the best results in importing into any version of MyDVD, you should convert it to DV-AVI in Movie Maker 2.

I recommend you download Movie Maker 2 through windows Update and then use the DV-AVI (NTSC) codec when you save the file. To do this, once you've captured the file and it's opened in Windows Movie Maker, go to File, Save Movie File, Select My Computer and press Next, select the name of the file and its location and press Next, now press Show More Choices... Select Other settings and scroll down to DV-AVI (NTSC). This is the fully compatible format with MyDVD and it's best to use when importing movies or slideshows of pictures...."

  
Users of MyDVD 4.5 shouldn't expect a patch from Sonic.... and there's another linkage item between PS3 and MM2.
 
• The new branch of the website for Photo Story 3 is almost complete... it has 6 of the 7 planned pages completed, with only the last one about Saving and Distributing to go. I've learned a lot about PS3 by putting the pages together.
 
....on to the topic of the week
 

 
Movie Maker 2 - Video Effects and Transitions
 

When my laptop left for repair the other month, it had a full collection of add-on video effects and transitions, running in the Windows XP SP1 environment. When it came back, it had none of them, and I'm in the SP2 environment and adding the packages back on.... and more. The Adorage package came along since then.
 
Here's a tally of the effects and transitions available today, all with links on the Setup > Other Software page of the site. The number code* in brackets corresponds to what I consider the minimum skill or interest level you should have when considering the packages:
 
The numbers of effects and transitions in this short list are those currently on my laptop - 256 effects and 400 transitions:
I'll go through a couple overall items, and then take a look at each package.
 
*There's something here for everyone - the code for skill or interest level is (1) casual user, (2) power user, (3) hacker, (4) geek and (5) programmer.
 

 
How Do Effects and Transitions Work?
 
Without getting into technical details, Movie Maker 2 includes some DLLs that provide the underlying features that make them work.
 
Movie Maker also checks two subfolders each time it starts up, the 1033\AddOnTFX and the Shared\AddOnTFX. It loads any additional transitions and effects found there, taking direction from XML files found in them. Adorage takes a slightly different approach to where it puts its AddOnTFX folder... more later.
 
Some of the added transitions also use masks (still images like JPGs), also stored in the folders or subfolders.
 
Take a look into one of the XML files on my laptop, this one used to provide a transparency effect based on a specific color.... you might have seen the 'Peppermint Patti' clip on my site. This is the XML file I used to achieve its Picture-in-Picture effect. It has a long but descriptive name:
 
 Transparent - Do Amazing Things Orange R230 G147 B74.xml
 
XML File
 
We won't go into the technical details of how Movie Maker reads the XML file and executes what it says. Suffice it to say that the XML file contains the variables that tell Movie Maker what to do.
 

 
.... I'd like to touch on two potential issues when using add-on effects and transitions. What happens if a special XML or DLL is missing when you re-render a movie using a project file that used it? And what impact is there on memory usage if you collect all the add-ons that become avaiiable?
 
Missing effects or transitions
 
You know the sign of a missing source file... a big red X in the project. What are the symtoms of a missing add-on effect or transition?
Memory management 
 
With a complex project, you can run into memory issues when editing or rendering. How much memory is needed to support a lot of extra effects and transitions just in case you want one? I checked my laptop's memory when a small project was open and there were 656 extra transitions and effects. I toggled the extras on and off to see the change in memory usage.
 
Can you save memory by toggling the extras off and on without uninstalling and reinstalling? Yes, here's what I found.
By turning off about 530 of the add-on effects and transitions (all the extras except Adorage) I saved 30,000K of memory usage (30 MB), an average of 57 KB of memory per extra item.
 
As you build your library of add-ons, you'll have to balance the memory needed to have them available if and when needed, versus applying the memory to your project and rendering. Wait until you bump into a memory-related issue, and then decide.
 

 
The Packages
 
Movie Maker 2comes with 28 effects and 60 transitions... you can't turn them off, nor would you want to. Use and enjoy them, and when you want more, here are the packages currently available:
 

 
Microsoft's Winter Fun Pack 2003 - has a few fun ones for winter scenes. Easy to use for beginners and all.
 
It's a hefty 14.82 MB download that includes 1 effect and 2 transitions (made for Microsoft by Pixelan). A big download and install for just the 3, but it's free and there's more in the package.... music transitions, sound effects, video animations, etc. It's almost winter again so they may come in handy soon.
 
