PapaJohn's MVP LogoMovie Maker 2 and Photo Story
Newsletter #87 - Jan 21, 2006

two Journeys from Analog to Digital...

We're each making a personal transition from analog to digital... each with a different background and different set of skills, interests, and tools... and each heading toward different goals...
While we're together for a while as users of Movie Maker and Photo Story, we can help and inspire each other by sharing some info and ideas...
My newsletters are usually about the technical aspects of the software. But the users are more important than the apps... so I'll make an unusual exception and devote this issue to all users by sharing some info about the journeys of two of them - PapaJohn and Chuck Bentley.
... before getting into them, here's a couple notes...

The Vista corner... I filed a few more bug reports this week... none serious. More significant to Movie Maker users is that the custom xml files for custom effects, narrations, and title overlays don't work... not until they are tweaked to align with new coding.... the hackers are busy figuring it out, and it won't be long.
Help, I Can't Save my Movie... this week's notable item was my biggest project subdivision effort to date... a double project in that it was requested that I not only sub-divide the project into segments that would render, but also do the rendering and send them the finished movie.... the 25+ minute project used hundreds of high quality still pix (yes, just a big slide show)... it rendered easily in total to a Pocket PC profile.... but a segment over 4 minutes when rendering to my custom 1280x720 profile wouldn't go, even with my 2 GB of RAM.... interesting when i watched my RAM that it didn't use more than 2 GB even with it available as virtual memory, making me wonder if the software can effectively use the extra virtual memory... 7 segments later, with music added at the end, tallied up to a 1.1+ GB WMV file that took 10 hours to upload to a server, and many hours to then download to the client's laptop.... when he saw it playing on a 21" LCD monitor from his laptop, with 1-1/2 hrs left until his flight took off to the conference he needed the video for.... he was ecstatic with the visual quality, and had to call to tell me how great it was.
.... back to the main topic...

I started making home pictures and videos back in the late 1960's with whatever consumer film camera was available at the time... 35mm camera for prints and slides.... and 8mm silent film (1969). From there, my progression was to super 8 film, super 8 with sound (1976), 8mm analog tape (1984), Hi8 analog tape, and then mini-DV tape (2004).
Editing video started with a little splice kit, cutting the film and gluing or taping the ends together.... it was easy to know where a clip stopped and started... you could see it.
When moving to camcorders from film, the editing process changed... stopping and starting a VCR tape as you start and stop the camcorder....
At one point, the video future was here... it was time to copy all those films and slides onto camcorder tapes, to protect the family treasures from aging film. It took some time to setup projectors and screens, and shoot the projected images and video onto the 8mm camcorder tapes.
We were fairly early in adopting computers and a digital lifestyle... word processing for letters, spreadsheets for budgets, and then databases for household info about everything and anything. But it was many years before the computers and software were powerful and easy enough to move into digital non-linear editing.
I started using the computer for video editing when Movie Maker 1 came on my Windows Me system (2000)... using Adobe Premiere 6.0 (2001) for special transitions or effects.    
This week I decided the future is here again... I started converting my lifelong accumulation of family video treasures again... this time from analog 8mm and Hi8 tapes to mini-DV tapes. My 40 analog tapes (2 hours each) will use 80 digital tapes at an hour each. The S-video connection from my Hi8 camcorder to my mini-DV camcorder is capturing the full quality of what's on the analog tapes, and being in digital format for the first time, theory has it they won't degrade.  
PapaJohn Office
So much has happened in recent years that it often feels like I've been involved with digital video forever... maybe it's because I made my first 20,000 posts to newsgroups and forums over the past 5 years... in reality, we're in the very early stages of digital video editing.  
I was a bit younger in my office at the left, as were our five grands in the picture... fantasy... that's part of what home video editing is about... turning our routine home video clips into a visual and audio experiences... not necessarily reality. The digital editing environment is a great place to play with everything. 
Click this link or the picture for a one minute sample of ... mixing analog and digital...

Chuck Bentley 
We've met lots of people over the years at our daily reading/working/mocha drinking sessions at our local Barnes & Noble. Another couple we've seen there regularly is Chuck and Donna. But it's only in the past couple months that we've moved from simply saying hello in passing to knowing a bit about them. Donna's big Dell laptop and my big HP broke the ice, as they look similar.  Chuck Bentley
Chuck is about 10 years younger than me, but started his transition to digital video a few years before I did, getting his first digital camcorder about 8 years ago. Digital yes, but he has yet to use a computer for video editing.  
While I've been dabbling in video as a hobby, his 30+ career since college has been as a professional videographer, playwright, director, and producer... of videos.
We went to see Chuck's 30th career production Sketch in December, a live play that ran for a couple weekends... besides writing and producing it, he videoed it for its longer life on public access TV.
His wife Donna Kaminski is so skilled with computers that she's been a professor at Western Michigan University for over 25 years, teaching programming and databases... since the days of punch-cards (that's when I decided that nuclear engineering was easier than computer science).
You might think a couple with their background and wealth of experience and knowledge would have moved more into digital by now than you or I...  but it's not the case.
They live in Kalamazoo during the school year, and have had a summer home in England for the past 12 years ago. He's not only aware of differences between NTSC and PAL, he lives them.

