PapaJohn's Newsletter #41 - Feb 19, 2005

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story

 

 
 
DVDs with the Highest Quality on New Home Widescreen HD TVís
 

Last week's issue about pixels struck a chord with Carol Brennan, a regular reader. She sent an email almost as long as my newsletters, and I'm sure her situation is shared by many.
 
With her permission I'm using her comments as the basis for this week's newsletter. Here are her unedited comments.
 

Hi!

This newsletter helped explain a lot to me. Last weekend I took all 39 PapaJohn newsletters & your ďDo Amazing ThingsĒ book & spread them out in the living room trying to figure out the best way to make my DVDs. My goal is to make the clearest DVD for viewing on my widescreen HD TV.  Sounds simple, but it gets very confusing once you start combining

1.    digital video (shot in widescreen by my Sony video camera)

2.    Analog video shot in 4:3 with my old video camera

3.    Digital pictures shot by my Canon powershot A80

4.    old scanned photographs

then try to put them all together using

1.    MovieMaker2

2.    Photostory2

3.    Photostory3

4.    Sonic MyDVD6

5.    Roxioís  Videowave movie creator (it came with my Dell computer in 2003)

Working full time & managing a household, I donít have time to experiment with all the codecs, etc. I just follow your advice at the conclusion of the newsletters, but sometimes it is confusing. My problems are

1.    the best way to size pictures in  both Photostory2 and PS3 to use as stand-alone stories in my DVD Project.

2.    the best way to size pictures in both Photostory2 and PS3 to use as source files in MM2 projects.

(sometimes my friends say that they look fat in my DVDs!  Iíve been saving the pictures in the custom widescreen formats you made, but maybe that is incorrect for DVD use) Maybe it makes a difference whether I use the stories as source files or not. 

Things I noticed while making home movies for the past year:

1.    The best quality slide shows are made by My DVD6 by directly importing the pictures into MY DVD. However I cannot pan & zoom the pictures if I use this method.

2.    Picture shows made with Photo Story 2 seem to be much clearer than picture shows with PS3 once they are burned to a DVD.

3.    Verbatim DVD+R DVDs produce the best quality DVDís for me.

4.    I know that MyDVD suggests saving MM2 movies as AVIís so that they are more compatible.

In any case, it is very confusing for the novice. My guess is that most people making home movies want to play them as DVDs with the highest quality on their new home Widescreen HD TVís that have become so popular. With that in mind, can you just summarize and tell us

1.    use this pixel size pictures for PS2Ö..

2.    use this pixel size pictures for PS3Ö.

3.    Save PS2 using this custom codec (codec means profile in this context)

4.    Save PS3 using this custom codec (profile)

5.    Save MM2 using this custom codec. (profile) 

And so forthÖ..

Sometimes when I start reading all the background for your decisions, I get very confused.  I just want you to tell me ďuse this method to get the best resultsĒ (I really donít need to know the engineering behind everything)

Sorry for the long note, but it just shows how confused I am. I have learned so much from you for the past year and I really appreciate everything you try to teach us!

Carol Brennan

... before responding, a number of notes...
 

 
What's Happening?
 
Patrick Leabo, the programmer of Transition Maker 2, is also its most avid user. He's been tweaking it for many months now, since he released version 1. Today he rolled out version 2, the one you'll get if you download it now.
 
TM2
It's easier than ever to select any starting image, any ending image (a couple condor pix my brother just sent), develop a custom transition, preview the results, use it in Movie Maker, and WOW your audience (for this one, my brother).
 
I'll be updating the online tutorial, but Patrick has a full one already packaged with the app. The new version goes into its own folder so both versions can co-exist.  The new version is free to registered users.
 

 
I had the kick-off class for a handful of staff members at my local library (Portage, Michigan) on Monday. It went well. but plugging my laptop into their high quality projection system and watching Movie Maker doing its thing on the big screen... showed that previewing clips in collections and the project timeline were fine, but you couldn't see the saved movie playing back in WMP... you could see it on my laptop but not on the projection system.
 
I checked with others and found that turning my hardware acceleration down to the 3rd notch is what's needed... seems the graphics card outputting to the external monitor doesn't handle the video overlay.
 


Sonic released a DVD plug-in for Photo Story 3 on Thursday, to support the direct burning of a DVD as one of the options when using the saving wizard. The timing fit right into this week's topic... so I purchased it yesterday and gave it a test... it's not yet my recommendation. Here's why:
 
It did a good job doing what it did... PS3 saved a story using a 720x480 profile from Sonic, and then the plug-in transcoded the WMV file to MPEG-2 files for the disc, and burned the DVD.
 
Personally I wouldn't have purchased it if I had known:
 
1 - you can only burn one story on a disc.. to add more to the disc you need to use your regular DVD software
 
2 - my regular DVD software is Sonic's MyDVD 4.5... and that version can't open and modify the DVD... it's not new enough... so I can't add to the disc, fix the spelling mistake I made in the title, change the Sonic graphic on the disc to one of my own, etc. Carol can probably do it with her version 6.
 