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/mmfunpack.mspx
 
Installing it adds a FunPackFX DLL and XML files in the Shared\AddOnTFX sub-folder for one video effect (Snowflakes) and 2 video transitions (Snow Burst and Snow Wipe).
 
It also creates a new c:\Documents and Settings\User Name\My Documents\My Videos\Windows XP Fun Pack\Winter 2003 folder, with 4 sub-folders containing 7 'WMA Music Tracks and Music Transitions', 10 JPG 'Pictures', 92 WMA 'Sound Effects', and 8 WMV 'Video Animations'. To use the clips in Movie Maker, import them into your collections as usual.
 

 
Microsoft's Plus! Digital Media Edition - a $19.95 retail package... available for less in various places. Another package easy to install and use.
 
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/plus/dme/dmehome.asp
 
The Pack includes, among other things, 25 video effects & 25 transitions. After installation, they appear in the collections with those that came with MM2.
 
The effects are mostly about colors and textures, and the transitions are take-offs on basic wipes.... all are well done. 
 

 
Pixelan SpiceFX Packs - these are also easy to install and use. I think Pixelan packages have the best look and feel for the novice and intermediate users. Each of their effects and transitions is professionally done and fits comfortably into the Movie Maker user interface.
 
I do some beta testing for Pixelan and think highly of their people and work.
 
http://www.pixelan.com/mmp/intro.htm
 
Downloading a demo package requires a minimal registration, followed by the download link provided in a Pixelan email. The demo download file is 2.2 MB.... here's an extract from the Welcome info that pops up after installing it.
 

"Pixélan Software’s SpiceFX Packs™ add nearly 400 fresh transitions and effects to Microsoft® Movie Maker®, enhancing your editing power and creative flexibility. Eight SpiceFX Packs are available:

 

TRANSITIONS

·   Pack T1:  SoftFX™ -- 35 ultra-soft, subtle 'directional' dissolves, a great alternative to regular fades/dissolves. Tie transitions seamlessly to your subject, action, or theme -- for a terrific "pro" touch.

·   Pack T2:  PipFX™ -- 54 professional PIP (picture-in-picture) transitions, allowing you to fly clips in or out of the scene, hold them, softly slide in or away, or zoom in/out effortlessly. Great for many projects.

·   Pack T3:  CoolFX™ -- 43 cutting-edge transitions, such as organic fire-like effects, beautiful irises, bands and reveals -- all with soft, seamless edges. Ideal for videos of family, events, music, or sports.

·   Pack T4:  EnergyFX™ -- 36 'natural' transitions that use wind, gravity, or other organic progressions to reveal the next scene. Especially handy when you desire an eyecatching transition that looks "real".

·   Pack T5:  Particles -- 44 exciting particle-effect transitions as sophisticated as those made by the highest-end visual effect systems. Includes bursts, page curls, drops, spills, spins and trails.

 

EFFECTS

·   Pack E1:  Correction Effects -- 41 valuable 'fix-it' effects to solve common video problems. Color-correct clips that are too 'hot', cool/blue, or not 'white balanced' from your camcorder. Adjust contrast. Add a creative tint. Crop the frame. Or apply a progressive blur for a soft, dreamy look.

·   Pack E2:  Pan / Zoom Effects -- 67 pan/zoom moves within any image -- just like in Microsoft Photo Story. Zoom in tighter to your subject, hold as long as desired, pan with your subject's movement, then zoom back out to full screen. Or any combination you desire. These effects will greatly extend the versatility of your shots.

·   Pack E3:  Border/Frame Effects -- 40 terrific ways to accent or highlight your subject within the scene, using borders, frames and other visual accents. Many simple, elegant shapes and looks are included, with standard, organic, soft, shadowed, and other variations. A great way to add a unique custom touch to special scenes.

 

If you purchase all eight Packs, you also get dozens of additional bonus transitions and effects."

 

I saw a post at SimplyDV the other day from someone who needed to download an updated version of a Pixelan package because of an SP2 related issue. I asked Pixelan about it and got this response:
"... It was just a registry key issue that SP2 introduced.... basically our
older download was looking for "Movie Maker 2" to check if it was
installed, and was not able to see "Movie Maker 2.1" in the registry as
proving that. An easy fix..."

