Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story
PapaJohn's Newsletter #59

June 25, 2005



Converting MPEG-2 files - Part III (from Recorded TV to Movie Maker)
Last week we ended the series of newsletters about the Civil War project. This week we'll complete the 3 part series of issues about getting MPEG-2 files converted and into Movie Maker.
  • In issue #50, we converted MPEG-2 files downloaded from a website, using VDubMod with the Panasonic DV codec to render a DV-AVI file that worked in Movie Maker.
  • In issue #53, we dealt with the MPEG-2 files on a DVD. To convert the .ac3 Dolby audio files, we added the BeSweet utility to our toolbox.
  • RecordedTVIn this issue, we'll see what it takes to get recorded TV files into Movie Maker, using DVR-MS files recorded by the Media Center Edition (MCE) of Windows XP...
... before that, here's a couple notes...

We're all familiar with the issue of not being able to save a movie. An interesting (I'd use a different word if it hadn't worked out successfully) case happened last week. A school in Pennsylvania was running a movie-making contest, with 4 entries in the 13-15 age bracket and 5 in the 16-20. When it was time to render and submit the movies, two of the nine ran into the issue. Cheryl, the teacher working with them, contacted me and I worked with her to quickly email project files back and forth, dividing them into parts that rendered. Karl and Emily, the two students, were able to render the parts, assemble them, add their music files, and make their submittals.... after the dust settled, they subscribed to this newsletter and I want to welcome them.
The first of a semi-monthly Movie Maker slot on is now history. It was recorded last weekend, used for a broadcast session, and then made available as a downloadable podcast MP3 file. One of the 6 questions I responded to was to Artie from Alabama who asked "Every time I try to save a movie to CD, Windows Media Maker stops responding and just hangs there. After shutting of my computer and trying a second
time it goes to about 68% then hangs again. This is a continual process that doesn't end- what is going on?". Cheryl, Karl and Emily can relate to the question. The other 5 questions were about similarly familiar issues.
I've seen a number pointers to FlaskMPG, an open source app that can convert MPEG-2 files to AVI. I downloaded and tried it this week, and put a link to it on the Importing Source Files > Video > MPEG-2 page of the site. My first test conversion to a DV-AVI file produced a file with video and audio, but the new file didn't play smoothly...
.... on to the main topic

Conversion Utilities - DVR-MS files
After some research I ended up at the Green Button with links to 3 utilities to consider. Here are some brief notes about them from the website info:Not Yet Implemented
DVREdit v 1.0 - a simple DVR editing and DVR-MPEG/MPEG-DVR conversion utility... when trying the conversion option of interest (DVR to MPG), I got this message that stopped it from making the cut. >>>> 
DVR2WMV v 1.0 - converts DVR-MS files created by Windows XP Media Center Edition to WMV format. It contains an interface suitable for viewing through TV, one for a computer monitor and a command line version.
Although there are some commonly used options that you can change through the TV version, many options will have to be set in the version designed for the computer monitor. Once these options are set they will apply to both the computer and TV version of the program.
DVR Ripper (beta) - a freeware app that converts DVR-MS files into MPA (MPEG Audio) and MPV (MPEG Video), or a single MPEG file so you can edit and burn your recorded TV.
As a prerequisite to using DVR Ripper, you need the elecard Xmuxer... it says so in the Readme.txt file of DVR Ripper (the things we read after finding that the app doesn't run). It doesn't give you an error message saying that the Xmuxer software is needed... it just doesn't open.
Let's install each and see how they handle a recorded TV file.

DVREditDVREdit v 1.0
The downloaded file from the Green Button is a small zip one of 160 KB with just one file in it, the executable dvredit.exe.
Put it in any folder, run it and open a saved DVR-MS file.
The [square bracket icons] let you mark the in and out points of a video... I used them to mark a segment as shown.
The main menu > Tools has two options... DVR to MPG and MPG to DVR. Choosing DVR to MPG  gives a message 'Not yet implemented'. That's the one I'm interested in.
Although it won't work today as a conversion tool, it might still be helpful as a cropping tool.
The File > Save as feature worked fine, saving the selected segment to a new DVR-MS file that played fine in WMP.
The save was quick and easy, and could save rendering time later in a conversion, when your interest is just in a short segment.

DVR2WMV v 1.0
The downloaded file from the Green Button is a 1.3 MB zip file with a full installation package in it.
Extract the contents and run the DVR 2 WMV.msi package. It installs to the C:\Program Files\Griffin Composites\DVR 2 WMV folder and adds two new menu options to your XP Start menu:
XM Menu
DVR2WMVIt has 3 versions of a user interface... the DVR 2 WMV is a full screen one that looks and acts similar to the Media Center software itself.
Another is titled 'Standalone', and is a utility with the main working window at the left.
The third one is a command line one, which I didn't try. All 3 run the same app functions.
Each of the two I tried got me to the point of starting a conversion, but resulted in an error message when I pressed the Start button...
... and the kind of message written by programmers for geeks, not average real-world users.
... it followed through as it said, closing down when I pressed the OK button.
The website says the app is compatible with the MCE 2004 and 2005 editions... my problem might be being on the 2003 version. The newer versions are not offered by Toshiba as upgrades to my model laptop.
The MCE version of XP is tweaked by the OEM from the Microsoft software, so upgrades have to come from the OEM, not Microsoft.
If you use a newer version of the MCE edition and try DVR2WMV, I'm interested in your experience.

