PapaJohn's MVP LogoMovie Maker 2 and Photo Story
Newsletter #76 - Nov 5, 2005

the DVD Option of Movie Maker 2 on MCE2005 Systems

I've seen an increased awareness and interest in the Media Center Edition of Windows XP... and one effect of my recent change from my Toshiba notebook to an HP Pavilion zd8000 is that I'm now running the Windows XP Media Center Edition - 2005, the first version with an added option in MM2's Save Movie Wizard... Save your movie and copy it to a DVD.  
DVD Option
The subject of getting movies from TV/discs, editing them, and then back to disc, is a perennial favorite. As I didn't have the MCE2005 edition on the Toshiba, I had to rely on brief info and screen shots from others.
Now, with the system, it's time to take my first serious look at how it works. I'm using is MyDVD Plus version 6.1.0, a limited version that was included on the HP notebook. 
... before getting into it, here are a few notes...

I'll be showing Movie Maker and Photo Story at the Microsoft Windows Brand Gallery 'pop-up' store in San Francisco on Sat/Sun Nov 19-20... the address is 1830 Polk and I'll be presenting at 1, 3 and 5 pm. Stop by if you're in the area.
I'll be using the video of the cable ride, which you may have already seen, and another one I'm working on about a walk across the Golden Gate. For the new one, I've been using Paint.NET with IrfanView to make great overlay images. Paint.NET is the subject of next week's newsletter.
... I'll be doing the same at another 'pop-up' store in New York City on the weekend of December 18-19. 

I started using the beta version of Vista on a routine basis, starting with postings on forums. Movie Maker is the same version 2.1 as on Windows XP... for now... stay tuned for info about upcoming beta releases.
At this point I can't open version 2.1 on it... an error message says I don't have an audio device. Seems the installation of the operating system missed linking with the sound card. Other than that it's working well.

Some subscribers skim rather than read the newsletters, looking for the bottom line or conclusions. For them and others, starting with this issue I'm indenting, numbering, and coloring red the items I consider Tips and Tricks... hope it helps. 
.... on to the main topic...

the DVD Option in MCE2005
Let's look at the process in five parts:
  • saving the movie
  • converting (transcoding) it to MPEG-2 files
  • burning the disc
  • playing the DVD on a computer and stand-alone DVD player
  • editing or adding to the burned disc (trying to... my software version doesn't support it)
These may vary from system to system as the DVD process is handled on mine by Sonic software, not Movie Maker. 
Part 1 - Rendering the Movie (WMV file)
When you select the DVD option in the Saving Wizard, the profile is automatically selected and the movie rendered to a WMV file.
Saving Progress
It's saved in the same folder that the project file is in. If you haven't saved the project file, the movie is rendered to the c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\My Documents\My Videos folder.
The movie is named Untitled_001.wmv, nothing to do with the name of the project file. You don't get a chance to name it, not until it gets to the DVD stage.
And you don't get an option to save a copy either. Unlike the option of going to an email with your movie, the wizard doesn't make such an offer... 
If you want a copy, you'll need to rip one from the temporary WMV after it's saved and before moving on to DVD creation. Copy it to another file name or folder.
Tip 1: The wizard doesn't keep the temporary movie file open. If you wanted to, you could swap it out with another file that you'd like on the DVD instead. It could be a story file from Photo Story 3, without having to re-render it in Movie Maker.
Canceling the process after the rendering and before starting the DVD process results in the temporary movie file being immediately deleted, and it doesn't show up in the recycle bin. If your movie is large and took a long time to render, you'd be better off rendering it to a DV-AVI or high quality WMV file first, and bringing it in as a single clip. The single clip on the timeline will render lots quicker and you don't run the risk of something getting in the way of the original rendering.
Saved File PropertiesThe profile used for the temporary WMV file is built into the process and not changeable. I searched my hard drive to see if I could find the file and see the settings... but didn't find it. Must be embedded in the application software someplace... in an exe, a dll, whatever. It's not a prx profile.
Instead of looking at profile settings, let's take a look at the properties of a temporary WMV file by importing it into Movie Maker.
The bit rate is as high as the best WMV option that comes with Movie Maker but only 1/3 to 1/4 the rate of a high quality DVD MPEG-2 file.
Tip 2: Bumping up the bitrate in a custom profile, and substituting the rendered movie for the temporary WMV file would be a good use of the swap-out feature.
Not only would the swap work with a higher quality WMV file... you could render the movie to a DV-AVI file and use that instead (name it the same, including the WMV file extension). 
The size of 720x480 is appropriate as it aligns with the MPEG-2 DVD standard... better than the Photo Story 3 DVD plug-in that uses 640x480 and results in lower quality.