 
Rehan's Movie Maker Corner - Pan Zoom Effects - Rehan is an ace programmer (and more) who has studied the Microsoft info about how to customize transitions and effects more than anyone else I know. He shares his knowledge on the forums and newsgroups. His wewsite is...
 
http://www.rehanfx.org/
 
His Pan Zoom Effects can be installed to a different drive and folder, a nice flexible feature, and one of the exceptions to the rule about the subfolders that add-on packages go into.
 
The demo version of his Pan/Zoom effects package has a 15 day full-use trial period....
 
The DLL in the e drive works with the rehanpz.xml file in the Shared\AddOnTFX subfolder of Movie Maker. Info on Rehan's website tells you how to tweak the XML file to customize the panning and zooming. Tweaking XML files is easy for some, but it makes his package appeal more to advanced users.
 

 
Patrick Leabo's Transition Maker 2... is a project that I've personally been involved with since its early days. Like Rehan, Patrick is a top-notch programmer who loves exploring custom transitions. His software is unique in how it works with Movie Maker. You use the utility on the sidelines until you're ready to roll the transitions out to Movie Maker, what Patrick calls 'publishing'.
 
Develop as many custom packages as you want, with 1 to 32 transitions in each, complete with custom thumbnails for the collection.
 
When ready with a pack of transitions, having developed them on the sidelines using TM2, you tell the software to 'publish' a pack. it takes care of the masks, the XML files, the DLLs and anything else needed. putting them all into appropriate folders. They are automatically detected by MM2 when it starts up and the thumbnails are in the transitions collection available for your projects.
 
After using the transitions in a project, you can 'unpublish' the package and keep it on the sidelines until needed for another project. Your can keep your personal transition packages in your TM2 library rather than in Movie Maker's subfolders. 
 
Patrick and I sell Transition Maker 2 at:
 
http://www.eicsoftware.com/PapaJohn/MM2/TM2/
 
There's a 7 day full use trial period, a 9 MB download.
 
You can install TM2 to any drive and folder. It provides the ability to make unlimited customized transitions, just a bit beyond the skills of novice users.
 

 
Adorage Moviemaker package - ProDAD's package is the newest to come along, and most users haven't seen it yet. I just finished exploring it myself, finding the user interface (thumbnails in the collections) looking amateurish, but once you get to see the add-ons themselves, you find them professionally developed and a real asset to any library. The main Adorage site is:
 
http://www.adorage.de/gb/index.html
 
The main page of their site is a little confusing, only because their support of Movie Maker 2 is so new. It lists 7 video editing apps supported, and Movie Maker 2 isn't one of them. I was cautious, as usual, and made a couple posts advising people to be sure it'd work in MM2 before purchasing it... since then I've tested them and know they work.
 
You have to go beyond the appearance of the thumbnails in the collections to really appreciate these items. Here's a couple demo videos... once you see what they do, the thumbnail graphics will be of less importance.
 
I made a demo video for the effects, and another for transitions. The effects use some of my footage from the 4th of July fireworks in Chicago, and the transitions use two short widescreen clips of Jerome, Arizona from April. These links are also on my Setup > Other Software page.
 
Adorage Effects
 
AdorageTransitions
 
Adorage Effects
The Adorage website says there are over 100 effects. It means the combination of effects and transitions.... there are 16 effects and 97 transitions.
 
Adorage has been around for a while, having developed over 8,000 transitions and effects for the 7 or 8 video editing apps they support.
 
I went from a skeptic at first to now working with them to develop another followup package for Movie Maker 2.
 
... here's a direct link to purchase the current package #1($24.95 USD):
 
Adorage Pack #1
 

 
And then there's the Do It Yourself approach, with hooks into Movie Maker 2. It's encouraged by Microsoft and described in this lengthy online web page:
 
http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnwmt/html/moviemakersfx.asp
 
The hackers, geeks and programmers who explore this approach hang out on the 'Share Your Transitions and Effects' forum at:
http://www.windowsmoviemakers.net/forums/
 
Jumping into this area will provide more hours of fun than the new Halo 2.
 

 
Closing
 
They're here to stay.... don't just collect them without using them. And don't use them on and between every clip.
 
Use them appropriately and creatively. Add something positive to your movies. If the scene itself is great, let it carry the show without them.... or add just a few extras to take it even further.
 
MaximumPC was right... I liked the special edition of the video I made for the article better after adding a few transitions and effects.... so did they.
 

Have a great week...
 
PapaJohn