Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story
PapaJohn's Newsletter #56

June 4, 2005


Renaissance Handfasting Ceremony
... plus a Sword Fight
By Sunday or Monday I like to firm up the topic of the week... and I found myself once again facing a planned newsletter that wasn't going to work without my Toshiba laptop, which is still out for repairs... Swords - CollageI needed something else.
We went to a Mayfaire Renaissance festival on Sunday, and I took footage of singing, dancing, sword fights, jousting, a tea with the queen, and what turned out to be real rather than make-believe... handfasting ceremony.
Handfasting was a common-law engagement (marriage for some) ceremony in the middle ages. About half way through it someone told me the video guy's camcorder or tape had broken and the couple would have no footage. Would I let them have a copy of whatever I had? Sure.
I put the 30-1/2 minutes of unedited footage on a website in a lower quality file (118 MB WMV) and another higher quality one (345 MB WMV) on a CD... with 17 still pix from our 5 megapixel camera. In the first part of the tutorial section, I'll give you an overview of perhaps my quickest and easiest video project to date. An easy project, but all of the key steps of a large one are still applicable...

On the night of the festival there was a post by C:\ about a new free app that turns swords into light sabers... and I had just taken video of sword fights and jousts. There seems to be lots of interest in light sabers and the latest Star Wars movie is only adding to it.
I downloaded LSMaker and checked it out to see if I could get from camcorder footage, through LSMaker to turn a sword into a light saber, and into Movie Maker... using my minimalist Dell laptop with its 144 MB of RAM and less than a GB of elbow room on its hard drive.

The MM2 snapshots are from my finished test clip (3 seconds in duration).
Setting up and using LSMaker is the second part of the tutorial section. The app doesn't a good help file at this time. I'm not at all proficient in using it (and probably won't use it enough to become skilled). I got through it just enough to help you get started.
some notes... before going further 

I started adding links from website pages to issued newsletters... tying together all of the issued material. I had previously gone through the Zero to Hero and Do Amazing Things books to add notes at the tops of the website pages.
As the amount of material expands, it's important to make it as easy as possible to integrate it all in a virtual way. These new links are an important step toward that end.
.... on to the main topic

The Handfasting Ceremony...
Without going into details, here's how I handled the Sunday through Wednesday project, from the impromptu request for a copy of the footage through giving a copy of a CD to the couple. I'll stress a couple key points.
When I started videoing the activities, I thought it was a mock ceremony for the festival...
... when some of them started showing lots of emotion I figured it was a real ceremony... with that realization my video-taking took a notch toward more thorough coverage. Not better video taking, as I always do my best when shooting footage... just more rather than less footage. You can see how unique the setting was.The Cast
This was the second event I used my new monopod at... I recommend one, a light-weight type with a full swiveling top. Before the monopod I'd only used a tripod.
the Initial Request and Payment
Mid-way through the ceremony a nun (a festival costume, not a real one) came up to me and said the video-guy's camcorder or tape broke so the couple would have no video unless I was willing to share a copy of my footage. How could I say no to a nun who asked so nicely and gave me $5 to cover mailing and the cost of a tape or disc? From that point I was committed to at least something, but I didn't know exactly what. At that point, not only was the ceremony real... I had become the official videographer.
I was using my Sony TRV80 mini-DV camcorder in standard 4:3 mode. It had a wide-angle lens on it, something I've left on through all my video taking in recent months.
the Contract and Agreements
Chris-AshAfter the ceremony I met the couple (Chris and Ash) for the first time. It turned out they live only a few miles from us.
Even the smallest and most informal project needs a good understanding about what is needed, what is expected, and what is promised. This one is no exception. We quickly explored the important things... they have a broadband connection to the internet. He uses a Windows-based computer, and she an Apple. They are both artists, very computer literate, and very much into Renaissance related items at work and beyond. She is the webmaster of  Unicorns Garden, and makes jewelry and other artwork. The Sage Staff section of the site shows Chris' work. They were easy to relate to.
Computer-based viewing is the easiest to deliver content to... no need to make a DVD. Give them a good WMV file on the internet and with their broadband connection, they can watch it on either computer. Beyond that, a higher quality copy on a CD would be a bonus. They didn't own a digital camcorder, so that ruled out dubbing a full-quality digital copy of the tape.
In exchange, I asked for permission to use the footage for this newsletter, sharing the link to the online footage, and my future use of the material. They were nothing but supportive and appreciate any exposure the festival gets. This particular event is only a couple years old and they are committed to helping it grow.
Capturing the Footage
I used the WinDV utility and a firewire connection to get the footage to a computer. The utility does a good job and gives feedback about any dropped frames (there were none). I opted for type II DV-AVI which is more usable in other software than Movie Maker, such as VirtualDub and the new Light Saber Maker app.
Online Copy...
I added a few overlying text clips for the date and occasion... but that was it for editing. I didn't drop or trim any clips. I even included a couple extra... a hawk flying overhead during the ceremony and a far shot of a portion of the overall festival.
The online version is a 320x240 sized WMV file with a bitrate of just over 500 Kbps, one that works fine for a broadband connection. It's 118 MB in size with a duration of 30-1/2 minutes, but startup after clicking the link is usually quick... just needs enough in the buffer to start, and a broadband connection should fill the buffer quickly. Here's the link - remember that it's totally unedited footage:
Handfasting Ceremony - Unedited Footage
Their downloading the file completed the informal contract for a copy of the footage... I'll leave it there for a couple weeks to support readers of this newsletter.
And for Chris and Ash, I rendered another higher quality version and copied it to a data CD.
CD Copy...
For the CD I used a profile of 640x480, 1.5 Mbps... the file size is 345 MB. I included 17 still pictures that Bernadette had taken (5 megapixel size). From my file browser it was simply a matter of selecting the pack of files and using SendTo > DirectCD Drive (D) to burn the disc. I burned 2 copies, one for them and another for my personal library.
I recently purchased an Epson Stylus Photo R200 printer (about $100) to print directly on discs... I avoid stick-on labels and printing on a disc is a top-notch alternative to scribbling with a Sharpie marker. This was another perfect opportunity to test it.
The Epson disc printing software that came with the printer is great. I selected a background color (opting for a gradient pattern), cropped 4 sections from still pictures, and added the date to the disc... It looks great on Verbatim Inkjet Printable CD-R discs, the ones with more of a translucent silvery upper finish, not those with a bright white opaque surface... the quality of the printing on the bright white surfaced ones isn't as good. This was my first use of the translucent discs and I'll be staying with them.
The disc itself looks much better than the scanned picture from it in the introduction above. A bow-tie shaped shading on the scanned picture cuts across the couple at the left and their bound hands at the right... it's not on the disc itself, more a result of the way the lighting is reflected during the scanning.

