PapaJohn's Newsletter #38 - Jan 29, 2005  - Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story

 Make a Video-Like Snippet to Begin a Photo Story

Photo Story can't use video clips as source files, and running your stories through Movie Maker requires a re-rendering that reduces the quality of the finished file, and increases its file size considerably. What can you do? Let's explore making a quasi-video-like snippet within the story.
Here's a short 20 second PhotoStory 3 story that includes a video-like snippet: Sample Snippet
We usually make videos from still pix, but in this tutorial we'll make still pix from a video and use them in Photo Story to make them look again like a video. The sample snippet uses 17 still pictures and plays them about 3 frames per second to get as close as possible to a video clip in a story. And it works fine if you're willing to accept the much reduced frame rate that makes the approach feasible.
... before going into it, a couple notes...

What's Happening? 
  I started posting a 'tip-of-the-day' on the Movie Maker newsgroup. So many posts start with a problem; it reminds me of the early complexion of my website as a 'problem-solving' one. I've been working toward having the fun and excitement of making home movies outweigh, or at least balance, the gray cloud that sometimes comes from being steeped in problems.
I'm only a few days into it, but it's doing what I had hoped, opening a door to some healthy discussions about Movie Maker features and capabilities.  
My laptop has the Panasonic DV-AVI codec on it, in addition to the Microsoft codec. I've been experimenting lately by using it as my choice of compression codec when saving AVI files from TMPGEnc and VirtualDub. I find that it compresses fairly quickly, the files are about identical in size to the DV-AVI files from MM1 and 2 (as you would expect... the files have to meet the established spec), and the new files work fine in Movie Maker.
The Microsoft DV codec isn't in the list of choices when saving files from those apps. By using the Panasonic codec I can maintain the original quality of the input DV-AVI files while picking up the  value of the app. I ran about 14 GB of video through VirtualDub the other day just to use that brightness (Levels) adjustment feature we covered a couple weeks ago. Starting with type II files from Movie Maker 1 and rendering the new file with the Panasonic codec, the video and audio went through the process fine and the clips look much better than anything I could do in Movie Maker (or Premiere).

Plan the Snippet
Train Clip - the engine of an old steam driven train can be a great opening clip to start a vacation story...
I have a documentary about the Civil War that I downloaded from the Internet Archives, a video that starts with an approaching mid-19th century steam train. Right after the title frames finish, the locomotive is there, with good audio to go with it.
The downloaded file is an MPEG-1, which works in Movie Maker but not in Photo Story. I'll use TMPGEnc 2.5+ to extract the frames as jpg files and the audio as a WAV file... then select some frames and put them into Photo Story 3 as a video-like snippet. I had done this before with a sunset, but speeding it up considerably in the story. This is the first time I've tried to simulate the real-time playing of a video in a story.

Extract Frames as Still Pix from the Video...
I started by dragging and dropping the video from my library folder into TMPGEnc.. a single drag and drop using my file manager into the lower left of this window gets all the entry fields automatically filled in.
Get Frame Images
To extract the frames as still pictures, use the pull-down menu > File > Output to file > Sequence >
I opted for JPG files at 80% quality... that'll keep the set of frames at a reasonably small total file size.
When you press the Save button, the frames are extracted and automatically numbered from 0000000 to wherever you stop or it ends.
I knew the short scene I wanted came right after the opening title frames so I started it off from the beginning. When the scene I wanted had finished going by in the preview monitor, I aborted the extraction.
Canceling the process at any point in the extraction process leaves you with the set of images created so far. I had 1,079 images in the folder when it was a few percent into the video.
Check the set of pix - In IrfanView, you can do a quick scan of them in almost a real time video way... sort them in file name order, open the first one in IrfanView, and use your mouse wheel. They'll pass by as quickly as you can spin the wheel. I quickly went to the first frame after the titling passed and noted it was #0000713. I had 366 frames to work with. That was plenty. 
I deleted the images in the folder from 000 to 712 and kept going.

Get Audio
Get the Audio...
Audio is at least half of the viewing experience, and in this case even more critical... you'll be asking viewers to have their ears compensate for any visual quality loss by the extremely low frame rate. I think it works OK in this case, but the subject of such a project might be limited to something where high frame rates are not critical.  
Staying in TMPGEnc, I extracted the audio to a WAV file using the main menu File > Output to File > WAVE file. The default settings are fine.
It also started at the beginning. I aborted the extraction process a bit into it, knowing I had the segment I wanted. Similar to extracting pictures, canceling the process part way through leaves you with a partial audio file that plays fine.
I'll take the WAV file into MM2 and extract the section I want for the snippet, and save it as a WMA file to use for the story. At 30 frames per second and having deleted the first 712 of them, that means the audio I want starts at about 23-3/4 seconds into the file (712 divided by 30 = 23-3/4). That was close enough.... I trimmed the audio at both ends to get just the rhythmic sounds of the engine... faded it in and out... and rendered it as a high quality 5-1/3 second WMA audio file for the story.

The Duration of the Story Snippet...
The audio set the overall duration of the story snippet... the documentary is heavily narrated, but this short section turns the audio over to just the passing engine.
The 366 video frames were 12.2 seconds (366 frames divided by 30 = 12.2 seconds).
But the audio WAV file was only 5-1/3 seconds, so I used that as the overall duration of the snippet... long enough to simply accent an intro clip.
5-1/3 seconds of video frames at 30 frames per second would be 160 frames. That's a bit too much work to use in a Photo Story when you have to do the motion and duration settings one picture at a time.... so let's see how few we can work with and still have a good looking snippet.

Select the Frames...
Think about the options: 5-1/3 seconds at 30 frames a second would need 160 frames....  a movie at 24 frames per second would use 128 frames... videos for a pocket PC are 15 fps - 80 frames...
All of these seem too many. I'm going to try 3 frames per second to see how well the snippet works with just 17 frames... the lowest duration setting we can use in Photo Story 3 is 1/10 of a second, so we could move the frame rate up a bit if we need to.
5-1/3 seconds at 3 frames per second means using 17 frames... every 10th frame until we have 17 of them. Using Total Commander, I made a sub-folder for the selected frames and copied them into it.
Selected Frames
Check the Set - Using IrfanView again to do a quick check by flipping through the set of 17 -it showed the whole thing was still working... keep going. 

Make the Story Clip...
It's time to open Photo Story 3 and take a cut at making the short story with the video-like snippet.
One reason for copying the 17 selected images to a new folder is it sets the stage for moving them easily into the story.
Select them all in the file manager, and drag and drop as a batch into the film strip of the story. They'll be sequenced as you want, from the lowest number to the highest.
It's time to do a little work in PS3... the steps I took were:
  1. Opt to remove the black borders from all the pix.
  2. Save the project file before I forget.
  3. Next, Next a couple times to get to the window where you customize the motion.
  4. For each image, check 'specify start and end position', check the two options to set the start and end positions the same as the previous end, and the same as the start, opt to set the number of seconds to display the picture yourself.... setting it to 0.3 seconds (about 10% faster than 3 frames per second). Do this for each picture - 17 times.
  5. Add the background audio, the train audio file...
The 5 second snippet was over a bit too quickly, so I added a couple more pictures. One before the snippet and another after it. I wasn't going to use this clip other than for this newsletter, so I wasn't overly critical of details. I was mostly wanting to see if the process would work well enough to use it someday when I needed it.

I thought it worked well enough... if it hadn't I might have changed the subject of this newsletter, or bit the bullet and doubled the number of frames being used.

Have a great week...