PapaJohn's MVP LogoMovie Maker 2 and Photo Story
Newsletter #89 - Feb 4, 2006

Las Vegas - Photo Story
Let's do a story with a few self-imposed goals or constraints for fun and learning
Finished StoryI made stories before with the custom widescreen profile, but not one with a full-window background image. I had to scratch my head a bit over the starting dimensions to use for the background.  
Start by viewing the finished story.. use this link or click the picture at the right >>>>
... before getting into it, here's a couple notes...


The Vista Corner... 
My free trial period for the GoToMeeting software ends Feb 4. I had one taker of my offer to do a remote-control test drive, but we couldn't get our schedules to mesh.
Info about Vista is starting to bubble up and roll out. A newsgroup started this week at

I added a new page to the Vista section... about the new DVD Maker software.   

Thanks to Randon Myles, a local music artist, I added 4 CDs to my library of music I can freely use in stories and movies... this week's story project is the first with one of his pieces.
.... back to the main topic...

Tutorial... Making the Story
Part 1 - Plan it
With a goal and some constraints, it's time to plan the project... as simple as looking around for a topic that has some source files to work with.
Remember the condor story from newsletter #44? It used some great pictures my brother Jim took at the Grand Canyon... he recently sent a disc with other pictures and two mini-DV camcorder tapes from recent trips. I picked his package to be the source files, and dug in to see what was there.
The CD of pictures had a strange flaking off of the upper painted surface in one spot (a CompUSA disc), and wouldn't play on my laptop... the flaking was still happening so I didn't want to try it in other computers. I moved on to the video tapes.
Jim takes still pictures, and his wife Linda shoots video... the tapes included 32 minutes of footage from a stop in Las Vegas which looked interesting. 
This was a first for me. I'd made movies from only still pictures, but not a story from only video clips... that was enough of a plan, a new challenge. 

Part 2 - Create the Background Image
Background ImageFor a custom background with an embedded logo (URL), I turned to the combo of Rendersoft VRLM and Illusionae.
Make a 3D text image in Rendersoft, and then use it in Illusionae to emboss the texture.
We used Rendersoft in last week's tutorial to make some animated text... this week it's much simpler, making a 3D text image and saving it as a JPG... in brief, the steps are:
Newsletter #39 was a tutorial about Illusionae... let's take the graphic from Rendersoft and use Illusionae to make the textured image you see above.
You only need one custom background image for a story... that's for some style. Now we're ready to move on to rounding up the pictures for the content.

Part 3 - Gather the Pictures
Getting still pictures from video footage is easy...
Capture/import the file with Movie Maker, browse the clips in the collection and press the 'Take Picture' icon under the monitor whenever something looks like it'll fit your vision of the story.
I made a 'Snapshot' subfolder for the newsletter project, and when finished snapping moved them all into it. When I stopped clicking, there were 211 snapshots from the 32 minutes of raw video footage. That should be more than enough for a story of a couple minutes.

Part 4 - Make Composite Images
The snapshots from a video file are fairly low quality... 640x480 pixels is about 1/3 of a megapixel...
Rather than pan and zoom with low quality images, and end up with even lower quality close-ups, make them into composite pictures over the background image, and minimize the use of pans and zooms. Use other things to add interest, such as composite images and an interesting audio track.Composite Image
Making composites is quick and easy. Using IrfanView in one window, open each image and crop/resize to taste.... and Paint.NET in another window to place each image on the background, and position/rotate to suit.
The Control-R keys are the shortcut to the resize feature of IrfanView... cropping is as easy as scrolling your mouse across a selected area with the left mouse button held down, followed by Control-Y to extract the selected area.
When ready in IrfanView, use Control-C keys to copy the image into the clipboard, and then paste it into the composite image in Paint.NET with the Control-V keys.
Tip: the reason for using Paint.NET versus Paint is its feature to easily rotate an imported image to any degree desired... hold the left mouse button down to move the newly added image, and the right mouse button to rotate it a bit or a lot. I did a lot of fine rotations for this story, some to straighten them up, and some to add interest.
Save the images from Paint.NET as BMP files... use BMP files to maintain image quality through the various processing steps.
Squeezed CompositeOnce started you'll easily get into the rhythm. Going through a couple hundred pictures this way is easy.

Part 5 - Squeeze the Composite Images...
If Photo Story 3 had a widescreen option, you'd be all set to go with the composites from Paint.NET... but it doesn't. You need to use a custom profile, and squeeze the pictures before importing so they'll look right when rendered to a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio.
IrfanView's batch processing feature with custom choices makes this the easiest step of all. Resizing a couple hundred images takes a minute.
Batch squeezing...
In IrfanView select File > Batch Conversion/Rename to get to the working window shown below. I've marked the items of interest.
I have all the composites made in Paint.NET in a folder named 'Prepped Images'... that's so I can select 'Add all' at this step. I have another folder named 'Squeezed Images' to accept the outputs from the batch process.
The button at the lower right 'Set Advanced Options' lets you set the resize options. Squeeze the images going into a widescreen story so they are 75% of their original width... and leave their height as is.
Squeezing the batch
From this point, you'll work with the squeezed images and pretend they are normal... as they will be in the rendered story.

