Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story
#74 - October 22, 2005
Photo Story 3 Profile Choices and
Making a DVD
It's been a while
since a newsletter about Photo Story. This isn't really
a good title for one, but in it I'll check my new HP notebook... nick-named "the Hummer", to see how
it handles making a DVD... and we'll use Photo Stories from PS3 rather than
movies from Movie Maker. In the process we'll compare the quality of the various
PS3 profiles you can choose from.
I hadn't checked things before I
started writing. I didn't even know what DVD software came on the Hummer.
As always, I'll share the journey with you... the good, the bad, and the
It'll also be a cross check
of the standard aspect ratio profiles for Photo Story 3, those included with the
software and the 6 custom profiles I made to enhance the quality when
heading toward a disc.
... before getting into it, here
are a few notes...
The 'Hummer' is
working well. Here's a couple positive experiences I had with it
during its first week.
When I plugged it into the
library's projection system for the technology fair on Saturday, I didn't need
to change the screen resolution or lower the hardware acceleration as I'd been
used to doing with the Toshiba. The laptop and the View Sonic projector
figured out the needed settings and changed things automatically. Beyond that,
when I played movies in the Windows Media Player, I still saw the player and
its controls with part of the desktop on the laptop, but only the
movie was displayed on the big screen. It knew the focus of attention was
on the movie. Whenever I closed the player, the system settings changed
and the desktop showed again on the big screen. A nice interactive
faster CPU (3.4 GHz versus the 2.4 on the Toshiba) screen captures
of iTunes visualizations at higher settings - 640x480, 30 fps, to a
1000 kbps wmv file - are done with minimal if any dropped frames. I'll
have higher quality screen captures from now on.
I added a Setup > Vista
page to the site. With the beta 1 version of Vista, there isn't much to say
about it yet... but that'll change as the beta updates roll out. That'll be the
page where I start sharing what I see in the beta.
Mark Coffman released a Tweak PS
utility for Photo Story 3. If you sometimes want to do a batch change of
the picture durations in a story, remove motion settings, or randomize the
picture locations... go get a copy. The installation is quick and easy, as is
.... on to the main topic...
get started, I took eight 6-megapixel JPG images and two MP3
music files, and packaged them into a 60 second story project...
there's a note on my site about PS3 not being able to initialize MP3 files
properly. We'll check it, and use other music if they don't
14 profiles come with
PS3, and I have 6 downloadable custom ones on my website to use when
heading toward a disc (VCD, SVCD or DVD for NTSC or PAL)... I used
each of the profiles to render the same story 20 times. That gives us
enough stories to do some quality comparisons.
I'm not using the 3 custom
widescreen profiles as they don't fit into this round of testing.
The file list below-right
shows the rendered stories in order by file size. If quality equals
file size, a good rule of thumb for WMV files, at this point the
PAL DVD story looks like it might be the quality winner...
if you want to judge them yourself, here's a set of links
to online copies.
They all looked and sounded
as I'd expect, and the audio from the MP3 files seems to have come
Stories heading for discs for TV viewing don't have
square pixels... so the can appear to be the wrong
shape when watching them on your computer... they are sized to
align with the MPEG-2 standards for files on the discs, and they
should look OK on TV. Don't judge the WMV files as
they are just intermediate steps needed to get to the
Next is to see
if the DVD software that came on the Hummer accepts
PS3 stories as inputs.
The new laptop has Sonic's
DigitalMedia Plus v7. After opening and registering it, I opted for
the Create Project > DVD (which said I can store
up to 3 hours of high quality video). Selecting that opened Sonic's
MyDVD Plus version 6.1.0.
I added the 20 sample files...
got a message that new menu page and buttons were added.... again and again and
again... 3 times... the number of menu buttons in MyDVD is limited to
6, so 20 stories on a disc needs a total of 4 menu
A project preview
showed the menu working and all stories playing fine.
You have to save the DVD
project file before using it to create a DVD Folder (the same files as
on the disc, but on the hard drive). Then, saving it as a folder:
builds the files needed for
transcodes the video/audio WMV
files to MPEG-2 files
The process took about 20 minutes... on a 3.4 GHz system.
During transcoding the CPU ran at 100%.
After saving the project on the hard drive, the first
disc burn was a success, just like my early days
with MyDVD4.5, but now with the ability to include stories made
by PS3, something that MyDVD version 4.5 couldn't do.
The list at the right shows the VOB video files on the DVD.
I commented above that file size is a good indication of
quality... yes, for WMV files but not MPEG-2 files on DVDs.