from Sword to Light Saber...
Turning to another corner of the festival, where some sword fights were taking place. Let's get that specialty software app and go through the installation and initial use.LSSaber
Download, Install, Open... and Start a New Project
Download LSMaker and unzip the contents of the 524KB file to any folder you choose. There isn't an installation process.
Open the app (LSMaker.exe)... and as is often the case, the main window has you wondering what to do first.
Start by opening a new project. From the main menu use File > New and two windows will automatically open, the one on top inviting you to pick the color of the light saber.
I picked blue for the saber, followed by green (maybe it was red, I don't remember) for the blade.

Select Your Video File
Add FileThen you'll be asked which file to use. This is where you point it to the DV-AVI file from the camcorder... WinDV had given each of the clips long names with dates, times, numbers, etc. I copied one to a working folder for this project and gave it an easier name Swords.avi
The type II captured by WinDV opened fine. See in the list at the left that LSMaker took the single AVI file listed each of the frames in it as if they were individual files.
LSMaker isn't smart enough to know which part of the image is the sword, or the starting and and ending points of the blade. You'll be pointing to them in each of the frames. That's one reason I picked a 3 second clip with about 90 frames, and not a 5 minute fight scene with 9,000.
3 seconds can sometimes be a long time, long enough for my guy to lose the battle...even after I armed him with a light saber. It didn't change the result.
After saying OK to the file, it returns to the main working window, this time with your video file in it with the first frame showing.
Saber Points

Define the Light Saber
You can skip around the frames, but I tend to do it from the beginning. Here's my first frame, clearly showing the sword.
Look at the shape of the cursor in the image at the right... when it's that shape (and it should be automatically) you're ready to tell the app where the sword or saber begins and ends.
A left mouse click defines one end and a right mouse click the other. The click places the little white or black square on the image. If it's not where you want it, click again in the right place.
After doing each frame, I tended to drag the timeline progress indicator a notch to the right to go to the next frame, define the two points there, and keep going that way... that's enough to get you as far as I got. I didn't give the ogre a light saber too, nor did I do the flashes at the contact points. If you're serious about using the software, I'm sure you can figure it out from here.

Save Your Project and Export the New Clip
Use the main menu to save your project and export the working project to a new AVI clip.
  • File > Save as... gets you a saved project.
MM2 - Join Clips

Import and Join
Import the original and new clips into Movie Maker. See that the new clip on the video track of the timeline doesn't have audio... the audio is stripped by going through LSMaker.
I added the original clip to the Audio/Music track to pick up the sounds of the swords clashing. See from the picture that the durations aligned well.
There were no issues when rendering to a new DV-AVI clip with audio. On playback, the sounds of the swords were in sync with the visual.  

Conclusions and Closing
Chris and Ash picked up their copy of the CD, and invited us to the follow-up ceremony at the next annual festival... a real Renaissance wedding.
The Light Saber software is in beta stage... it acted a little quirky as I moved from frame to frame to define the points... but never crashed or lost any info. It acted about how I'd expect an initial beta version to. But beta software can hit a buggy point at any time. I don't recommend putting significant effort into a project... just play with it and make small clips. It's off to a good start.

Have a great holiday weekend...