Part 6 - the Final 47Draft the Visual Track
I didn't talk much about my selection of images, or the composites being made... I'm covering the technical steps of the process, and leaving it up to you to decide on your personal artistic content.
As I reviewed the pictures and composites at each step, I thought about how to sequence them, picking topical themes like fashion, food, and lights... Las Vegas with no gambling theme??? They might not let Linda take video in the casinos. 
By naming each composite image to align with the themes (see the list of images at the right), it was easy to sort the final list alphabetically, and easy to drag and drop one group at a time into the story. The intro clips were first, the subject themes followed in the order I wanted, and the 3 credit images were last.

View the draft with the default settings, make adjustments, redraft, adjust, redraft... until ready to move on. At this point don't think about the audio track... it's OK to drop your intended music file into the story at this point if it helps you review the visual.... but don't fine tune the sync yet, as you'll be making the audio track later in Movie Maker.
TweakPSI want to give a big thanks to Mark Coffman for his TweakPS utility.
I can honestly say that I wouldn't have gone down the path I did with this project if I didn't know I had Mark's utility to globally change picture durations and remove the pan/zoom motion settings.
With full screen background images in each picture, and low rez images to start with, I wanted pans/zooms only for a few hand-picked places, not globally.
Changing the pace of the story to align with the music and other factors was also important... as I wanted the composite images to flow at an appropriate speed, whatever that was. I couldn't define it, but assumed I'd recognize it when I saw it...
I wouldn't have tweaked the settings of 50 pictures by 1/2 second or so each time I wanted to do another check... TweakPS makes such an adjustment easy.
The 5 second per picture pace was a bit too slow... so I went to 4 at first... and then later, after adding the audio track, pulled most of them all the way down to 2.5 seconds.

Part 7 - Create the Audio Track...
....with narration and music
Linda records more than the visual and ambient audio as she shoots... she narrates the clips frequently... the total opposite of me who says nothing under the guise of being able to add it later during editing, even though I rarely do.
Getting Audio Snippets
When working with Linda's raw footage, and not having her or Jim here to narrate it during the editing, it was great to have her built-in audio snippets to work with.
Audio ExtractsUsing Movie Maker, I split the video to make individual clips of the more interesting audio snippets, put them on the audio track of an empty project, as shown in the above figure... leaving some space between each.
I saved the movie as a WMA audio file, brought it back into Movie Maker, and then split it into the same segments... see the list of audio clips at the left. I suppose I could have worked with the segments of the video clips the same way, but being DV-AVI files, I thought it would be easier on the computer during the project editing phase to handle the audio as a batch of clips from a WMA file.
Import the draft story into Movie Maker, and work the audio snippets into place while seeing and hearing the interplay between the visual and narrative...
When the mix seems about right, render the movie and import it again, this time to add the background music.... and then once more to render just the audio track to a WMA file for the story.
I used lossless WMA audio to do these renderings, not caring what the video quality was as it would be left behind when taking the audio track to Photo Story.

Part 8 - Do the Final Adjustments and Render the Story in Photo Story 3...
Open the project and import the audio track that was made with Movie Maker... and make the final adjustments.
At this stage, the audio track is the yardstick, and adjustments are done by changing picture locations and durations to align the content of the two tracks. In my case, I found the need to shorten the visual track by removing some pictures and/or reducing the durations of others.
To render the story, I used the custom widescreen 852x480 profile that is downloadable from the Photo Story 3 > Saving page of the website.
Positive comments are often just courtesy acknowledgements, and don't help a lot... neutral to negative ones tell you more. I got one comment on a newsgroup saying "... I suspect that in an effort not to bore us, you have made most of the shots about two seconds too short!....". That hit the nail right on the head, exactly what I had done, partly not to bore, and partly to do the final aligning of the pictures with the audio.
I agreed with the poster and, if this wasn't just an exercise for a newsletter, I'd go back and adjust the audio track a bit more in Movie Maker... but it's just a newsletter, so I called it finished.

Conclusions and Closing
It may seem like a lot of work but, as usual, it's quicker to do these steps than it is to write about how to do them... I'm hoping that when reading it, you don't find it too intimidating to try. Maybe it's easier to do than to read...
If you're not familiar with one or two of the software apps used in this tutorial, there are links on the Setup Movie Maker > Other Software page to all but TweakPS.... they are either freeware or shareware. You can get TweakPS from Mark's website.

Have a great week...