PapaJohn's Newsletter #30 - Dec 4, 2004

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story

 

 
Movie Maker Basics

 
4 of the last 7 newsletters were about Photo Story... let's turn to Movie Maker for couple issues, this week stepping back and reflecting on the basics. A good understanding of them takes you a long way. Next week I'll cover the current state of a common issue 'Help, I can't save a movie'; resolution starts with a good understanding of fundamentals.
 
Two pages of the website cover what I consider the basic building blocks. The Setup > MM2.0 page outlines them to the new user of Movie Maker 2. The Managing > Intro page covers them again when facing such topics as organizing the files and backing up.
 
I'll assume you have a good understanding of the basics; I'll cover tham on a higher level.
 
Source Files - come in all types, formats, sub-types... and new ones are rolling out regularly. At one extreme are new high-definition camcorders. At the other extreme are phones with built-in camcorder features.
 
Closer to home, Photo Story 3 video-like files are another sub-type.. a wmv file rendered with the image v2 codec. 
 
Collections - some days I work with an empty collection database, deleting clips in it as quickly as I bring in new ones. It's just a processing area that I clean up after a processing session. Other days, I'll treat the clips in it as more important than a project, fine tuning the clips and backing up the database file after each session.
 
Clips - clips can be a Jeckel and Hyde thing... acting one way in a collection and another way in a project. Of course they are both linked to the same source files, but the filters and codecs that Movie Maker 2 uses to play them in the collection differ from those used when the same clip is on the timeline.
 
To the non-programmer, there are lots of mysterious things that happen when playing and using clips. Filters and codecs are some of them.
 
Projects - many newbies have a hard time understanding the nature of a project file... for good reason.
 
Some think the source files can be deleted once they are imported into the project file.... the word 'import' sets them up for that. And the Photo Story approach doesn't help, as source files imported into it actually get copied into the project file.
 
Others think the project (MSWMM) file can viewed by others, or imported into their DVD software, not understanding the difference between a project file and a saved movie.
 
Saved Movies - the quest for the best quality at the smallest file size goes on. Playback/distribution options continue to expand... today's saved movies become tomorrow's source files, if not for you, then for someone else.
 
At one end of the quality scale, I'm using my Creative Zen Portable Media Center to show movies during dinner instead of afterwards.
 
At the high end, my desk has a few less monitors than computers... some monitors are doing double-duty. I've been looking at all the newer, bigger, more expensive high resolution widescreen monitors... do I want it to play high definition 1080i? widescreen? LCD or plasma? Many of the choices weren't there the last time I shopped for a monitor... so far the ones I like the most are those at the Apple stores.
 
... before getting deeper into the newsletter, here's a few items of interest...
 

 
Notices
 
 There's a Microsoft FAQ website for Movie Maker 2.1 at:
 
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/moviemaker/21/faq.mspx
 
... I found this item interesting and I'm doing some followup about it.
 
"The video transitions and effects already in Windows Movie Maker are based on DirectShow. However, Windows Movie Maker will quit unexpectedly if more than 100 DirectShow video transitions or video effects are installed on your computer. If video programs that contain additional DirectShow video transitions and video effects are installed on your computer, this may exceed the allowable amount.

Programs that install additional DirectShow video transitions and video effects include Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition, Windows Movie Maker 2 Winter Fun Pack 2003, Pixelan SpiceFX Packs for Windows Movie Maker, and InterVideo WinDVD Creator 2... To work around this issue, remove one or more of the programs".


 Maximum PC's quarterly Winter Edition will hit the newsstands Tuesday, December 7th. Look for the 6 page tutorial 'Making a Killer Movie with Movie Maker 2'.
 

 
 Everyone loves the Picture-in-Picture (PIP) effect, including me... here's a video collage for the main page of the wedding website - with 8 embedded videos:
 
www.eicsoftware.com/PapaJohn/Jill-Mark/VideoCollage.wmv
 
I haven't told anyone... if you look closely at it, you can see the big black border on the right edge, and the little videos are closer to being square then they should be... something was wrong with my pixel dimensioning.
 
