Stories and Movies - Shapes
I was looking at the opening page of
my website... thinking about how to tweak it again with something
to both WOW and
help the first time visitor... and at the same time do something
practical. Whatever it was, it had to meet my self-imposed criteria of
using only stories, movies, and wma audio files to supplement
the images and text on the page. I don't use Flash videos,
animated GIFs, or popups of any kind.
The first bold horizontal divider
line got my attention. I made odd-shaped wide
short movies before and wondered it I could make a Photo
Story even shorter and wider to turn the static line into an attractive
animation. And instead of a line with no function, how about using the
embedded video as a dynamic link?
It ended up as a 800x24
pixel movie. Besides looking cool, it's a link to a new page that
offers my multimedia services.
It was fun making... and interesting
to see how a story or movie of this size displays in various
players or viewers. And as usual, I learned a couple things that I'll share
In November and December I ran
into differences in the display of widescreen movies and stories in
the Windows Media Player versus Sonic's MyDVD, and saw my widescreen DVD videos
showing up as standard 4:3 mode on the super-sized displays at the
galleries in San Francisco and New York. Turning this black line into an
animated link reminded me of those experiences... and in this case the
differences were much easier to see.
You make a story or movie at a
specific size, and expect to see it that way in your viewer or
player. But the viewers have minds of their own and show it how they
think it'll look best, sometimes not how you expect. In such cases you
don't know if there's something wrong with the video file, the
player, or both.
I wanted this issue to
be about how different viewers display things differently...
and secondarily about how I turned the line into a movie. But the subjects
are so closely related that I'll do them together... it ended up as a tutorial
about making the odd-shaped video mixed with commentary about viewers. You
can't see a video without a viewer, and there's not much to look at in a viewer
without a file...
... before getting into
them, here are a few notes...
added another new page to the Vista section... this one about the Photo
. Bill Gates, in his keynote speech at the recent CES said
You expect memories to be part of Windows, and the
Windows Photo Gallery is the hub of the memories
experience in Vista. It gives you an opportunity to see a snapshot
view of all the memories you care about, including digital photos and
I finished the
outline of a new book about Movie Maker in Vista... and the
outline also shapes changes I'll be making to the website
as Vista beta versions roll out.
The focus will continue to be
Photo Story and Movie Maker, but it'll expand to include Vista's Photo
Gallery, Slideshow, and the Windows Media Player.
My note last week about
adding 4 CDs to my library of music prompted
a reader to ask for an issue about obtaining and
selecting background music. It's a great topic and will be
the subject of next week's issue.
Rollyo is a
new search engine... with an option to search a specific website or a
personally defined set of websites (up to 25 of them).
added it to my website... and set it up so your searches cover my site
and the 3 forum sites I frequent... WindowsMovieMakers.net,
WindowsPhotoStory.com, and SimplyDV.com.
I've made about 20,000 posts
so far to various newsgroups and forums, and have 236 website pages. I need the
search feature as much as, or more than, anyone. What did I say? Where is
it? Storing data in a structured way, or dynamically searching through it,
is an everyday challenge in an analog or digital
continues to get more and more in the limelight. Dean Rowe's blog says the
Movie Maker Team might kickoff a team blog... and Microsoft rolled out
a free blogging feature MSN Spaces.
I started my 3rd or 4th attempt at it. The new link on
the Online > Blogs, Vlogs, Podcasts page.
to the main topic...
the Odd Shaped/Sized
the Shape and Size
When making such an odd-sized
clip, it's easy to know how it's supposed to look versus how you see it in
Movie Maker's monitor shows both
stories and movies of that size as standard 4:3 aspect ratio or 16:9
widescreen... but take a snapshot of a frame and you get the true size...
that's how I got the picture above for the
opening section. And the properties of the clip show as
Windows Media Player 10 displays a
movie of that size with the same distortion as Movie Maker's monitor.
In the file properties window, WMP tells you what it's doing... taking a video
clip that is 800x24, which is an aspect ratio of 33.3:1 and displaying it as
standard 4:3. See the properties info at the right... it tells you the actual
aspect ratio and what it's displaying.
However, a story of 800x24 looks
fine in WMP10.
... and the beta of WMP11 in
Vista displays both stories and movies at the actual pixel
What you see in a monitor or viewer
depends on how it wants to display it. You have to learn the difference between
knowing what size something is and being able to see it at that size. If a
player doesn't show it right, use a different one.
What Size is
I made the clip first a custom
PS3 profile of 800x24, and then used Movie Maker to convert the story into
a movie with another custom profile of 800x24. The conversion was
to reduce the file size, not change the size. We'll get to that in a
It's easy to see
the distortion when viewing the clip in WMP10. This is a movie in
it... the story looks right.
Here's the same
movie playing in IrfanView's multimedia player...
I don't want to go down a list of
viewers/players and note which ones distort versus which ones don't... let's
move into making the clip.
Making the 800x24 Pixel
picture at the left was one of a group of high quality
images from ablestock on a disc in a monthly design
magazine... the image was 4072x2712 pixels, about 7
I used IrfanView to crop the section at the
right, and add the text.
From there it was to Photo
Story to use its great panning feature... I wanted it to
But Photo Story works only at a standard aspect
ratio of 4:3, and has only rendering profiles for that aspect ratio.
To make the shorter wider story, we need a custom
profile with a video size of 800x24 pixels.
For things to work out right with such an odd size, you
need to distort the image before importing, by either squeezing it
in sideways or stretching it upwards... you then trust
the rendering with the custom profile to make the finished
story look just right, even if it looks way out of whack in some
To render a widescreen 16:9 story,
the math is such that we squeeze the images by multiplying their
original widths by 75%. High quality images squeezed that much are close
enough to normal that they are easy to work with.