Writing and Storyboarding...
The topics of my video to date have been typical home movies... 5 grands, vacations, holidays, visits to beaches and cities... dabbling in Movie Maker and Photo Story to add neat touches. I've never written a video script or planned one in detail. I'm in awe of Chuck being able to do such productions... on a regular basis, and make a living at it.
by Chuck BentleyDays and Nights in VeniceOne of his favorite stages for video is Venice... he'll be staging and shooting one there at the end of February. The one shown here and in the opening sample video are scenes from an earlier work.
Here he is writing one of his scripts... pen and pencil on paper and yellow pads... he'll do it at home, or at Barnes & Noble. As I write my newsletters and books on my laptop, he writes and rewrites by hand.
Donna, being the computer professional, has been nudging Chuck toward computers and digital, and succeeded recently at getting him to try e-mail... that's as far as he is at the moment...
Chuck Writing

Shooting the raw footage...
Chuck, with 4 digital camcorders... and many more analog ones... shoots mostly hand-held, but steady.
I plan almost nothing and shoot most everything, using a monopod at times. With the ease of doing non-linear editing with Movie Maker, I specialize in making silk purses from sows' ears...
Chuck on the other hand uses actors and rehearsals, planning every word they say...Actor 1
... he orders Panasonic professional tapes for his digital camcorders while I use the Maxell bulk packs from Sam's Club.Actor 2

the Editing Process...
With a career in video and the stage arts, and Donna teaching
university computer classes... and a few computers at home, you might expect him to be using Final Cut Pro, Vegas, maybe Premiere... or at least have tried them.
He hasn't used a computer yet for more than email... I had seen some of his work such as Days & Nights in Venice, with the special effects in the opening scenes, and was intrigued by what his studio must be like. They invited us over a few days ago to see it.
Our tour started with their English gardens in the back... lots of statues, columns, sculptures, intriguing things. Then to the studio downstairs, with an extra 8 feet of so added to the height of the room when it was built with a stage in mind.... kind of link an old English Shakespeare theme, with lots of theatrical memorabilia throughout the house.
What would be a living room is the main editing studio... he'll typically start with a mini-DV tape with raw footage, and end up with the final edited rendered video on another mini-DV tape. But between the two digital devices are a myriad of analog black boxes with knobs... as he started to learn Movie Maker this week, he keeps wishing my computer had an analog knob to allow him to adjust the audio volume in real time as the previewing happens. 
By not having a professional analog equipment setup, my adopting Movie Maker 1, followed by MM2, was an easy move from the stopping and starting of my VCR tape to add another scene from my camcorder. If I wanted an opening title or closing credits, I did them manually an something, and shot a few more minutes with the camcorder aimed at whatever it was... certainly nothing close to the professionalism of Chuck's Days & Nights in Venice title. 
He is interested enough in digital editing to explore it... and thinking that he's an experienced professional, I'd start him off with Premiere. Two sessions later, we chatted a bit about the differences between Premiere and Movie Maker, and jump-shifted to continue the lessons using Movie Maker.  

the Future...
I'll be beta testing Vista, finishing my conversions of analog material to digital, and supporting the community of Movie Maker users, while expanding my support of the digital still picture imaging/editing software... and Photo Story.
Chuck has seen some of his past video work dry up, and thinks it's partially due to the proliferation of consumer camcorders and editing software... he feels it's time to learn what's in the digital area.
Donna thinks that making a production in segments (she thinks 3 minutes per, and Chuck feels he can't do it in less than 5) and distributing it as a series of vodcasts... would be one way to move into the digital future. Chuck is writing the script for the late-February production in Venice to fit into that scheme. He's willing to try it. 
We've talked about what he can do better and easier with the computer... but haven't found the first little project yet. I'm encouraging him to not jump into full digital with a production, but use it for something that can do for his production what he can't do with his analog equipment, whatever it is. And don't do it with a production deadline looming ahead.

Conclusions and Closing
The users of the software are the most important part of the process... we use it and make it work, or we introduce problems and frustrations. Yes, there are some real technical issues at times, but there are always solutions or work-arounds.
Our common journey is moving from analog to digital, but the pathways are not clear in short-term goals or methods... high definition is ahead of us both, and Chuck's analog equipment can't handle it... he thinks. Movie Maker can handle it, but I have no desire to move to it beyond borrowing a camcorder from Sony to help write my book. How significant will it be?... we don't know.

Have a great week...