To take another closer look at counting pixels, and with one of my goals being to show the use of Photo Story 3 and Movie Maker 2 together, I started another sample, something I can use as a new opening clip for my movies... working in 720x460 DV-AVI mode as I lay each layer on top of the previous ones... here's links for two different quality versions:
 
http://www.eicsoftware.com/PapaJohn/MM2/video/PIP-Sample-320x240.wmv
 
http://www.eicsoftware.com/PapaJohn/MM2/video/PIP-Sample-640x480.wmv
 
The file sizes are 11.7 MB and 23.6 MB... I'm thinking of another newsletter in a few weeks about this PIP topic, using this example for the tutorial....
 
 
 
....on to the topic of the week
 

 
Source Files
 
One trend in source files is their ever-growing complexity... more sources, companies, versions of software and codecs, etc. No-one can maintain an in-depth knowledge of them all, so don't try. Learn more about your usual sources and how best to handle them. They might work directly in Movie Maker or they may need conversion before use.
 
Source Files
It's a big learning area for those new to digital video editing. How do you tell someone that an AVI file might have been encoded with any one of dozens of codecs, that you might not know which one, that you might not be able to know which codecs are on your computer, or which ones are used with which source file?
 
Even in our own area, Photo Story 3 gives us another sub-type of source file... a video-like wmv file rendered with the image v2 codec... a codec revision that is substantially different enough that it effects which software can play them.
 
Source files either work or don't work in Movie Maker... the MPEG-2 and Divx encoded AVI files work just enough to get your hopes up, but if you get sucked into editing a project with them, you'll usually run into hangs, freezes, audio and video issues... all related to codec issues. You'll wish you had converted them to other files before you finish your project.
 
And if you have a lucky day and they work perfectly, some software change will come along to effect the balance.
 
Marc Liron, one of the MVPs, just developed a new Sherlock - Codec Checker utility to help you assess codecs on your system. It's a free download from http://www.updatexp.com - add it to your other codec listing utilities such as GSpot.
 
As I look around I see new source files and new challenges to get them into Movie Maker. One of my sons has a new Game-Boy renderer/viewer and he's starting to collect Game-Boy video and audio files. He just started using Movie Maker with a custom profile to help him make the Game-Boy format files... there are others at the receiving end who will be trying to figure out next week how to get the Game-Boy videos into Movie Maker.
 
In addition to converting and prepping source files, there's the forever need to organize and save them. The image to the right shows how I organize my source files... I use a folder that is accessable to any user on my computer, and ones that I can reach across to on other computers in my network. I don't need to copy them to another computer to use in a new project. Reach accross a network and use a source file on another computer. It'll work.
 

 
Collections
 
On the days that I'm creating, organizing or clip-splitting in an important collection, I'll treat the database file as I do an important project file, backing it up when I'm finished a session. Collections
 
How I treat it depends on how much effort I put into splitting, renaming and organizing the clips.
 
The figure at the left shows a tree-view of my library of collection databases, started in the days of MM1 and still ongoing....
 
I'll primarily use Movie Maker 1 collections for the library of clips that I easily import into my working project in MM2.
 
Movie Maker 2 is used mostly for project-specific collections.
 

 
Clips
 
Clips can be a Jeckel and Hyde thing... acting one way in a collection and differently on the timeline.
 
Of course a clip in either place links to the same source file, but the filters (similar to codecs) that Movie Maker 2 uses to play them in the collection differs from when it previews the same clip on the timeline.
 
For non-programmers like myself, there are lots of mysterious things that go on when it comes to playing and using clips, and codecs are part of the mystery.
 
To understand the complexities of previewing a timeline versus the simplicity of previewing a clip, I'll copy a couple figures and comments from Dean Rowe's blog entry of November 28th:
 
http://blogs.msdn.com/deanro
 
"If you drag one clip to the timeline within Windows Movie Maker and preview it you may think that the process that goes on is very similar to when you preview the clip within the collection view. Well, although there are a few similarities there are a lot of differences...."
 
