PapaJohn's Newsletter #49 - April 16, 2005
Maker 2 and Photo Story
Use Movie Maker to
Start a Photo Story Project
My Toshiba laptop returned this morning... the problem was
somewhere in the power system... the converter/chord, power adapter module,
and battery were replaced. Just in time to finish this
issue and get back to my routine.
One of our ongoing
topics is the Civil War project. The old piano roll music noted in last
week's issue adds more source material to our library that's well
suited for it... it goes hand in hand with the kind of panning
and zooming we can do so well with Photo Story 3.
Although Photo Story is
great at handling the pixels of still pictures, Movie Maker is better when
it comes to mixing an audio track... I'm going to use this issue to take
you through an exercise I've been doing to prep for the next part of the
Civil War Project... mixing an audio track in Movie Maker, and then
building a Photo Story around it.
Here's the audio
for a one minute story... using 3 of the midi files
from the old piano rolls.
Listen to it and think
about the theme... the Civil War. Imagine some pictures you would
use with it.
In the tutorial, we'll build
the audio track in Movie Maker 2 and then use it to make a short
Photo Story. The key is to make the audio track first, and then
enhance it with pictures, the reverse of the usual process of making a
... before getting into it, a
couple notes about current items...
I wrote to Terry Shaw, whose website
has the midi files from the old player piano rolls. The site
says the downloaded files are free for non-commercial use, so I wanted
to see where he draws the line... as my newsletter is a commercial
His response was that the rolls were beyond their copyright
periods, what he's providing in the scanned info from the
rolls isn't copyrighted, and we're free to use them as we want. That's
kind of refreshing.
Some of you know Rehan.
He's a top notch programmer and hacker (in the best sense of
the word). Besides helping many in his posts on newsgroups and forums,
he's been the leader in the development of custom transitions,
effects.... and text clips. I'm planning on
newsletter #52 being an introduction to the custom text clips.
For all of his work and support, Rehan was recently given a
Microsoft MVP award.
I signed for one of those free Google-based
blog accounts today and added it to the website... now visitors
can leave a public comment about the site if they prefer doing that
instead of sending a personal email. Maybe in doing that, they'll seek and
get support from other viewers. The links to get to the blog are on
the main page and the 'What's New' page...
.... on to the main topic
Use Movie Maker to Make the
Our goal here is the audio track for a story. But a secondary
goal is to note the durations and overlapping times of the
audio transitions... the timescale to use when putting the visual
together in Photo Story. We'll want to align the pictures with the audio...
not necessarily exactly, just appropriate and well done. Photo Story
doesn't show the kind of linear timeline to use as a yardstick, as
Movie Maker does. We'll jot some notes.
For an audio track, I looked for Civil War vintage
in the old piano roll music collection. The
spreadsheet index of the tunes helped me find 'Three O'clock in the
Morning' to open the audio with some clock chimes, followed by a bit
of 'Marching Through Georgia' (obviously from Sherman's famous march), then
the second part of 'Aloha Oe', and finish with the closing
segment of 'Three O'clock in the Morning'.
Note a few things about the style of the choices,
and the mixing. Nothing here is just pot-luck or flipping a coin:
the short music story I'm trying for is waking up at 3 am,
going on a march, slowing the tempo after the march, and then finishing with
the end of the opening tune for some sort of closure... all in one
the opening audio clip is short, the march a bit longer, and
the quieter segment the longest of all. The closing is swift and
conclusive. I used a total of 61 seconds from 3 songs that totaled a bit
over 8 minutes in duration.
I raised the volume of the longer quieter clip to have it
continue the buildup, and left the other clips alone in volume. I tried
raising the volume of the final one too but it caused some audio issue, so I
turned it back to its original level.
each of the audio clips fades in and out... and
there are two overlapping mixing transitions, something you can't do in
Here's what the timeline looked like in Movie Maker when I
finished trimming the audio clips, overlapping them to mix, fading them in
and out, and raising the volume of the third clip. I previewed the
project over and over, tweaking the audio each time I heard something I
wanted changed.... the pictures are just visual place-holders, not used when
rendering the audio-only movie.
Time to make notes about the durations of the clips and
the transitions in the story:
1st clip - 12:47 second duration, with a 0.10 second
transition between it and the next one
2nd - 16:53 with a 1.13 second transition between it
and the 3rd
3rd - 28:00 with a 1:93 second transition between it and
4th - 8:20 second duration
When the audio sounds right, it's time to strip
the place-holders off the video track and save the movie as a high
quality audio-only WMA file.
The link to this audio track was in the opening paragraphs
Gather Pictures for the
We have the audio
track... time to look for some images to use with it. As I check through
them, I listen to the audio dozens of times.
I browsed scanned pages of text from old books,
and maps. And went through the Civil War video with
MM2, taking snapshots as I went.
Then a little research (Google) to find
the famous march was from Atlanta to Savannah... open Paint to
highlight some text and the map...
There were 15 pictures to go through in 61 seconds...about 4
seconds each. No time to dwell on anything.... here's the initial sequence in
Photo Story 3.
Open with a soldier sleeping outside, to be woken by the chimes
at 3 am... some text about Sherman's march, a field, some train pix, and closing
with a map of the area from Atlanta to Savannah.
