PapaJohn Productions

PapaJohn's Newsletter #49 - April 16, 2005

Movie 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 track for a one minute story... using 3 of the midi files from the old piano rolls.
Story Audio Track
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 movie.
... before getting into it, a couple notes about current items...

Current Items of Note
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 venture.
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 Audio Track
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:
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.
Create Audio Track
Time to make notes about the durations of the clips and the transitions in the story:
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.
Save Audio Track
The link to this audio track was in the opening paragraphs above.

Gather Pictures for the Story
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...

Make the Story
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.
Pictures on Video Strip
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.
Add Music TrackI 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 Soon?
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.
Picture Durations Reduced
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 rules.

Website Update
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...Stops Too Soon
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 to go.Audio - Just Right
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 through it.

Back to the Story Project
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 Morning'.
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 accepted.
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 begins:
Sherman's March to the Sea
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...