3 - my personal custom DVD profile for the rendered story results in a better quality story than that produced by the plug-in. I compared the results of both and they fully align except my video bitrate is higher.
 
If I have to purchase a new DVD software app to add to or modify the disc, I'd have been better off applying the $20 that I paid for the plug-in toward the purchase of the new software.
 
The plug-in might still be the right tool if the MPEG-2 files made by it are of better quality than those made by other software (such as the newer versions of Sonic DVD software)... but I'd been told not to expect better quality from the plug-in. I'd expect the rendering codec to be the same one Sonic uses in its other software, and the quality would be the same.
 


I received my first request week from someone who purchased one of the new Sony camcorders that shoots in true high definition. He was asking how to get the footage into Movie Maker. I checked the camcorder specs and see it records in an MPEG-2 format... he'll be sending a short sample clip so I can do some testing.
 

 
I also got an email offering condolences about my crashed up Corvette... he saw a video in the PapaJohn Gallery at nepture and assumed it was me and my Vette. The gallery has my name, but anyone can submit a video for inclusion in it... neptune does the screening and selection. It's a reasonable assumption that they are my videos, but it's not the case.
 
I had just looked at that video last night, so at least I wasn't confused by the condolence message.
 

 
Start with the Goal
 
DVDs with the highest quality for new home Widescreen HD TVís
 
I'm going to keep the early sections as short as I can, and get into Carol's questions. But I have to reflect on her goal a little and work backwards a couple steps.
 
The High Definition-TV
 
I wondered how big her widescreen TV is. To help. The latest issue of 'The Perfect Vision', Home Theater News and Reviews, has info about pixels on almost every page. Here's a sampling:
... new Sony KDE-42XS955 plasma... resolution of 1024x1024... its interlaced 720p images might be first down-converted to 512 rather than upconverted to 1024... all plasma panels overdisplay, cutting off around 5% of the image, so vertically 1024 of the of the 1080-line input signal will be shown line for line. Horizontally the plasma scales 1824 (95% of 1920) to 1024. For 1280x720p signals and standard definition content, the panel scales to 1024x1024 - the panel's native resolution...
Ads and reviews show a 60" LCD with a native resolution of 1280x720, 1920x1080p on new 50+ inch Toshiba SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display) screens, and a 40" LCD with 16:9 that uses 1366x768 resolution.
A table of recommended products showed pixel counts ranging from 1024x768 to 1920x1080.
Reviewers talked about seeing high-definition video and also about watching DVDs. They mean the professionally produced discs, not our home-burned DVDs.
 
One factor is our self-calibration... as we step up to newer higher quality levels, there's the initial WOW effect. But as that wears off and the higher quality becomes the normal, then the previous high quality (read this as commercial DVDs) just isn't good enough anymore.
 
I don't try to keep up with the leading edges of hardware and software rollouts... we have friends with up to 14 megapixel cameras, but our latest 5 megapixel one makes our previous 3 megapixel a loaner, and relegates the 1 megapixel to the closet with other unused items. My wife works mostly with still images in PhotoShop, and today anything less than a 5 megapixel picture isn't sufficient.. her calibration has changed significantly over a few years.
 
 
The DVDSystem
 
Maybe today's commercial DVDs are still good enough in quality for Carol's new TV, but the home made DVDs are not as high in quality as commercial ones. Paying tens of thousands of dollars or more for an MPEG-2 encoder results in discs that outshine any that we can make with low-end video and DVD software and hardware.
 
The quest then isn't to match the newer high definition videos in quality, but to make discs as good as we can.
 
If those HighMAT DVD players that played higher quality WMV files had emerged over the past couple years, we might have a different bottom line... ones matching at least the 1280x720 videos, if not the upper end 1920x1080 ones.
 
But they didn't make it, so a high quality standard disc (DVD) is today's practical goal... unless Carol can plug her computer into her system and bypass the discs entirely, playing the higher quality material on her computer and watching it on the big TV. See newsletter #1 for discussion about high definition videos, and the website > Saving Movies > Custom WMV Profiles page for a downloadable high definition widescreen 1280x720 profile.
 
The practical bottle-neck in quality is the DVD process... DVD files must meet the MPEG-2 standard of... 720x480 pixels (720x576 PAL) for both normal 4:3 aspect ratio and 16:9 widescreen. When viewing at the normal 4:3 aspect ratio, the pixels are squeezed in, and stretched sideways when viewing as widescreen.
 
Using Movie Maker to take a snapshot of a frame of a DVD quality video gets a JPG of about 1/3 of a megapixel, a fixed number that seems lower and lower as time goes by. 
 

 
the Bottom-line Summary
 
Now to summarize answers to her 5 points, all assuming the goal is to save as a 720x480 DV-AVI file for a DVD. I'll be brief here and follow it with other comments:
 
1 - Use these pixel dimensions for Photo Story 2
Standard 4:3 aspect ratio stories - minimum size of 1066x800 pixels
 
Widescreen 16:9 stories - minimum size of 1706x960 pixels.
2 - Use these pixel dimensions for Photo Story 3 - this is the hardest one to answer
Motion-SpineWith the panning and zooming you can do in PS3... use as many pixels as you need so the tightly zoomed into area has 640x480 pixels, but don't use more than you need. The dynamics are such that the right answer differs for each picture.
 
