PapaJohn's Newsletter #47 - April 2, 2005

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story


About Audio
Half of our story and movie viewing experience is about what we hear and not see... the sounds recorded with the video clips (on the Audio track), and the added narrations, sound effects and background music (on the Audio/Music track). If things are too quiet, I'll add a 'background ambient sound' clip just to make it more like the real world, where you hardly ever hear pure silence.
MM2 Audio Tracks

Let's take a fairly broad look at:
It'll be a slice of audio info without getting too technical.
... before doing it, here are some notes about current items...

The WinDV utility has proven to be great for getting digital video files into your computer from a digital camcorder, and back to the camcorder from a saved movie in DV-AVI format... someone asked how to tweak it such that the captured file was one large one, as opposed to a number of small ones. I explored it a bit... and Rehan provided the key.
The Config screen of WinDV has an entry for 'Discontinuity threshold' (sec.), originally set to "1", which results in each scene (based on timecode) being a new file. By changing it to "0", the captured file keeps growing until the size of the Max. AVI size in frames is reached. Set it to 115000 frames for NTSC and 95830 frames for PAL... to get a 63-1/3 minute capture, the normal recording duration of a digital video tape. 
One thing I like about WinDV is feedback about dropped frames... I typically don't have any, but it's comforting to know a file is good without having to watch it fully or bump into an issue when editing.

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 my test clip. But the rest of the process, the rendering of the high definition WMV file from the temporary file took another 2-1/2 hours (on my 2.4 GHz laptop).
I did a second test with a one minute clip 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 double the 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 to see if a normal capture to DV-AVI, followed by Movie Maker rendering it to a comparable high-definition video... will one way clearly out-perform the other??
.... on to the main topic

Audio Sources
Let's first go through the audio files that come into your computer from another source. We'll follow those with ones captured or generated by Movie Maker and Photo Story.
Captured by camcorder
Your camcorder probably captures in CD quality stereo... leave the lens cap on and use it when you hear something you'd like in your library... or use the audio track from a recorded video.
The audio of a digital camcorder can be 16 bit or 12 bit.... although the 16 bit is higher quality, camcorders out of the box are usually set to 12 bit.
The 12 bit option is for 4 audio tracks, 2 to capture the audio during camcorder shooting, and the other 2 to add narration on the tape while it's still in the camcorder. It's for those who don't do computer editing. 
The 16 bit option is higher quality with only 2 tracks... those doing video editing with Movie Maker would usually add narration during the editing phase, so changing the setting from 12 bit to 16 bit is one of the first things to do with a new digital camcorder.
The specs for my Sony TRV615 Hi8 analog camcorder say it records in stereo FM quality sound... my digital Sony TRV80 has options for 32 kHz stereo when set at 12 bits, and 48 kHz stereo at 16 bit...
WMP10 doesn't report the audio properties of a captured DV-AVI file... MM2 says the audio of my captured DV-AVI files (using MM2 for the capture) from the TRV80 are 48 kHz, 16 bit stereo (aligned with the specs)... with a bitrate of 1536 Kbps. This is the highest audio bitrate we'll see in this newsletter.

downloaded tunes...
I downloaded a track from Napster the other day using WMP10... a WMA file with properties (per WMP10) of 128 Kbps, 44 kHz, stereo 1-pass CBR... of course it's Digital Rights Management (DRM) protected and can't be imported directly into Movie Maker or Photo Story. But it's another starting point for music in your projects, and easy to get there...

WMP10 Riprip from a CD
Use WMP 10 to rip a track from an audio disc... the properties are Windows Media Audio 9.1, VBR Quality 25, 44 kHz, stereo, 1-pass VBR.
Tracks ripped from CDs import fine into MM2... which report properties of 81 Kbps, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo.

narrate the timeline in Movie Maker 2MM2 Narration
Voice narration can be lower quality than music from CDs... but Movie Maker 2's narration feature facilitates the capturing of high quality audio. Play the CD itself or a ripped track from it, and at the same time narrate the timeline using an audio source such as the Stereo Mix.
You'll get a new WMA file with properties of 131 kbps, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo... a higher bitrate than a file created by WMP during the ripping... the file size is comparably and appropriately higher also. That leads me to believe you're better off ripping directly from the CD using Movie Maker instead of using WMP10 as a middle man.
The narration wizard lets you test and adjust your sound hardware, but it doesn't offer you the option of using anything other than your microphone.

record audio or narrate the timeline in Movie Maker 1
MM1 Record OptionsMM1 is interesting in that you have two options for capturing audio or narration... the Record >Audio only feature and the timeline narration. You get very different results with each... most notably high quality stereo with the Record option and mono with the narration.
The Record feature of MM1 is for video or audio, whereas the Capture feature of MM2 is for video only. With the Record option you can use the stereo mix source to create a new WMA file from whatever is playing on your computer, or use it to record from the microphone. Either one gets you, for the best audio option, a WMA file that MM2 reports as 128 kbps, 44.1 kHz 16 bit stereo.
The other option, the timeline narration feature, regardless of source - microphone or stereo mix - gets you a WAV file of 352 kbps 22 kHz 16 bit mono. If you want to preview the project as you record narration, and don't mind the mono file, it's a good option.

