PapaJohn's Newsletter #42 - Feb 26, 2005

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story

 

 
 
Civil War Project - Part 1 of ??
 
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 week.
 

 
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.Scanning 
 
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 and Wales.
 
Then the short story of an 1804 book of arithmetic. For some reason it impressed many...

 
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...
 

 
What's Happening?
 
How do you make an animated map that shows a route?... planned or actual. It's mentioned a lot in posts.
 
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 route template.
 

 
Start with the Goal
 
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 Maps
 
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 zooming.
 
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).Sample-Scan-FullSize
 
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.
 

 
MapScanning 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 image.
 

 
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 about 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 CivilWar Videothe 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 source file.
 
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 MM1.
 

MM1 Collection
 
Clips and the Collection Database
 
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 doing it.
 
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 finish.
 
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 template' 11-originalto 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 Maker.
 
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 11-newpictures 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 different. 
 
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 quicker pace.
 
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 route clip.
 
Map Route Clip
 
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.
 

 
Closing
 
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 mixed in.
 
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 series.
 

 
Have a great week...
 
PapaJohn