PapaJohn Productions

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story
Newsletter #79 - November 26, 2005
 

 

Photo Story 3.1 and the Digital Image 2006 Suite
 
The last issue covered prepping still pictures for importing to Photo Story and Movie Maker... and right after issuing it, I went to the Windows XP digital media gallery in San Francisco for the weekend, where the subject was front and center. 
 
It was a great weekend... with enough walk-in traffic to keep me busy both days. The gallery was nicely setup in an ethnic/gallery flavored neighborhood (corner of Polk and Jackson). Capping the 2 days was a visit by Blaine (the Considerate Guy on the WindowsMovieMakers forums) with his youngest daughter Amara. The 28th is the last day before it closes, to be followed by one in New York City
 
Most of the interest was in still pix and Photo Story perked up many. While they also loved what they saw about Movie Maker, it seemed to be beyond their reach in the time needed to create a movie. It can be intimidating until they take sit behind the driver's wheel and take control.
 
The weather was wonderful enough to take a boat under the Golden Gate on Monday to get some video footage from a different perspective.
 
The gallery goodies included copies of the Starter Edition of the Microsoft Digital Image 2006 Suite, which was released in July. The Starter Edition includes Photo Story 3.1 without its VCD burning feature, and turns off many other features in 60 days unless you step up to the full version. 
 
PapaJohn and BlaineVisitors to the gallery could have their picture taken in front of a 'white screen', enhance the picture in the Digital Image Editor, and take a print home with them.
 
I installed the suite while I was there and checked it out... like last week, my focus isn't in all the great things you can do to enhance a picture, but more in the special features that are of particular interest to users of Movie Maker and Photo Story. There's enough the to fill this newsletter issue.
 
 
... before getting into it, here are a few notes...
 

 
Notes...
 
I took a shot at blogging a few months ago... from April to May... and it didn't work. With one undated response that I couldn't figure out how to respond to, it wasn't effective. Today I started a new one to try again. APress, the publisher of Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero, invited me to blog on their site, and I took them up on it.
 
I'll try to keep the blogging on a high level... not the Q&A topics you expect on a newsgroup or forum.
 
The link is on the Online > Blogs, Vlogs, Podcasts page of the website.     
 
 
.... on to the main topic...
 

 
Digital Image 2006 Suite
 
I'll cover Photo Story 3.1 first and then get into the rest of the Suite...
 
The jacket for the software CD summarizes the features: sharing photos, organizing and preserving memories, enhancing images, and doing more with them. There's no mention of Photo Story being included, so I had to get into the installation to confirm what I had heard. In late June, an MVP sent an email saying the Suite included the 3.1 version with a CD burning feature...
 
The installation results in 3 new items in the Start menu... the Digital Image Editor, the Digital Image Library, and Photo Story 3.1... the path to PS3.1 is C:\Program Files\Microsoft Digital Image 2006\PIXPhotoStory.exe
 

 
Photo Story 3.1
 
This part is brief as Photo Story 3.1 in the Starter Edition doesn't include the VCD burning feature. The help file says "In Microsoft Digital Image Starter Edition 2006, video CD burning is disabled."
 
I assume the VCD option in the full edition is a Sonic plug-in with the one story per disc capability, the same as the previous Sonic plug-ins for Photo Story and Movie Maker. The Help file confirms it by saying "Only blank CDs can be used to record photo stories. Each blank CD must have enough space available to accommodate the size of the story."
 
I looked for direct relationships between the Image Library and Editor and Photo Story... I found one. If you're browsing pictures in the Library, you can select a batch of them and use the main Library menu to open Photo Story. The selected pix will automatically be imported into a new story project to get you started. Additional ones can be dragged from the Library and dropped into the Story project. Beyond that, it's the same as Photo Story 3.
 
Library GUI
 
Looking in the other direction.... can you use any of the advanced features of the Editor on a picture already in a story project?... I didn't find it. Once imported, the picture enhancing features internal to Photo Story are the only ones available.
 
There's an additional profile option for a higher quality 1200x900 image size, recommended if the story is going to be played full screen on a computer with a 3.4 GHz processor and 1GB of RAM or higher. My new HP laptop meets the criteria and stories made with the profile play fine.
 
You can copy the profile to your Photo Story 3 folder and use it there also.
 

 
Digital Image Library
 
The digital image/video Library (file browser) loads fast, is easy to use, and has some powerful features....
 
The Library picked up the My Documents folder of my C drive, and removable media (CD/DVD drive and thumb drive), but I had to nudge it a little to add the contents of the rest of the C drive and my two external drives... an easy nudge by using Import > Find on my Computer > and pointing it to the drive.
 
Select some pix in a folder and use the Photo Story option in the main menu... and it'll open the app with a new story started, with the selected pix in it.
 

 
Although the image library includes video files with thumbnails of the first frame, there are no video editing features in the suite. But you can make changes or add annotations to the meta-data that is stored in the file header...
Video Properties
 
I wondered where all the info about the media files, and the thumbnails it was creating, was going... as I worked on this newsletter and did other things, the library executable was keeping pretty busy in the background... using as much as half of the CPU and 150K of memory for extended periods. It did this for many hours until it had cataloged all the files.
 
Pod.exe is the app for the Library, and it built a file named Pictures.pd3 file in the c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\POD folder. It ended up being 454 MB in file size.
 
As I have most of my media files on the two external drives, and the drives are at home when I'm doing my work at Barnes and Noble.
 
I wondered if I could browse the files on the external drives without having them connected. I'm happy to say it works fine. I can select the drive, browse the folders, see the thumbnails, and even see a larger size image, along with the file properties... all without having the drives connected.
 

 
CollageDigital Image Editor
 
I found the Editor to also be a comfortable interface, with lots of 'common tasks' you can do to a still picture...
 
... with lots more features available from the main menu selections. There are considerably more than those included in Photo Story and Movie Maker.
 
The 'Create a Photo Collage' is pretty neat... it's a feature more for printing than making stories and movies, but slick enough to warrant the sample pix at the right.
 
In the view below, I'm using the Transparency Brush to selectively paint parts of a picture... this is the slickest feature I found in the app that has a direct use in Movie Maker. 
 
Saving the marked up picture as a PNG file type is all that is needed to then use it as an image overlay.
 
Common Tasks
 
This clip shows the finished picture being used as an overlay over a video clip of swimming fish. I wasn't careful about painting the edges as I just wanted to give you the idea.
 
Here's another sample that's better than the one above of Rob and I ... a short 21 second clip of Chuck and Donna superimposed over video footage of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. I spent no more than a minute painting the background transparent... Chuck is a professional videographer/producer (his studio is still analog) and play-writer, and Donna teaches computer programming and databases at Western Michigan University... a couple we see every night at Barnes & Noble. I ripped the picture from their website.
 

 
Conclusions and Closing
 
The Digital Image 2006 Suite is easy and fun to use... and features such as transparency painting make it ideal for making custom overlays for Movie Maker. Users on a tight budget might balk at getting the $80 to $100 price...
 
Here's a quote from an online review by PC Magazine. It sums up nicely where the new software fits into the overall market...

As an all-around digital photo editing, organizing, and sharing package, Microsoft Digital Image Suite 10 was an also-ran when compared with offerings from Adobe, Jasc, and Ulead. But the new Digital Image Suite 2006 is now a contender, at least when it comes to organizing and sharing photos.


Have a great week...
 
PapaJohn