The pre-beta 5308 build of Vista is the
first release that we can really dig into. It's the first one with all
the features... and they work. Being pre-beta, there
are bugs, but I won't point them out unless they really get in the way
or are amusing. This isn't a quest for bugs, more a first look at the
features of interest to Movie Maker and Photo Story users.
At this stage of development,
Microsoft is encouraging us to submit comments about both features and
bugs. I've been submitting about one a day.
gives some highlights. From the 27
bullets there, I picked 5 to explore... the first 4 starting
here, and the 5th one, the Windows Media Center, in a later
... with new features
and External Memory Drive
(EMD), and Hybrid Hard
SuperFetch helps manage
memory to get the most out of available RAM. EMD technology helps boost
performance without adding RAM.
... gives you the
tools to easily organize, find, and view your
photos and videos. You can edit, print, and share your photos
from within Windows Photo Gallery, as well as transfer photos from your camera
to your computer with a simple import
Windows Media Player
... an easier way to enjoy and manage your digital music, video, and pictures
on your PC. See things the way you want to see them, by CD
cover art or in lists - the choice is yours. Connect to networked media
devices around your home or seamlessly sync up with your portable digital
media player to enjoy all your entertainment wherever you are. Sporting an
improved look and feel, Windows Media Player delivers a high-quality audio and
visual experience both on the computer and around your home.
Windows Movie Maker
... you can quickly and
easily import, edit, and organize all of your
digital home videos. New tools, such as new effects and transitions, and improved graphics performance help you
manage and edit your home videos. You can include photos along with video when
you create a movie, and even add narration and soundtracks. Once your movies
are just the way you want them, you can easily burn them to DVD or share them with
others through the Internet.
Enjoy all your favorite digital entertainment
- including live and recorded TV, movies, music, and pictures - in one place
with the easy-to-use Windows Media Center menu
system and remote control.
Windows Media Center in Windows Vista
includes enhancements for expanded support of digital and high-definition cable TV, an improved
menu system, and the ability to create a consumer-electronics-quality
living-room experience, as well as new options for multi-room access to your
entertainment through Media Center Extenders, including Xbox
I'm early in my exploring so I won't do more than touch on
some of them, and spend most of the time in the Movie Maker corner.
This issue will go over a MB in size. As most of you don't
have Vista, I'm including more than the usual amount of screen
... before getting into
it, here are a few notes...
is a shareware utility that seems to be widely used.... a number of Movie Maker
users who have been having problems importing source files, even small wmv
files, have found their problems resolved by uninstalling the app. If you have
it and have such issues, be sure to check the settings so you're not
locking yourself from using your source files.
About the same day this new build of Vista was released, a
Press release announced MyDVD Premier 8. I used
it as a cross-check of the new Windows DVD Maker in Vista.
Unlike earlier versions of
MyDVD which forced the removal of an existing version before installing, MyDVD
8 installs to a different folder and co-exists with my version 6.1.0....
probably because this one goes into a Roxio sub-folder on your hard drive, while
previous versions are in a Sonic sub-folder.
Only the previous CinePlayer
needed to be removed and replaced, and the Sonic DLA removed as it is
incompatible with this new version.
to the main topic...
At this point, the computer
performance area is better observed and noted, not really evaluated. My
system may not be sufficient to do anything more than just get along. I'm happy
that Vista runs on it.
The Photo Gallery, Windows
Media Player, and Movie Maker are all fair game... There's more than enough to
... new features
include SuperFetch, External
Memory Drive (EMD), and Hybrid Hard Drive.
SuperFetch helps manage memory to get the most out of available
RAM. EMD technology helps boost performance without adding
Being under-the-hood features,
I haven't checked into them enough to know what they are... I'll be
checking them further, as they could be the most important things of all
when doing complex projects and saving movies.
Here's a screen shot of
something I noted in the Computer Management utility... XP has only
logs and alerts for that item. Vista has some nice looking
When it comes to computers and
associated items, I tend to use what I have rather than run out to get the
latest best thing... I kind of enjoy seeing what happens when you bump
into a limitation, and you need to figure out how to work with or around
Microsoft cautions about using pre-beta software such as Vista on
production computers... so it's not on my laptop. It's on a 'spare' 2 year old
3.2 GHz CPU, 200 GB hard drive, HP desktop system that started its life as
a Windows XP 2005 Media Center Edition system. Good-enough but a bit
short on RAM with 512 MB, and the audio device isn't detected by
the Vista installation, so I need to manually install a sound driver
I only did one big rendering
test. Everything else so far has been working with short clips and small
The big test was a 25
minute project that someone paid me to sub-divide and render a few
weeks ago... and with 2 GB of RAM on my laptop, I still had
to break the project into 4 minute segments and build
it back up with the segments.
