PapaJohn's Newsletter #46 - March 26, 2005

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story


Civil War Project - Part II

A month ago in issue #42, we started a Civil War Project... bringing together source material with some Civil War contents... an old book to scan, a downloaded special documentary video from the Internet Archives, old maps from an encyclopedia, some screen shots from the World Wind software... etc. It was in that issue that the idea for Photo Story 3 project templates emerged.
This issue is another step in the sequence of issues covering the project... it's the first of the middle parts. Part I left off at the point of needing to finish gathering the source material, study it a bit, and think about how to put it together... and find a focal point for the project, a smaller one than the war in total.
The book can provide the background and continuity... the cover would 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 the book for some more text, and then WOW them with Picture-in-Picture video clips mixed in. That's what I said at the end of that issue. Let's see where I am now in my thinking, and where it's all going 
... before doing it, here are some notes about current items...

Assorted Notes
Personal Database - I followed up last week's note about my personal database with a new page on the website to provide an overview of it, and offer it for sale to those who don't subscribe to the newsletters. I also expanded the info in the database itself, so between it and the website page it's enough to get up and running.
Those of you who were the first to ask for a copy might want an updated data file for it... if you haven't gotten into using it yet, or need some more help figuring out how to use it.

The MaximumPC Winter Special issue is now off bookstore shelves, replaced with the spring issue. I told the editor I hadn't received any emails over the 3 months, and asked if I could now put a copy of the video from the included CD online...
They received only a couple emails during the 3 month period, and both were very positive. He told me that's pretty unusual, as most people who are positive about an article are silent, while those expressing concerns are vocal... so the lack of more feedback is good news. And it was OK to post the video. Here's a link:
MaximumPC Tutorial Video 
It's a direct copy of the one on the CD distributed with the magazine. It's a music video 5:40 in duration, and the file is a 43 MB wmv with a bitrate of 1000kbps... it's best to do a right mouse click on the link and download the file first, or you'll run into non-smooth playback because of the higher than usual bitrate. It was on the CD as a file to copy onto the hard drive and run from there.

I attended a Microsoft/MVP regional 'Engagement Tour' meeting in Chicago on Monday, one of about a dozen such sessions being held around the country. The evolving relationship between Microsoft and the growing community of MVPs and others was the core topic. Always interesting... but a personal high-light for me was meeting Diane Dumas in person, sitting next to her as she kept using one neat thing after another during the routine of the day's meeting... so you know who she is:
"Diane Dumas is New Products Editor for Pocket PC magazine. Her interests include writing, digital music, and streaming video, and she is a rabid fan of all Pocket PCs! She has authored numerous articles about digital music, Pocket PCs, and wireless communications. She writes a column in each issue, "Diane's Discoveries" along with frequent product reviews and "how-to" articles. She also co-hosts a monthly hour-long radio talk show for "Computer Outlook". She enjoys using her Gateway 901X Media Center PC, Motion Computing Tablet PC, Toshiba e805 Pocket PC, and Xbox Live, on her home Wi-Fi network."
... and Diane is an MVP in the Windows Digital Media area.

I tried capturing from my Sony digital camcorder directly into a WMV high-definition profile... 1280x720 pixels, using the Windows Media Encoder for the capture session.
The capture went well... I had Movie Maker and a few other apps running at the same time as the capture, with no adverse effects.
Capturing from a digital camcorder to a WMV file is a 2 step process. First the captured file goes into a temporary DV-AVI file, followed by the rendering of the WMV from the DV-AVI.
The temporary DV-AVI file has to be built in real time as the data streams into the firewire connection. That part took all of 2 minutes, the duration of the clip.
See the encoding results info window at the right... and how much time it then needed to render the high-definition file from the temporary DV-AVI. The total session duration was over 2-1/2 hrs... for a 2+ minute clip.
I did a second test to see if the time needed correlates to the video duration, and sighed a bit of relief when I found it wasn't. It seems there's a needed 2 hour period for it do something, but a file twice as long in duration doesn't need twice the time.
The sample looks and sounds great!!! even though my camcorder doesn't shoot in high definition... I'll be following this up with the capture of a 10 to 15 minute clip... and comparing it to a normal capture to DV-AVI followed by rendering it to comparable high-definition video... will one way clearly out-perform the other??
.... on to the main topic

Source Files
I found myself fishing around the source material for this project... making stories and clips, and mixing them together in Movie Maker, watching for things of interest to emerge. I was testing various techniques, looking for a reasonable theme to wrap them into. I knew it was just a test demo project for the newsletters, but I still wanted it to be worthy of viewing and display.
Some things don't work and others are keepers. Let me share the keepers with you, as we look at the various ingredients.... the images and clips being made from the source material, being collected and assembled into the parts of a project.