DVR Ripper
As mentioned, a prerequisite to using DVR Ripper is having the Xmuxer software installed. I downloaded a shareware version in November 2003 XMuxer Menubut I'm not finding a link to it today... its readme file says it can be freely distributed, so I put a copy on my website.. I'll be deleting it when the newsletter goes online in 6 weeks, so get it before then if you want it:
It's a zip file of 1.2 MB... with an installation package in it. The installation goes to the c:\Program Files\Moonlight Cordless\][Muxer 2.03 folder with most of the software in it, and adds 5 .ax files to a new c:\Program Files\Common files\Moonlight folder.
You don't run Xmuxer directly... but you can if you want to use it for more features than we're using in this newsletter. The app's working window is shown at the right.
We're installing it just to get the underlying codecs that work with DVR Ripper.

DVR Ripper
The downloaded DVR Ripper file from the Green Button is a 2.8 MB zip package. In it is a setup executable and related files.
When installing DVR Ripper, I got 2 cautionary messages about files on my computer being newer than ones being installed, with a recommendation to keep the existing ones... I did.
The installation adds C:\Program Files\TVShowExport\TVShowExport.exe... when I ran it for the first time, it was searching for TVshow Export. I was a little confused but it was satisfied when I pointed it to the DVR-Ripper.exe that was just installed with it.
It opens with a note that it is for evaluation purposes only, appropriate for a beta software version. Here's the main working window with one of my saved TV shows opened in it.
DVR Ripper - Window
I checked the option to remux into a single MPEG-2 file, and ended up with 3 MPEG-2 files. The separate m2a and m2v audio and video files, and the combined mpg. The separate audio and video files would have been deleted if I had checked that option.
The conversion process was quick and the files played well in WMP, but with a very noticeable sync issue.
Being MPEG-2 files, we still need one more conversion step to get them to a format that will work in Movie Maker.

Final Conversion - MPEG-2 to AVI
I thought that, if the above utilities didn't finish the job, I could use... 
TMPGEnc - the tried and true all-purpose MPEG Utility
I was able to get the DVR Ripper audio file into it, but it wouldn't accept the video or combined audio/video file... it said the video stream was an illegal one.
VDubMod - an Open Source utility
VDubMod accepted the mpg file from DVR Ripper, and had no problems rendering it to a DV-AVI file with the Panasonic DV codec as the compressor. The video pixel size of the MPG file was 720x480, aligning with the DV-AVI file so I didn't need to use the resize filter... just picked the compression codec and saved the file as an AVI. 
It took an appropriate amount of rendering time. The DV-AVI file imported and worked well in Movie Maker.
MyDVD Studio Deluxe
Sonic MyDVD or DV Gate Plus are DVD software apps included with a Media Center Edition computer. You can use them to make a DVD project from recorded TV files.
I had recently upgraded from the version 4.5 of MyDVD that came with my laptop to the Studio 6.1 version to handle PS3 stories, and hadn't checked its handling of recorded TV files. This is one of the key conversion steps in the method currently on my website page, so I tried it to be verify it still worked.
I created a DVD Project with 2 video source files, the first one having been made from the second... 
  • the MPG file made by DVR-Ripper
  • the MS-DVR file
Both imported and previewed fine in MyDVD. I then saved it as a DVD project, going through all the transcodings needed to make a DVD. It worked fine and accepted the MPG file made by DVR Ripper without transcoding.

The original FAQ document for the Media Center software said you couldn't get from a DVR-MS file to Movie Maker. That had been changed to point to my website page when I rolled out the method of using MyDVD and converting the resultant MPEG-2 files.
This newsletter adds a second method using Xmuxer, DVR Ripper and VDubMod... a method that doesn't require the MCE version of XP.

Conclusions and Closing
The methods of converting recorded TV files into ones that work in Movie Maker are still developing.
What's the issue between DVR Ripper and TMPGEnc?
The documentation with DVR Ripper says it creates DVD compatible MPEG-2 files.
That seems to be the case as MyDVD made the DVD without needing to transcode it, and the DVD played in MyDVD. VDubMod also had no problems with the MPG file when converting it to an AVI.
But TMPGEnc did have problems with it, saying the video stream was illegal. I went in and used the MPEG tools of TMPGEnc to rip just the video track from the MPG file and it had no problems doing it... and the file played in WMP... but the new file still wouldn't open in TMPGEnc. I tried another MPG file in TMPGEnc to be sure it wasn't broken, and it went well... leaving me with an issue specific to the file created by DVR Ripper.
Website Update - I'll be revising the Importing Source Files > Video > Recorded TV page of my site to reflect what's in this newsletter... and call this 3 part mini-series about MPEG-2 files complete.

Have a great weekend...