The WMV files ranged from 0.3 to 5.2 MB, a considerable range, and
the sequence by size is consistent with the order by quality.
The MPEG-2 files on the disc (with the VOB extension) are all the same
size. The sizes are the same because each story is 60 seconds, and file sizes on
DVDs are more about video duration than about quality.
How's this for a fact? The sum total of the file sizes for the 20 stories
is 2/3 the size of just one of the VOB files. And the quality isn't any better.
But it's a necessary price to pay to meet the MPEG-2 standards for a DVD.
Playing the DVD
The first check is to close down MyDVD, remove the disc and put it
right back into the computer... up pops the window with your playing
choices, which vary by the system. The choices on my new Hummer are
the Media Center software, Windows Media Player, and InterVideo WinDVD. I'll try
The Media Center... the navigation button to go to the
next menu window doesn't function with the mouse... that's why I use a main
menu with sub-menus on DVDs that exceed 6 files, and not a series of main
menu screens. Most stand-alone DVD players can't execute the moving from one
main menu to another.
Windows Media Player 10... the navigation buttons
work to go from menu to menu... and there's a list of all 20 tracks in the now
playing list at the right.
WinDVD... the menu navigation buttons work in this
software too. The audio is noticeably louder than it was in the
other two apps... I'll use this one to assess quality differences
among the 20 stories.
Comparing the Stories on the DVD
WinDVD has a snapshot feature, saving a frame as a BMP
at 640x480 pixels.
I took a horizontal slice from each snapshot and grouped
them as above. I used the 100% quality level for these JPG files
so as not to lose anything by compression as I moved from the BMP snapshot to
the newsletter images. Here's what the slices looked like for the 4
profiles used when saving a story for computer playback.
Next are the profiles when the stories are heading to
DVDs. The two PS3 profiles come with Photo Story 3... the
other two are the custom ones on my website.
Most feedback has been very positive about the custom ones. Here's
an email I received Wednesday as I was writing this newsletter. Good timing
"Just a quick email to say
thanks for providing the PAL profile for Photo Story 3 on your website. I
tried it out and the difference it made is huge. The profile for PAL that came
with PS3 gave a very fuzzy output but with your profile, the pictures looked
nice and sharp – I could even see facial features
Photo Story 3 doesn't include profiles for SVCDs
so I made a couple.
The top two for VCDs came with PS3, and the others
are my custom ones.
The 3 profiles for emails are included with the Photo Story 3
software. Magnifying them here to align with the others, you see the
heavy civilization that comes with such enlarging.
... and similar to those for emails, here's the final 3 profiles
that come with Photo Story 3... on a little phone screen, the blurry videos will
look good as long as you don't plug the phone into a big screen TV for
Here's a couple links to the two
MP3 files I used for the story. Both 128 kbps MP3 files... you can use them
to compare how they compare to the saved stories in WMV
As you'd expect, the audio quality goes down similar to the
visual quality, hitting the bottom in the story for the Smartphone at a
bitrate of 20 kbps. The stories for email have mono rather than stereo. Those
for computer playback and discs are stereo.
Printing the disc
The laptop came with a Light Scribe feature... which requires special
discs. Circuit City didn't have any for DVDs so I did the first test on a
CD disc. It worked well. Of note:
- it takes 30 minutes to do a single disc
- it prints or etches in shades of gray... no color here
- the discs cost more than others
I guess the Light Scribe is newer and cool... I'll be doing most
of my discs by printing on silvery colored discs with my Epson
Playing in a Stand-Alone DVD Player
Our DVD player is broken so I bought the cheapest one I could
find at Circuit City ($29.95 after rebate). The disc played fine... all
The quality varies as noted above, but they all look equally great on a
small screen. In addition to checking on a TV, I connected the DVD
player to my camcorder and watched them on it's 3-1/2" LCD
Conclusions and Closing
There were lots of firsts for this week's newsletter... new
hardware and new software. Everything worked well the first time,
straight out of the boxes.
I'll go to my website and make a comment about PS3 and MP3
initializing problems being system-specific and not generic.
Now that my Toshiba laptop is history, I'm
not sure if my problems upgrading to and using the version 6.1 MyDVD
software on it were due to the software alone... could the 'lemon' status
of the computer have had anything to do with it? I don't know, but I'm not ready
to point the finger at the laptop and recommend MyDVD upgrades to others. I
need a bit more experience and positive feedback from others.
I tried another screen capture on the new Hummer... this time a
spinning earth in World Wind... a 70 second capture at 640x480 to a 1000
kbps file... with no dropped frames.
Have a great week...