PapaJohn's Newsletter #47 - April 2, 2005
Maker 2 and Photo Story
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.
Let's take a fairly broad look
the audio that goes into stories and
the limited editing features
available within Movie Maker and PhotoStory
profile options when saving an audio-only movie
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
.... on to the main topic
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.
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
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
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.
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...
rip 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,
Tracks ripped from CDs import fine into MM2... which
report properties of 81 Kbps, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo.
the timeline in Movie Maker
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
The narration wizard lets you test and adjust your sound
hardware, but it doesn't offer you the option of using anything other than
record audio or narrate the
timeline in Movie Maker 1
MM1 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
narration in Photo
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
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.
computer generated music in Photo
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
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
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
With your audio/music files in Movie Maker 2, what can
you do with them?
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
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
... or use some
imagination and use more than one of your tools at the same
For example... open a video or audio file in
Windows Media Player 10. Start the Graphic
Equalizer feature - from the main menu:
View > Enhancements >
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....
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... the 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
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
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...