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Newsletter #77 - Nov 12, 2005

Paint.NET - mini-tutorial

With the current flurry of interest in custom xml code and the use of image overlays, the timing of Paint.NET is perfect.
Its background is interesting. Designed and developed at Washington State University with guidance from Microsoft, Paint.NET is a student project programmed in C# and GDI+., a class project to learn programming by doing something from scratch. Inspired by Paint and aided by Microsoft, the students developed Paint.NET to get it to its current state in less than a year. Pretty impressive!!
I used Paint.NET all week as I made another video to demo Movie Maker and Photo Story at the San Francisco Windows Brand Gallery next weekend... a 7 minute one about our walk across the Golden Gate in early October. The opening scene uses two custom title overlays, and at the 3 minute mark there's another overlay to point to Bernadette in a group.
... these two features of Paint.NET were critical to make the overlay images.
I'll use these to illustrate how you would use Paint.NET when preparing such images for custom overlays. 
... before getting into it, here are a few notes...

The first 3 batches of newsletters I sent out last week had the wrong issue number. Maybe you didn't notice that you have two different ones with #75 and none with #76.

Someone emailed a copy of a 3gp video clip file from her cell phone. The info on my site pointed to a 'command-line' utility that can convert it to an avi file, but she didn't know how to use such a thing. I changed that... now there's a tutorial on the Importing Source Files > Video > Phones page.
Check it if you use or run into other 'command-line' utilities that you need help figuring out.

Windows Brand GalleryI'll be at the Windows Brand Gallery in San Francisco next weekend... with scheduled presentations at 1, 3 and 5 pm on the 19th and 20th. Stop by if you're in the bay area. 
Here's a link to a brief Photo Story that shows the Gallery... at 1830 Polk Street, the corner of Polk and Jackson. Note that the text I added at the lower left is angled a bit to be aligned with the sign... that was done with the fine rotation feature of Paint.NET.
My dates at the Gallery in New York City are now firm; the weekend of Dec 17-18. I'll let you know when the location is selected.

I wondered why a movie made wth a custom WMV profile in widescreen mode in Movie Maker played widescreen in MM2 and the Windows Media Player, but in standard 4:3 mode on a DVD in MyDVD. What I found was a simple difference in how things work.
Movie Maker places a widescreen tag in a saved movie and, when WMP sees the tag it plays it that way. But MyDVD doesn't look at the tag.
MyDVD uses the pixel dimensions of the movie, and shows it with a bias toward a standard 4:3. What I mean by bias is that, for any width from a square 480x480 pixels to 720x480, MyDVD will play it as standard 4:3. Movies wider than 720 (up to the maximum of 2000 pixels for a custom profile) play wider and wider, with the 16:9 ratio only when it's 856 pixels wide. A width less than 480 pixels shows the full height but with black borders at the left and right, down to the minimum width of 16 pixels when the video looks like a pencil standing on end.
This means my downloadable custom profiles for DVDs will work for standard mode DVDs but not widescreen, as the dimensions are 720x480... I'll need to add two more profiles for widescreen NTSC and PAL options, at least for users of MyDVD. Maybe other DVD software looks at the tag? I don't know.

... here's an interesting post on Thursday by a very knowledgeable MVP - "...WMM is designed to capture digital video.  It does sometimes work with analog, but not always.  Better results can be obtained by using third party analog capture software."
I'm watching postings swing from "... use this black box for analog capture..." to "... Movie Maker doesn't do analog capture...".
.... on to the main topic...

This app is shaping up to be a great step up from Paint, and still free. It's still in beta and developing quickly. Your download will be a slightly newer version than the one I used for this newsletter... 
LicenseThe license says we're free to do anything we want with the software as long as we include this copyright and permission statement. It's one of the shortest and most interesting license statements I"ve read. 

I ran into more of a challenge when I started to present a tutorial about Paint.NET than I did when I jumped into it to do some work.
The screen snapshots that are usually so easy to do with IrfanView will capture the main working window, but not the 4 smaller windows with the tools, Colors, Layers, and History states.
I fished around and found that the screen capture feature of Microsoft Producer gets them all. These are my first screen shots using Producer.