I quickly added the pictures and the audio track to get the
story started, letting PS3 add it's default and calculated durations. I
noticed right off that PS3 and I didn't align on being able to use the 61 second
audio track over all the pictures. It showed it playing through the first 3.
I had some work to do with the picture durations.
I had known that... the default motions are slow pans and
zooms, and I'd need to speed them up. I previewed the story to take a
closer look. The first draft story had a total duration of 3 minutes,
7 seconds per the PS3 preview. But the music stopped before it was half way
done and there was over 2-1/2 minutes of silence.
I rendered it to a video to check how a saved
story aligns with the preview in duration and music ending...
perfectly aligned.... the music stopped at 25 seconds, dropping 35 seconds
of it... the full story was the same as the preview at 3:07.
I'd read a number of posts about music stopping too
soon, and I was seeing it.
Why Does the Music Stop Too
Time for a side trip to explore why the
audio was stopping short. I looked into the saved story file.
The full audio WMA file was in the package. I didn't see
anything in the XML file that told it to stop early... so I went back into
another round of editing.
For this round of
editing, I thought I'd simply cut all the images down in duration... to 1/3 of
what PS3 was doing... that would pull the overall story down to my audio track
timeframe. We'll see if that gets the whole audio playing. In doing this, that's
all I did. I simply changed the duration of each picture, letting PS3
automatically take care of the motion and the duration of the transitions while
I fixed the picture durations.
Now the preview had the
full audio, and the overall video was 61 seconds, aligned with
the length of the audio. You can see in this image that the audio track
now spans all the pictures.
Why did it stop so early during the first draft? The
first picture was given a duration by PS3 of 5 seconds, followed by 2 pix
at 10 seconds each. The 25 seconds was the duration of the music played
when PS3 showed the audio playing over the first 3 pictures. They aligned.
What I noticed was the 4th picture had an initial duration
of 45 seconds. If the music continued into that picture it would have
stopped 10 seconds before the end of the picture... so PS3 did me a favor and
stopped it at the end of the 3rd picture, assuming I'd rather have silence
through the whole 4th picture than the music playing through 35 of the 45
seconds. I'd prefer the music but PS3 was working to its internal
Did the help file tell me about this and I
forgot? I checked it and Mark Koffman's tutorial and didn't find it. I've
already expanded the page on my website about adding background
music... there's a new section named 'Be Sure Your Background
Music Doesn't Stop Too Soon'
. The key thing is shown in these two
little screen shots from the website...
I made a 3 picture story and imported a music file 1:45.34 in
duration. The screen shot at the left shows PS3 stopping the
music at the end of the 2nd picture when there's still over 1/2 minute of music
The duration of the 3rd picture was initially set to 30.4
seconds, ending at 0.06 seconds after I expected the music to end. That
split second was enough for PS3 to stop it at the end of the 2nd picture.
All it took to get the audio and pictures fully aligned was to
take 0.1 second off the duration of the 3rd picture... see the
alignment in the screen shot at the right... the expected end of the music is
now 0.04 seconds after the 3rd picture finishes. PS3 now keeps the music playing
Back to the Story
It's shaping up now, and it's nice to understand the audio
issue and what to do about it. Back to the project for a 3rd round of
editing. This is the first time into the motion and transition
settings.. I noticed when viewing the second round that the first picture didn't
show up as its duration was less than the default transition time into the
story from blackness. Also, one of the text pictures was being panned from right
to left, not easy reading.
I won't go into all the details of what changed in the 3rd
round... I rearranged some of the pictures, dropped one of the too many train
shots, moved some of the duration time from longer ones to shorter
(while maintaining the overall story duration), changed many of the motion
pan/zoom position settings.
I wasn't too critical about what picture was being viewed
as the various phases of the music changed... if I liked where it was,
I left it.
On the 4th editing round I added a couple title
pictures... 2 more of the opening one, but with the date and time added in
IrfanView. Sherman's March to the Sea started Nov 12, 1864... and I wanted the
time to be 3 am to align with the opening music from '3 O'clock in the
The picture count was up to 16, averaging about 4 seconds in
duration. 5 were over that and 11 under. I tightened up the starting and ending
points of the panning of the book text... having highlighted the key words in
Paint, I wanted to move through them quickly and leave it up to the viewers to
fill in or finish any missing thoughts. With 5 such pictures or scrolling text,
there wasn't much time to dwell on any of them... like Sherman, it was time to
move on swiftly.
The 5th round was to focus on transitions
and effects... with few exceptions to now, the defaults of Photo Story were
I tend to go light on special transitions and effects. After
thinking about them, I at first didn't have any, but then added a few.
I'm calling it finished and 'newsletter ready'. Here's the
link to the 66 second snippet, with 5 seconds of quiet before the audio
Remember when viewing it... the pictures were put together
to try to add something extra to the audio, not the other way around.
Conclusions and Closing
I've stopped being amazed at running into something unexpected
when focusing on something small for a newsletter... those small but
important things make it interesting for me as I write them, and I hope helpful
to you when working on story and movie projects.
This week's point of course was when the music stops too soon,
not when we want or expect it to, but accurate per the internal
rules of Photo Story 3... just one more of those things you really
have to experience and roll with.
Photo Story 3 has been a major role in about 1/2 of my
newsletters since it was released in late October. It's been a major tool
for me, working hand in hand with Movie Maker. I expect it to continue.
Have a great week...