See the motion setting for this picture in a story. The scanned image is 527x2515... the starting position for the PS3 motion is a full window with black borders, making the first image in Photo Story 3353x2515 pixels (about 8 megapixels)... the ending position is a zoomed in area of 520x390 pixels, a bit below my desired 640x480, but not enough beneath it for me to go back and rescan it at a higher resolution (I don't have Carol's TV... maybe I'd rescan if I did). Note that if I didn't zoom at all, the imported image would be overkill as the 2515 pixel height is more than 5 times as many as I'd need for a DVD.
 
Standard 4:3 aspect ratio stories - for most pictures with moderate panning and zooming, those from a 4 or 5 megapixel camera should work fine without cropping or resizing.
 
Widescreen 16:9 stories - Resize your source pictures before importing... multiply their width in pixels by 0.75117 and leave the height as is. They have to look skinny during the project work because the rendering will fatten them back up so they look just right.
3 - Save PS2 stories using:
For standard 4:3 aspect ratio stories - the 800x600 custom profile from Microsoft.
 
For widescreen stories - the custom 852x480 profile from the Learn More > Advanced Topics page of my  website.
4 - Save PS3 stories using:
For standard 4:3 - my custom DVD Profile from the 'Heading Toward a Disc' page of the PS3 section of the website.
For widescreen stories - the custom 852x480 profile from the same page of the site.
5 - Save MM2 movies using:
The DV-AVI profile for either 4:3 or widescreen movies and let MyDVD convert them to MPEG-2.
 
If you ever get the time to test the sideroad through TMPGEnc, render the same movie twice... once going directly through MyDVD and the other rendering the MPEG-2 file using TMPGEnc. Compare the two on the same disc and see if the direct route or the sideroad is right for you.
 
Some Additional Notes:
 
These numbers correspond to the above.
 
1 - PS2 pictures - there's a table of minimum pixel sizes on the Gather Pictures > Intro page of my PS2 website. Use them to avoid black borders when panning and zooming.
 
2 - PS3 pictures - PS3 can zoom into a picture so far that you need to consider the size of the zoomed area as the most important... the motion wizard shows the number of pixels being used for the starting and ending positions in the picture. Size the source picture so the tightest zoom aligns with the size of a DVD - 640x480 on computer monitors. I elaborated on this point above, but I'll add some info about a real example.
 
Pike's Arithmetic is my latest PS3 story, made from some scanned pictures... it's a story intended for DVD quality playback, and I used it to test the new Sonic DVD plug-in.
Pike Arithmetick
 
I scan at high pixel sizes and then reduce the images appropriately for the stories or movies...
 
Here are the sizes of the pictures I used in this story; as you can see I resized each to align with its use in the story... panned and zoomed pix get more pixels than those that just sit in one spot.
 
Two cover pictures - 800x638 (no zooming) - the odd numbers don't mean anything... I resize with IrfanView, choosing critical dimension and maintaining the aspect ratio.
 
Spine - zoomed tightly into the book's name - 527x2515 (this picture is well covered above)
 
Title page (the one shown in PS3 at the right)... panned from top to bottom and then zoomed in... 2 copies of the picture, both at 1561x2545
 
Table of Contents page 1 - some panning/zooming - 800x649 (I wondered why this picture is fuzzier than the others in the playing... now I see why... I should have used more pixels - I guess I hadn't planned to zoom but changed my mind as I put the story together).
 
Page 2 of the Table of Contents - and intro paragraph - zooming/panning - 3207x2643
 
Double page - zooming/panning the section about Reduction of Coins - 3270x2643
 
Double page - zooming into the section about the Rule of Three - 3255x2553
 
Double page - zooming into the section about Tare and Tret - 3286x2643
 
A widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio story can be done using a custom profile when saving it. Resize your source pictures before importing... multiply their width in pixels by .75117. Leave the height as is. They'll look kind of squeezed as you work on them in PS3, because you can only work in the standard 4:3 view... but the saved story will look fine.
 
3PS2 render - With the success of the custom profiles for PS3 when heading toward DVDs, I may revisit the custom profiles for PS2. Until then the best profiles for computer viewing should be used when making DVDs.
 
4 - PS3 render - I've received nothing but very positive comments from those who have compared results with those of other options. And my comparing it to the profile used by the new Sonic plug-in leaves it still the best option.
 
5 - MM2 render - DV-AVI with either the Standard 4:3 or Widescreen 16:9 option selected.
 

 
Closing
 
Thanks Carol for the interesting challenge... I hope it's more than just another issue to add to your growing living room collection.
 
As we move from DVD quality to high definition, the right answers will change as new software and hardware rolls out.
 
Movie Maker isn't limited to DVD quality video, but the profiles it uses are limited to 2 channel stereo audio. And working with higher quality requires a computer with higher horsepower and more disk space.
 

 
Have a great week...
 
PapaJohn