PapaJohn Productions

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story
Newsletter #78 - November 19, 2005


Prepping Still Pix for Import
Still pictures play the entire role in Photo Story 3 stories and often a major role in Movie Maker projects.
The sources of still pictures are more varied than video clips. They can be from your digital camera, a snapshot of a frame from a video file, a scanned item, a computer generated one, a screen snapshot, a downloaded file, an animated GIF, etc. 
There are lots of formats, some of which need conversion before using in Photo Story or Movie Maker. The sizes can range from a single pixel to 52 megapixels.
Let's look at some of the reasons and ways to prep still pictures before importing... it's more important to do it first when making a story, as the project file for the story includes a copy of the imported picture, not easily changed or replaced in a finely tuned story. On the other hand, a movie project links to the source file and doesn't copy it into the project file, so you can prep or change a picture at any time, and the changes will automatically be included in the next project preview or rendered movie.
... before getting into it, here are a few notes...

Windows GalleryThis weekend is the Windows Brand Gallery in San Francisco... with my scheduled presentations at 1, 3 and 5 pm on the Saturday and Sunday, and informal chats between. Stop by if you're in the area. 
Here's a link to a brief Photo Story that shows the Gallery... at 1830 Polk Street, the corner of Polk and Jackson.

Last week I mentioned differences in how Movie Maker and the Windows Media Player display standard and widescreen movies and stories versus how Sonic's MyDVD handles them. MM2 and WMP take their cue from a tag in the file, but MyDVD uses the pixel dimensions. It's not a bug... just a difference in how they work.
This week I have another note about MyDVD, a positive one. Having run into major problems with MyDVD in May, I had lost confidence in it and stopped recommending it to others.
MyDVDMy new HP laptop came with the DVD plug-in for Movie Maker 2, a Sonic plug-in. And it came with MyDVD Plus v6.1.0, starter DVD software that doesn't have such features as the 'Fit-to-DVD' option, or the ability to edit an existing Read-Write (R-W) disc.
I put them through some testing and didn't run into any issues, so I gathered the courage to try the MyDVD Studio Deluxe 6.1 package again. I was very cautious as I didn't want the issues I had with it on the Toshiba laptop.
The upgrade process gives you 6 times to grit your teeth and decide to continue biting the bullet... it first notices you have another version of the Sonic Audio Module and offers to delete it.. OK... then the Sonic Data Module... OK..., the Copy Module, the full MyDVD Plus software, the Update Manager, and finally the Express Labeler. There's no option to install in another folder and have both versions.
The installation went without issue, and I've exercised it enough to say it works and works well.
I'll be writing to Sonic about the standard/widescreen item, just to learn a bit more about it... most importantly for me, confidence in my DVD software is back and I have something to recommend. Was it the Toshiba, the software, or a combo of both? I'll probably never know.

A couple users of my custom profiles had problems and resolved them by unchecking the option to 'allow non-square pixel output'... something I had checked for the profiles used when heading toward a disc. I revised them all to uncheck the option. 

The first of the annual newsletter renewal notices went out to those whose subscriptions end with this issue. With the renewal extensions, I've received a number of very positive notes... thank you!!
I won't be sending more notices beyond the one. If you don't renew, I'll assume you moved on to other software or other interests.  
.... on to the main topic...

Prepping for Photo Story 3 and Movie Maker
Let's go through some of the reasons to prep still pictures for stories and movies.
Enhance quality and add special effects...
Photo Story and Movie Maker include a number of enhancers and special effects... and many more are available in other software. I won't go into them here. Use the software you're skilled and comfortable with. We saw some of the features of Paint.NET in issue #77, which has many enhancement options. Most of the time, the enhancement features of Photo Story and Movie Maker are good enough, but sometimes the additional features of other software is needed.
As the project sizes of PS3 and MM2 are limited by system memory, any enhancements or special effects you add before importing a still picture reduces the memory demands of the project, and makes project previewing and rendering easier for the system.
Save a copy of your original pictures so you can change your mind later.

Pixel dimensions...
Pixels per Inch (PPI) and dots per inch (dpi) are often referred to as picture resolution by those who work with images that go to a printer. For stories and movies, the terms have minimal meaning. For us it's about the overall size of the picture as measured in pixels - width and height. The MPEG-2 files for high quality NTSC DVDs are 720x480 pixels, not large...
Photo Story can handle pictures as small as 1 pixel and as big as 52 megapixels (7200x7200 pixels), making the most of all the pixels a high resolution picture offers. 
Movie Maker can handle pictures as small as a pixel... and higher, but the upper limit isn't important. It resamples big ones to 800x600 before using them in the project... consider 800x600 the effective practical limit for the source files for your movies. More than that usually doesn't enhance the visual quality.
Tip 1: My testing doesn't show a significant difference in memory needs when using large pictures versus small ones... use what you have without resizing unless you run into a situation that warrants the change. It's easier to let Movie Maker resize the images for the project than to do it elsewhere. You can resize the source files without opening the project file, and the new sizes will automatically be used as long as you keep the location and file names.