The video... there were 4 clips in the video that focused on Gettysburg... about 5 minutes of the 15 Traintotal in the downloaded documentary. The focus on Gettysburg emerged as the project's focal point.
I tried to make it Fort Sumter... a more interesting subject in World Wind than Gettysburg. But I dropped it when the video material of Gettysburg showed much more promise.
The originally downloaded video was an MPEG-2 of under a GB in size. I converted it to a 3+ GB DV-AVI file compressed with the Panasonic DV codec. In this phase I put the 4 clips of interest on the timeline in Movie Maker 2 and rendered them to another DV-AVI file of about 1 GB... that let me delete the 3 GB file and free up about 2 GB on my laptop... without losing quality during the re-encoding.

The book... the cover, the opening, the going into... once I set the focus to Gettysburg, I could go to right places in the book.
High resolution still images are at home in Photo Story 3 projects. It was there that I played with parameters such as using page curl transitions versus dissolves, and the speed of zooming and panning of the text.
I made 5 stories the scanned images. All high-lighting you'll see was done in Paint on the scanned images. I didn't mark up the old book. Note too that the 5 clips I put on the website to show the stories were made by re-rendering them to clips using Movie Maker 2...  
BookOpeningThe first story shows the opening of the book... in 41 seconds it goes from the book's copyright adoption and selection as a Baltimore school text to the cover, spine, publication date, opening graphics page, and title page. Here's a link to it:
Book Opening Story
Next is the Table of Contents... zooming into the chapter that includes Gettysburg...
Table of Contents StoryTableOfContents
From the images of the scanned pages, I cropped the corners of more than enough pages to show some page numbers... and then made a story just to kind of flip through them... my idea is to flip thru pages from the table of contents to the page of interest.
I tried page curls and dissolves... the curls won out, but only after a few attempts at getting the appropriate durations for the pages and the transitions... which turned out to be mostly 1 second image durations and transition durations set automatically. Here's a link to the page turning story, which uses Page Curl, Down Left transitions.
PageTurningPage Turning Story
The page turning story project has potential as another project template, but I don't know how much demand there would be for it.
The set of images that show the cropped corners of the scanned pages was made by running a cropping batch process in IrfanView.
The table of contents and index pointed to page 459 for Page459Gettysburg... so that page gets its own story.
Page 459 Story
But pages 460 and 461 had the paragraphs about Gettysburg... and not very much at that... the bottom of one page and the top of another... 
The minimal amount of words in the book makes Pages460-461me wonder if the battle gained significantly in prominence after the book was published in 1865. Although the subject of Gettysburg in the book was only a couple dozen words, it was the focal point for the 1954 video documentary... 89 years later.
Pages 460-461 Story
When saving clips from Movie Maker with no audio, I use a custom profile that sets the audio part of the bitrate to zero... to save some file size.

The maps... the Civil war is something we've seen lots about in maps. Between the scanned maps from my old encyclopedia and the new-world visualizations available from World Wind, we should have plenty of maps and map effects to accent the video.
The 3-D perspective views of World-Wind are neat...
World-Wind, with its 3D real world aerial images, can provide a clip or two for accent.... here's my first draft of one.
World Wind Aerial
But there's something nostalgic and old-feeling with the scanned map from the 1875 encyclopedia... the coloring, and the railroad tracks being the main feature... and the glimpse back in time it gives.
Both have their place. I don't have a story from the old map yet... it'll be in the next part.

Extras for interest... visualizations... graphical colorful animations to blend video editing techniques of today with the black and white footage of yesterday.
I browsed my library of captured visualization clips from iTunes and the Windows Media Player, and selected 9 of them that had potential. I found myself leaning toward reddish colored ones... aligning with the bloody nature of the war. Some greenish ones seemed to fit also.Visualization
As I rounded up these and other source files for the project, I copied them to project-specific folders.
Here's a link to one of the visualization snippets, with some audio from the documentary video added to give you a feel for what happens when you begin blending the two.
Visualization Snippet

Narration... you never hear me narrate anything... it's not one of my strong suits and a poor narration is much worse than none. The old documentary had some good material, so we'll get as much mileage as we can from it.
Audio and Music... there were some small segments of the video that had some interesting audio and tunes from or about the Civil War era. 
I trimmed the clips of interest, put them on the audio/music track of the timeline, and rendered individual WMA files from them... here's a link to one: Lincoln At Gettysburg 
I found that putting the second DV-AVI clips on the timeline just to pickup the audio significantly impacted smooth previewing, but the separate WMA files worked well... now that I think about it, totally understandable. A computer has enough difficulty playing one DV-AVI file smoothly, nevermind 2 of them in parallel.

Titling/Text... we have the text from the scanned book to integrate into the project... anything else needed will be done in Movie Maker....

Conclusions and Closing
As I go through the source material, I look for things to assemble at a low level. The stories of PS3 are good examples... the Photo Story of the page-turning could have been done with a set of images in Movie Maker, with the page curl transition between each. I went with PhotoStory because of the potential value as a new project template... and to reduce the complexity of the final movie by using a single video clip rather than a set of images and transitions.
Movie Maker is a great integrator of a bunch of parts... but if the parts can be made individually and pieced together modularly, then it's easier to do the integration...
For those of you who celebrate Easter, have a wonderful one...

Have a great week...