Here's Dean's figure to show the filters that come into play when viewing the clip in the collection, a fairly simple picture:
 
View Clip in Collection
 
You don't need to understand any of the filters. Simply looking at the above and below pictures shows the increase in complexity between a collection clip preview and a project preview.
 
When you go into the timeline, you are using lots of other filters, all being managed by Dexter... if you haven't met him, here's an introduction:
 
View Clip in Timeline
 
Read Dean's full blog if you're interested in this topic further. He leads the Movie Maker team at Microsoft, so his blog is essential reading. He's also a regular poster on the newsgroup.
 
If you want to say something directly to the Movie Maker team, post to the newsgroup and Dean will read it, or  respond to one of his blog entries and introduce yourself... tell him I sent you.
 

 
Projects
 
Many newbies have a hard time understanding the nature of a project file... and for good reason.
 
Some think the source files can be deleted once they are imported into the project file.... the word 'import' sets them up to think that way. And the Photo Story approach doesn't help, as source files imported into it actually get copied into the project file.
 
Projects
Others think the MSWMM file can be viewed by others, or imported into their DVD software, not understanding the difference between saving a project and saving a movie.
 
The figure at the right shows a list of files in my working folder for my new sample PIP video clip.
 
To the viewer of the video sample, it's a single wmv file, and you might think it's from a single project MSWMM file... but it's actually a composite from a number of smaller projects. I like to be modular enough to easily redo something important or just one of the segments. Let me go through the purpose of each of the 4 project files.
 
 The IntroClip starts with some text over blackness, moves on to a photo story that zooms out of the jpg picture of my computer desktop... that I made in Paint.
 
I can change it for reuse... to start each project with different text.
 
 The ClosingClip is similar to the Intro clip. It uses the still picture of my computer desktop, followed by another photo story, this time zooming back into one of the WMP windows... with whatever text is appropriate to finish the video or finish the introduction to the main video feature.
 
Again, easy to change for each new movie...
 
 The Add-PIP-Overlay Video is the time consuming part... in rendering times... a series of mid-process steps... I put a background picture or video on the timeline, add the video (the smaller video to be embedded someplace), add the PIP transition with the tweaked XML file that tells Movie Maker how to position and size the embedded video, and render it to another DV-AVI file... to be then used as the source file background clip for the next embedded video... over and over until all the little embedded videos are there. Each is saved to a new file and I don't delete any until I'm happy with the results of the new file.
 
 The FinalMovie project puts the 3 clips together... the intro clip, the final saved video with all the embedded PIP videos, and the closing clip.... this saved movie is then rendered as needed for distribution. I rendered it twice for the online copies with the links above. The folder doesn't show any of the final movies as I move them over to other folders or onto wherever they are going.
 

 
Saved Movies
 
The quest for the best quality at the smallest file size goes on. Playback/distribution options continue to expand. I'm now using my Creative Zen Portable Media Center to show movies during dinner instead of after dinner. I'm a few monitors short on my desk now and starting to shop for a new one... do I want it to play high definition 1080i? widescreen? LCD or plasma? I have viewing choices that weren't there the last time I shopped for a monitor.
 
Profile Choices
The picture at the right shows some of my profile choices in the pick list on my laptop. Most are custom profiles that I've developed and tweaked over time.
 
Some are there to pick when capturing... such as the Dazzle 80. different ones for capturing WMV files when I'm headed for computer distribution (640x480) on a WMV file versus a DV-AVI for retention of the highest quality (720x480). 
 
Most are there to pick when saving a movie... the one I choose depends on what the next step is.... for the sample PIP video, each rendering until the last ones were saved to DV-AVI files. The final renderings always depend on how I'll be distributing the movie.... appropriately sized for the viewer.
 

 
Closing
 
Once you have the basics down, the rest is easy... :)
 
The basics don't change, or they change slowly over time.
 
How you use them changes with your skills, experience, project needs, mood, other software tools you have, etc.
 

 
Have a great week...
 
PapaJohn