PapaJohn's Newsletter #42 - Feb 26, 2005
Maker 2 and Photo Story
Civil War Project - Part 1
Last week's issue about DVDs
and today's home widescreen HD TVs was very well received... thanks
again to Carol for setting the stage for it. She's right
about the subject being in the limelight.
I saw a number of posts
during the week from those wondering why the quality of their
home-burned DVDs didn't look as good as what they see on their computer...
Let's do something different
This issue is part 1 of a
multi-part tutorial... I don't know how many parts there will
be in all, as many as it takes to get through it. I'll space them out,
maybe with a few issues between each part.
The inspiration comes
from a few places. I begin my week thinking about what I'm
working on at the moment, and how it might fit into a topic for the
upcoming issue. On Monday morning I was scanning lots of pages from an
old book, this one an 1866 school textbook about US History, written
shortly after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
There are many ways to get high resolution images and video
footage for movies and stories. Digital cameras and camcorders are a
couple... but there are others.
One is to use your scanner... all it
takes to find some great source material to scan is a walk around your
home. Pick up something you like and scan it.
Photo Story 3 and how well it handles high resolution
images inspires me to gather lots of pixels from different
places and look for different and fun ways to pan and zoom them...
I started with maps in my 1875 encyclopedia, doing a
story with a map of England
I looked around for another book related project, something that
would go beyond a single map or book. A few items started to come
together... the 1866 history book, other old maps from
the 1875 encyclopedia, and a 1954 video produced by Encyclopedia
Britannica Films, a dramatization of important Civil War military events and
imagery of the places where they occurred (Run time: 14:37). I had downloaded
that video 3 years ago but hadn't used it yet.
Today we have the computers and software tools to put
different kinds of things together in unusual and amazing ways... and
the internet to display them.
It seems like a great mix of ingredients for a Photo
Story 3 and Movie Maker 2 project... maps with dynamically marked routes... lots
of pixels to zoom and pan... text from books, and professionally
made video footage. We have the capability to use Picture-in-Picture
effects, high resolution scrolling text, and narration and sound.
Lot's of things to pull together, which sums up to inspiration for a
multi-part project, and newsletters to report on it.
... before getting into Part
1, a couple notes...
How do you make an animated map
that shows a route?... planned or actual. It's mentioned a lot in
This new book-related project seemed to call for such a
feature. I figured I could do it with Photo Story 3, but I also knew
it meant a lot of repetitious work, something you wouldn't want
to do for anything more than a really special occasion.
As I explored how best to do it for this
week's newsletter, it led me to the concept of a Photo Story 3
project template... do the bulk of the work once and re-use the project
file for easy to do subsequent similar projects. By now you may have already
seen the new Photo Story 3 > Do Amazing Things page of the website which
sprouted a few days ago from this idea. The page features the map
Start with the
I guess the intro pretty much presented the goal... pull a bunch of
disparate but related items together and present them in a novel amazing way. It
looks like the Civil War is the main topic... but that was a 4 year war, so
maybe it'll be better to narrow the goal to a small part of it.
We'll define the goal a bit as we gather source material and
prep it for a Movie Maker project. The source material will guide us toward
the final goal as we get into it. If anyone has some old pictures
of relatives who participated in that war... scan them and send a copy
for the project.
The distribution goal is to upload a video to the
internet... probably to the neptune service.
Let's gather the source materials and start the prep work... that'll be
enough for this newsletter... we'll assess what we have and figure out what to
do with it in the next part.
Scan the Books and
The 1866 History Book is old, and the heat
and light of the scanning process takes its toll on the
paper fibers... it's a low-cost not-rare book and the pages are in
pretty good shape... so I'm willing to scan it once. Get all
the pixels needed on the first pass. I don't want to rescan
it later, or accept pixelization in a story when panning and
What does that translate into when scanning? The picture in the
intro section shows 2 pages of the book as it's being scanned... I did a few
test scans and settled into scanning at 130% of full size. Each pair
of pages is scanned to a BMP file of 37+ MB, with dimensions
of 4010x3104 pixels (just over 12 megapixels).
The image at the right shows a small segment of one
of the scanned pages... at full size.
Adjust the brightness and contrast settings in the
scanner software... to make each page similar, and to avoid having to adjust the
captured images later... do a couple test scans and then leave the scanner
settings alone as you do the pages. The uniform appearance of the pages as
you turn them virtually in the story and movie is subtle or
subliminal but important.
Scanning the map
from the encyclopedia is
similar... a 43 MB BMP file, 3299x4353 pixels (14-1/2 megapixels)
comes from the map of the Eastern US.
Only railroads show up on the map... no major
roads in 1875. So animated route tracking will be of rail lines
or drawn in paths.
Here's a full size piece of the scanned map
the Video -
Converting and Importing
The 1954 dramatization of important Civil War
military events was in my library, having downloaded it from the Prelinger Archives
3 years ago. It's beyond its copyright expiration
date and available for free use.
Many of the Prelinger Archives videos were online in two
formats... Divx encoded lower quality AVI files, and higher quality MPEG-2
files. This Civil War one is the higher quality (418+ MB MPEG-2
file) with file properties that include 368x480 pixels, 29.97
fps, 3500 kbps bitrate, with audio of MPEG-1 Layer 2, CBR 112
kb/s, 44KHz mono audio.