Working Window
the Working Window
The working window includes the main one with the menu and options at the top, the canvas for the pictures, and 4 little ones to help you work.
You can move the little ones anywhere on your desktop, even off of the main window so as to not be covering the canvas.
Let's look at the features that are more than Paint and of particular help to us when prepping the images for custom overlays.
The magnifier has options to go down in size in addition to upwards. Paint can only go up, with a maximum of 800%. Paint.NET can go to 3200%, and can also go down to as low as 2%... handy for the larger pixel images from today's digicams.
The magic wand lets you select an area of a picture and quickly delete all the pixels that have the same color or ones close to it... the sensitivity level is adjustable to get more or less of them with a single stroke.
The look is different but the functionality similar, with the addition of the ability to input a hex value and assign a transparency setting. 
History states are new... giving you the ability to go back in time... kind of like the multiple undo's of Movie Maker, and similar to Photoshop's history states. History states let you take big jumps rather than sequential undo's and redo's.
Layers are key to developing overlay images like the pointer to Bernadette in the Golden Gate movie. By placing an image on one layer and marking up the overlying layer, you can leave the underlying layer behind when going to Movie Maker with the image you want to use. We'll see it in action in a minute.

Picture for Opening OverlayExample 1 - the bridge sign overlay
Let's walk through the creation of the overlay used at the opening of the video... starting with a 5 megapixel picture from a still camera, the one at the right.
I selected this picture because it has a big frame that I could cut-out and use the rest of the image as an overlay image to a video playing in the background. The fairly even lighter color of the sign meant I could easily pick and discard the pixels... easy with the magic wand.
I used IrfanView to crop and resize a segment of the picture, saving it as a BMP.
If I tried to remove the background in Paint, I'd have been able to change the inside of the sign to a single color needed for the PNG file... but I'd probably have opted to delete the words with the background, as they would take too much effort to work around.

With the magic wand of Paint.NET, it was easy enough to erase the background. It opened up new possibilities, having the text of a sign included in the overlay.
The steps are:
1 - set a working magnification.
2 - select the magic wand
3 - set the wand's tolerance using the little slider on the Tools palette
4 - touch the part you want to remove and see how well it does at that tolerance setting
5 - change the tolerance until it's pretty much as you want it (the 31% setting looked pretty good here)
6 - press the delete key and all the pixels in the selected area are deleted
Using Magic Wand
Work your way around the picture, touching another spot with the wand and pressing the delete key.... until you're done.
Removing these pixels gets the area to be all the same color (even the absence of a color is all the same). You need that to set the color as transparent when making the PNG file.
From Paint.NET save it as a BMP. Open the BMP in IrfanView and save it as a PNG. That'll let you pick the color for transparency. Paint.NET has the option to save to a PNG, but it doesn't let you select the transparent color.
You may have noticed when viewing the video that the sign at first had only the larger title, not the facts in smaller text under it. I used two title overlays, carving out the smaller text for the first one and leaving it in for the second.

Example 2 - the pointer to Bernadette
This one is easier than cleaning out lots of pixels for a see-thru effect. If there's something of interest in a scene, and it doesn't move around a lot, you can use a simple annotated overlay. It's an easy 2 step process in Paint.NET.
Step 1... take a snapshot of a typical frame using Movie Maker's snapshot feature. Open it in Paint.NET. Draw/annotate on it, but not on the picture itself.
Create a new blank layer by pressing the little lower left icon and annotate on it... it'll look like you're marking up the picture, but it'll be like writing on tracing paper over an image. These are the layers.
Annotating a new layer
Step 2... uncheck the background image and save the file to a new BMP. It'll save whatever is visible... ready to take into IrfanView for a PNG overlay image with transparency. 
Removing the Background
Maybe Paint.NET has a transparency setting when saving as a PNG, but I didn't notice it. That was the only reason I had to take the image through IrfanView.

Conclusions and Closing
Everything worked well... by the time I finished there was another beta version, one with a Bezier pen in addition to staight lines, which works great also. Paint.NET is a keeper for my video editing toolbox... I added the download link to the Setup > Other Software page of the site.
if you don't have it already, download Paint.NET and start using it.
OverlaysIf you want to try the overlays yourself, I put a PapaJohn-Overlays zip package on the website. It has the xml file and sample PNG overlay files 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9. 
Put the five PNG files in the c:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared folder and the xml file in the c:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX folder (make the AddOnTFX folder manually if you don't have one).
To check it, use the samples I included... then replace the sample PNG files and add others with your own images... the XML file supports up to 10 different images.

Have a great week...