Photo Story - Narration and Music Generation
narration in Photo Story 2
Narration files recorded by Photo Story 2 are 1411 kbps, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo WAV files, the next highest bitrate files to the camcorder tracks.
A narration is limited to 4 minutes and 10 seconds, and the WAV file can be copied from the project file.
narration in Photo Story 3
Narration files recorded by Photo Story 3 are the same as Photo Story 2, 1411 kbps, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo WAV files.
If you want the higher quality stereo narration of PS3 for a movie project, you can easily preview the project in MM2 with your speaker volume down, and narrate it in PS3 as your view it. This might be nothing more than an exercise. The narration of a PS3 story is limited to a maximum of 5 minutes, and you need to copy the temporary project narration file to get it. I'm looking at a temporary narration file right now.... a 5 minute one is a hefty 53 MB WAV file. But, if you plan to do audio editing with something like Audacity that doesn't handle the WMA files, then narrating a movie this way might be easiest and best.
PS3 - Computer Generated
computer generated music in Photo Story 3
How long of a background music file can you create in Photo Story 3? The help file doesn't say, so I tried a 15 minute story (3 pictures at 5 minutes each in duration) to see if the music file would go that long...
The saved story was 15 minutes, but the music stopped at a point just past 11 minutes and 2 seconds. You can see in the portion of the timeline at the right where the wave patterns ended. But an 11 minute file would be more than enough for most movie projects.
I'd need to run another test to see if the duration seen in this one is a limitation of Photo Story 3. For now, it's just a note of interest.
The audio properties of the story were 103 kbps, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo, another high quality audio file.
That's about all the ways of getting audio into a story or movie project. We'll now go into the topic of using the files.

With your audio/music files in Movie Maker 2, what can you do with them?
Audio Mixing...
A great feature of Movie Maker is its ability to render an audio only 'movie' as a high quality WMA file... this is so for MM1 and MM2.
Unlike the video track of a movie, you can have empty space between clips on the audio/music track... and similar to a movie, you can overlap the audio clips to have them dissolve into each other...
MM2 - Mix Audio Clips
With Movie Maker 2, you can adjust relative volume levels between the audio of the video track and the clips on the audio/music track, adjust the volume of an individual clip, fade a clip in or out over 3/4 of as second, or mute a clip. For anything beyond that you'll need to use other software...  WMP10 Equalizer
... or use some imagination and use more than one of your tools at the same time.
For example... open a video or audio file in Windows Media Player 10. Start the Graphic Equalizer feature - from the main menu: 
View > Enhancements > Graphic Equalizer  
As the file is playing, adjust the balance, change the built-in preset equalizer style, or tweak the equalizer settings manually... the changes won't interrupt the smooth playback, and will be immediately heard in the sound.
And if you are hearing it, you can easily get it into your movie project. Capture it as a narration file with MM2 as it plays (use the stereo mix source), or record it with MM1 (again the stereo mix option).
If you're busy working on something in MM2, capture it with MM1 and import the new WMA file for your MM2 project.... multi-task.
For parties, or just relaxed listening, it's so easy to drag and drop tracks from a dozen music CDs into a collection, delete the ones you don't like, arrange them to your liking, batch them into the timeline, overlap to mix them, and save them all as one long playing WMA file.
Play it on your computer or your portable music player.... 5 to 10 hours of playing time in one neatly packaged file. No need to think about changing discs during the party. My longest movie to date was a 22 hour one using MM1 to create a music file that had a playing duration longer than me. 

Rendering an Audio File
The image at the lower right shows the rendering choices of Movie Maker 2 when you save a movie that has only clips on the audio/music track... MM2 - Audio Saving Choicesthe clips can be a mix of audio and video files - just don't have any other tracks in use that would make Movie Maker 2 believe you want a movie file.
The first choice, high quality audio, is a VBR choice. The others are constant bitrate.
In addition to the audio quality choices built into Movie Maker, see the last one in the list... a custom profile that I use when I want to rip the audio track from a DV-AVI source file...
My profile is currently set to rip the audio to a file of 192 Kbps, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo (I guess that's the same as the high quality choice... but it changes as I tweak it).

Conclusions and Closing
There's nothing but easy to use and good choices when capturing audio into stories and movies... the only things to be aware of are the limitation of mono in the narrations of MM1, and the maximum time limits when using Photo Story narrations.

Have a great week...