Part 2 - Transcoding (converting) to MPEG-2 files...
Create DVD WindowAfter the temporary WMV file is fully rendered, Movie Maker tosses the ball to the Sonic DVD wizard (or whatever brand comes with your system - I'm interested in hearing about it).
You know you're out of Movie Maker at this point because the window has a Sonic logo, and you can have this wizard open yet go back and do other things in Movie Maker. If it was a Movie Maker wizard, you'd have to close it first.
This is the window where you get to name your DVD and the video... see the screen shot in part 4 below to see where these two titles end up on the main menu. 
Accept the drive selection and write speed. You can select as many as 20 discs.
Tip 3: It's a good idea to select a few copies... even if you only want one disc. If you run into a glitch in the burning, it'll tell you that it was unsuccessful but won't offer to try again. You have to start over in Movie Maker and re-render the movie.
If you get a successful burn on the first disc, you can press the cancel button to close the process before starting the second one.
When you press the Create DVD button the Sonic wizard checks to see that you have a blank DVD disc in the drive... 
Checking for media
if you don't, or if you've slipped a substitute in to try to get it to a disc, but it won't accept it... it'll give you the error message below.
Tip 4: It's another message that could be due to other reasons. I saw it a bit during testing... not only when I put an already used disc in the drive (good call)... but also when I substituted a downloaded MPEG-2 file to see if I could slip it into the process (bad call, as it was based on the input file, not the disc).
Media checking error
When it accepts both the input file (or the substitute you slipped in) and the blank disc, it'll transcode the MPEG-2 files needed for the disc. To do it, the wizard creates a temporary disc-based DVD project.
Transcoding files
The project is named MCE2005.dvd and created in the c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\Local Settings\Temp\Symphony.Sonic\MCE2005 folder.

Part 3 - Burning the disc(s)...
You'll have had to satisfy Sonic's need for an appropriate blank disc before the DVD project is saved to disc, so there's nothing more to do at this step except watch it. I use DVD-R discs.
When the disc is finished you get the good feelings (or relief) from the notice at the right...

Playing in WinDVDPart 4 - Playing the disc...
The DVD menu at the left is what you get if you accept all of the defaults, not naming the DVD or movie...
The embedded logo on the menu is the Media Center... but here it's playing in WinDVD. It plays fine.
As I didn't have a functional DVD player in the house, I went out and purchased the lowest priced one I could find - $29.95 after rebate. I played it, using the 3-1/2" LCD screen of my camcorder as the screen... and it looked good.

Part 5 - Adding to or Editing the disc...
I tried to open the DVD project on the disc, to change the titles or add another movie, but a message said this version doesn't support it... and offered a link to purchase a higher version.

Conclusions and Closing
Everything worked well... all of my test burns but one finished successfully and played on computers and stand-alone DVD players. One of them resulted in an error message during the burn... I was doing a dozen other things on the computer at the same time, and I chalked it up to my pushing things a bit too far.
MyDVD Plus version 6.1.0 on my new notebook is a limited one... it has the same menu as the fuller version, but I get pop-up marketing messages when I opt for certain things. Sonic Marketing MessageFor example, selecting Fit-to-DVD from the Quality drop-down list gives me this.
I got the same message when I put a burned disc back in the drive and tried to open it to make changes or add another movie to the disc.
I upgraded MyDVD version 4.5 to the Studio Deluxe 6.1 version on the Toshiba laptop back in March, in order to use stories rendered by Photo Story 3. I ran into significant problems with it... I'm leery of doing it again, but I'll probably give it a shot one of these days... approaching it very cautiously. 

Have a great week...