Being an MPEG-2 file, I had to wrestle with it a
bit to get it into a suitable source file... a DV-AVI file. I
want to preserve whatever quality I start with, so I'll be doing any interim
re-renderings to DV-AVI files. Only the final renderings for online
viewing will be to compressed WMV files.
I tried MM2
first. The MPEG-2
file came into the collection and previewed fine... but MM2 stopped
responding as soon as I dragged the clip to
the timeline. I wasn't sure when I aborted it if it was still
trying to figure out how to handle it, or just stuck. I convert lots of
MPEG-2 files using MM2, but this one didn't give signs of
going easily. It's time to bring out the specialty tools.
VirtualDubMod gave an error message of
some sort when I tried to save it to an AVI file... another sign of a difficult
TMPGEnc easily ripped the audio
track to a WAV file, but I had a funny shaped video when I ripped the video
using the MPEG tools utility. It was a file that was about 1/2 as wide as I
wanted but at the right height (consistent with the pixel dimensions of
368x480 I was seeing). That was the best I could do in TMPGEnc, so I did
it... ripping it to an AVI file.
Then to VirtualDub, where I used
two video filters to de-interlace and resize it in one pass... this time
saving it as a DV-AVI file with the Panasonic DV codec. It ended up as
a 15 minute, 3.4 GB file, up a bit in file size from the 418 MB MPEG-2
file it started at.
I have my DV-AVI file to use in Movie Maker.
It's now time to get to know the clips in it... let's do that in
Clips and the
As an MPEG-2 file converted to a DV-AVI file, it
had no timecode breaks to use for auto-clip generation...
Movie Maker 1 and 2 spent a lot of time assessing
it, but it imported as a single 15 minute clip, one for me to split
manually... that's actually my perferred way of doing it, getting to know the
footage by going through it pretty thorougly as I make and name the clips.
Why MM1 and not MM2? I want to save the collection
database and bring it into MM2 when I want to use the clips.
You can import an MM1 collection database, but not
another MM2 one.
This MM1 collection database file is
now in my library with other collection database files... just a thought -
maybe the right folder to keep the collection database is the folder with the
DV-AVI file... more of a project approach.
Marking a Map
Route... Photo Story
I mentioned the initial Photo Story 3 project
template earlier... it was this part of the new project that got me into
It's easy to mark up a single map image... try doing it
as an animation using PhotoStory 3. It requires a series of images, each
one adding one more mark to get you from the starting point to the
Changing the Photo Story defaults for each image in
the story is repetitious and tedious, to the point that you might
try it once for the experience, but think 'no thanks' when considering
a second one.
This suggests value in a 'project
to capture the efforts already applied and remove most of the
repetition. I created a template story for an animated map route...
and tested its use. It worked so easy and well that it became the
beginning of that new website page.
I started by making a crude map in
Paint, just a simple outline, a single route, and
marks to show progress. I made 24 images (640x480 pixels), each
one adding one more red mark to the previous one. That was the easy
and quick part.
After importing the 24 images into PS3, I did
the repetitious stuff... changing the duration of each image to 2
seconds and removing the default motion settings. That was the time
consuming part, but I only needed to do it once for the template. Note that the
2 second duration settings make for a pretty slow animation. But I'd rather
have too many frames that I can later speed up than to have too few and have to
slow the animation down. It's easy to speed up the cllp in Movie
The crude story project is now the template
for marking progress on any map... there's a link on the new website
page to download it.
When you open the project template in PS3 and
look in the c:\Documents and Settings\(PapaJohn)\Local Settings\Temp\(folder for
the project), there will be a set of 24 crude JPG images sequentially named
0.jpg through 23.jpg. The one to the upper right shows 11.jpg.
I'll be using different maps in this Civil War project,
so I did a quick test to be sure the template would work well. I
cropped a 640x480 pixel piece from one of my 1875 maps, marked
it up in Paint using a red brush, and saved after each
added mark to a new JPG file, naming them sequentially 0.jpg through
23.jpg to align with the set of images in the PS3 template.
Here's what one of the
pictures looks like versus the crude one in the template. My
wife Bernadette had to enhance the map in PhotoShop a bit for
me... adjusting the colors and adding a frame.
With the story project open in PS3, copy
the new set of images to replace the set in the temporary folder.
Don't resave the project unless for some reason you
want your new set of pictures in the template project file. But if you do save
it, it'll still work fine as a template the next time if the images are
All you need to do is render the story to
a selected profile (I used 640x480 for this one) and exit Photo
Story. The saved story will be your custom map with animated route marking.
And beyond map making, it'll work for any sequential set of 24 images, when you
don't want any panning or zooming.
Using the Map Route
Story in a Movie
I imported the story into MM2, put it on the timeline,
and added the speed-up, double effect to move it along at a
I also added a snippet of audio from the Civil
War video, and ended the clip with the vintage train coming in, the opening
scene of the video. Here's a link to this sample map
This may end up being an important part of this
project... the book has many maps and the video a number of scenes that go
well with such an effect. This PS3 template process will make it
easy to bring any of them more alive with animated route marking.
The multi-part project is already beginning to take
shape... I just need to finish gathering the source material, study it a bit,
and think about how to put it together.
The book can provide the background and continuity...
the cover will open, go into some text, and then when the viewers are expecting
more text, surprise them a little with an emerging annotated/animated map, go
back into some more text, and then WOW them with Picture-in-Picture video clips
That's enough for this week. I've got some work to do to
finish the scanning, test some more ideas for how to mix things, and
select something good to be the focus for the next newsletter in this
Have a great week...