Adding text before import...
Reasons to add text within Movie Maker and Photo Story include the animation choices of Movie Maker, having transparent/translucent text over video clips, spanning a number of images/video clips with a text clip, and easily making changes right up to the end.
But there are times when adding text to a still picture before importing has its advantages:
  • fancier text such as 3D or text with drop shadows...
  • positioning the text more exactly
  • using a mix of fonts, text sizes, colors, etc.
  • using a combo of text added to the source picture before importing and the text added by PS3 or MM2
  • having sharp text when doing a significant zoom into a still picture... when the text is important to the presentation. 
Text on Small versus Large Picture

The PhotoStory I made last week of the Windows Media Gallery in San Francisco is a good example of the last point... having sharp enough text to support the motion settings.
For the first draft of the story, I used the picture as I received it in an email... adding 8 point text on the 480x321 pixel picture. I used the font size that made it fit well on the screen in the picture.
I was zooming into the words on the screen and wasn't concerned as much about other parts of the picture getting all pixilated, like the light standing to the left.
The pixilated text looked bad, ugly enough to redo the story after making it better in the source picture.
To improve the text, I resampled the picture to a much larger image size, to 1680x1124 pixels. Doing so doesn't make the picture any better in quality, but it allows the added text to improve as you see.
The extra pixels in the image supports a larger font size which, when zoomed into, remains sharper. 

Heading for a widescreen story?...
Prep for Widescreen StoryPhoto Story 3 is made for standard 4:3 aspect ratio stories, and doesn't have a built-in option of 16:9 widescreen stories.
But with a custom profile, you can make a widescreen story. To do it, you need to squeeze the picture sideways so it's 75% the width of the original image.
In IrfanView, go to Image > Resize/Resample... uncheck the 'Preserve aspect ratio' option, check the 'Set new size as a percentage of original', and change the width percentage to 75.
The dialog window at the right shows me squeezing a 6 megapixel picture to 75% of its original width... from 3072 pixels wide to 2,304. Don't change the height.
From the squeezed image, I made a Photo Story and saved it with the custom widescreen profile, zooming into and panning small areas of the picture.
The figure below shows the widescreen story playing in WMP10... nestled in the big picture to show that, although it was squeezed to 77% width to make the story, the shape of the rendered story aligns with the original picture.
Widescreen Story from Picture
If you add text to an image before squeezing it to the 75%, it'll look normal in the rendered widescreen story. If you add it after squeezing it'll look wider/fatter than usual. Text added in Photo Story 3 will also look wider.
Some fonts will look OK wider and some won't. Choose a narrow font that looks OK and you'll be fine.

About cropping pictures...
Movie Maker doesn't have the cropping features that Photo Story has, so you should remove unwanted black borders before importing.
To avoid the borders in movies, resize pictures so the pixel dimensions align with the 4:3 ratio for standard aspect ratio movies, and 16:9 for widescreen.
The original 6 megapixel picture of a canal shown above is 3072x2048 pixels, not aligning with 4:3 or 16:9. Avoiding black borders in Photo Story is easily done by selecting the area to start and finish with in the motion settings. Photo Story 3 offers to crop as needed to remove black borders... I usually don't accept as I'd rather use the custom motion settings to show selected parts of the picture.

Image OverlayImage overlays in Movie Maker...
Images used as overlays in Movie Maker, such as this one of the Golden Gate fact sign with its background made transparent to see the underlying Photo Story, always need prepping.
And the prepping is with other image manipulation software such as Paint.NET and IrfanView used for this one...
You can't apply any Movie Maker video effects to an image used as an overlay.
Newsletter #73 covered making and using png images with a selected transparent color, and the xml file needed to have it function as an overlay. 

Conclusions and Closing
This newsletter is on the early side, as I'm off to San Francisco tomorrow...
To those not renewing their subscription, thanks for your interest and support during the year. Movie Maker is entry-level software and many with the need for added features will move on to other software... and some have moved on to other interests. I wish you the best of everything.
The subject of prepping still pictures is becoming more important as newer cameras give you bigger pictures, and snapshots from phones and webcams smaller ones... there's a place in a story or movie for them all...
Making and using custom image overlays is fun, easy and extremely helpful in giving a movie a personal and amazing touch... the opening clip of my Golden Gate walk video is one that I won't use in any other movie... such an overlay is a one time disposable one. I recently put a package on the site for downloading, an xml file with 10 starter overlay images... you can use the package without touching the xml code, and substitute your images for the starter ones. The download is on the Editing > Text > Custom Overlays page.

Have a great week...