The squeezing needed for this story
is much more severe... the ratio of width to height for a video of 800x24
pixels is 33.3:1. We would have to squeeze
the image to 5% of it's original width. If we multiplied the original width
by 5%, it would work but we'd be resampling significantly downwards and
losing too much image quality... we don't want to drop pixels if we
can achieve a much better result by adding some.
The math when going in this direction
says to grab the top of the picture and pull it upwards so it's 20 times
its original height. The resizing will result in
it looking like the image at the right, 20 times the height of the small
but normal looking image above it.
The horizontal slice with the added
text was 2960x743 pixels before multiplying the height by 20. The
vertical exaggeration resulted in an image 14,860 pixels high, which passed a
limit of Photo Story.
The limit for the height or width of
a picture in Photo Story 3 is 7,200 pixels... you don't need to remember
it, as an error message pops up when you try to import one that's
When you hit that message, it's time
to resize it to something below the limit. No math needed for that
resizing.... I used IrfanView for all the resizings, and opted to
maintain the aspect ratio.
That got it into Photo Story.
But after doing the motion settings to do the scrolling
downwards, I tried to preview it and got an error message of
... 'not enough memory .....'... even with my
2 GB of RAM and having only a single picture in the project. I had to
reduce the pixel size some more. When it was down to a height of 5,400
pixels, it previewed and rendered fine.
Tip 1: Just as in Movie Maker, when
a project is too complex to be rendered to a movie, a single extremely high
resolution picture in Photo Story can give you the same error message... but
with a single picture you can't divide the project into parts as you do
a movie. What you need to do is resize it to reduce the number of pixels
it has to deal with.
Tip 2: In Movie Maker you can only
apply a transition between two clips... but in Photo Story you can have the
first picture with a transition in from blackness, without having to use a
black picture. I used one here for added interest.
The story looked good on the
website... but the file size was 580 KB... breaking
a personal rule of thumb to keep website images/embedded items at
less than 100 KB. Only one of the 406 website images on my
site today is larger than this story file, and it's buried down on a
page that only people who want to see it will go through the downloading.
This file would be downloaded as part of the first page, so every
visitor would be paying the price of the download... excessive time
for something they don't need or want... and I'd be paying
the bandwidth cost for website maintenance.
It was time to trim the fat by
shaving profile settings... there wasn't any audio so trimming the fat
would be the video settings, lowering them until the
visual quality dropped below the threshold of acceptable.
Trimming the Custom Story
It won't let you drop
the audio track completely, even if there is no narration or
music.... but you can reduce file size by reducing the audio to a
setting of 0 kbps mono.
The image size was where I
wanted it. I cut the frames per second from 30 to 24 and increased the key frame
interval to 8 seconds. The rendered file size was getting smaller with each
adjustment, and the visual quality was hanging in there fine.
I then lowered the
video quality setting 5 or 10 points at a time until it
was down to 40, until the increasing pixilization reached my visual
threshold. But the file size was still at the 200 KB
In addition to the file being still
too big, an embedded story can't be viewed on a Mac or on
a Firefox browser without some optional plug-in (if one exists). At this
point I wasn't sure I'd be successful. I could live with Mac and
Firefox users not seeing it, but I didn't want to have such a file
Exploring the Movie
200+ KB for a 6 second
video... that's 2 MB for a minute... yet with the 24 pixel height it
was only 5% the size of full video... I knew there was some overhead to pay for
getting any story or movie, but my experience is such that a story file
is only 10% or so the size of a movie file. Even so, it was time to try a movie.
Going back to the story and its
profile, this time to get a very high quality one to use as the source
file for a movie... back to a quality setting of 95, with a story file size
of 580 KB.
It was time to make and
tweak a custom profile for Movie Maker. A video size of 800x24 pixels, audio at 0 kbps mono, frame
rate of 24, CBR video bit rate of 50 kbps... various tests to
see how well the quality would hang in as the settings resulted in
The file sizes were surprisingly much
smaller than the story ... using the WMV-V7 codec - 78 KB file
which looked good... WMV-V8 codec - 73 KB file looked equally good....
WMV-V9 codec - even better size of 50 KB...
... BUT the
quality of the version 9 codec movie was the pits... something
had happened with only the change in the codec!!! I stopped here and rolled out the file made with the
V8 codec, thinking I might be in good shape if I had to stop there.
But my Vista system wouldn't
show the V7 or V8 files in the browser window... it wanted either V9
or the Photo Story.... if it was V7 or V8 it opened the file and
stopped with the first frame, which was just plain
.... a bit later, after studying
the V9 issue...
The issue I ran
into with Movie Maker and the V9 codec is interesting. My Movie Maker 2 setting was at widescreen
16:9... as I was testing why the 3 almost identical custom
profiles were working fine for V7 and V8, but failing miserably with
V9, I noticed in the lower left data info area of the saving wizard that
the video dimensions when selecting the V7 and V8 profiles were 800x24
pixels, but the dimensions when selecting the V9 codec showed as 44x24
pixels.... and that's what I was getting. The quality in the browser
was from displaying a file of 44x24 at 800x24.
It resolved itself when I
changed the working option from widescreen 16:9 to standard 4:3... the
rendered file was then 800x24, the same size I was getting with the V7
and V8 codecs, and the size I wanted.
I had resolved the quality issue with
the V9 codec and settled on an 84 KB file, someone larger than the V7 or V8
files... but it was below my 100 KB size and it played fine on my
Windows 98, XP and Vista systems... and should be viewable on Firefox
and Mac browsers.
Today the site has the V9 movie
playing... once it's downloaded for the first page, it plays from
the local cache for other pages, so I rolled it out to another 20 or
Now that I know it works, I'll
develop new ones and swap them out at times... if for no reason but to keep
things changing and more interesting.
Have a great week...