Just turning my Vista system
on and before opening any apps, a check of my Task Manager shows that the
operating system uses more than the 512 MB of RAM.
Starting with no free RAM, and
knowing how poorly the laptop did with the project, I expected to note
the percent complete point it got to before hanging. But it made it
all the way through, in a reasonable time, and the saved movie played
fine. Chalk up a positive for SuperFetch and/or EMD, whatever they are, and if
that's why it worked.
... gives you the tools you need to easily organize, find,
and view your photos and videos. You can edit, print, and share your photos
from within Windows Photo Gallery, as well as transfer photos from your camera
to your computer with a simple import process.
I'm such a strong believer
in organizing and finding things that I developed a
personal database and religiously use it... ask about any
topic... in a few seconds the database search shows the
Maybe that's part of why I'm
not high on software like Picasa, or computers like Apples... nor am I excited
about this new Windows Photo Gallery. They all do a great job of showing
you what they want to, but they don't show you everything, and sometimes what
you don't see is as important as what you do. I'll try to warm up to using
it... but early on I submitted a report about not being able to drag and drop
from the Photo Gallery to the DVD Maker... not a good start.
Here's what the main Photo
Gallery working window looks like. A mouse moving over a smaller thumbnail
gets you a larger view.
I'll be back to look at the
Photo Gallery in another newsletter... until then I've got some homework to do
to learn it more.
Windows Media Player 11
an easier way to enjoy and manage your digital music, video, and pictures on
your PC. See things the way you want to see them, by CD cover art or in
lists-the choice is yours.
Connect to networked media devices around your home or
seamlessly sync up with your portable digital media player to enjoy all your
entertainment wherever you are. Sporting an improved look and feel, Windows
Media Player delivers a high-quality audio and visual experience both on the
computer and around your home.
One thing I'm pleased with in
the new player is it displaying a custom WMV file in its true pixel
dimensions, not forcing it into a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio as WMP10
Here's the player with a
snapshot of a bug. I had just rendered a movie in Movie Maker, and opted to see
it when finished. It was playing fine, yet a short way into it, this message
popped up, but it continued to play fine all the way through.
Windows Movie Maker
you can quickly and easily import, edit, and organize all of your digital home
videos. New tools, such as new effects and transitions, and improved graphics
performance help you manage and edit your home videos. You can include photos
along with video when you create a movie, and even add narration and
your movies are just the way you want them, you can easily burn them
to DVD or share them with others through the
I took screen shots of all the
effects, transitions, and title animations in Vista... and put them on
new website pages. There are some new effects and transitions, but not
many and I won't go into them in this issue.
The are eager to get
their hands on the Vista info needed to convert the custom xml code developed
for MM2, and extend it into Vista. Lacking issued documentation at this point,
they'll have to read the internals of the dll's and figure
There are a couple things
to point out in the file list at the above right:
Movie Maker is the only
executable in the MM2 folder in XP (MM1 and MM2 if you have both). There
are two new executables in Vista... each of which is a separate app that can
be run without first opening Movie Maker..... the CaptureWizard.exe and
DVDMaker.exe. I've been exercising them the most since getting this build, and
I'll cover them below.
There are a number of new DLLs to
And who doesn't know that .ax files
are codecs or filters... there are 8 of them in the Movie Maker
folder. The two that start with the word 'sonic' show the continued
relationship between them and Microsoft.
performance includes such things as:
seeing each frame of a video during
project work, not every other frame as MM2.1 shows
project previews in high
quality rather than draft mode
snapshots vary in size based on the
on-screen size of the Movie Maker monitor, not a fixed size as they are in
The project editing process is pretty much the same as in XP. I tried using
a file from a DVD as a source file... copied a VOB file to my hard drive,
renamed it to .MPG, imported it, used it in a project, and rendered movies
from it. I didn't see any issues, but didn't exercise it much.
The built-in options of profiles to save a movie have changed a lot.
Here are the choices, a streamlined yet expanded set:
- Best for my computer... no change here... it's not an
option I use as I'm usually after the best choice for my viewers computers.
- DV-AVI (NTSC)
- DV-AVI (PAL)
- DVD Quality - 720x480, 3000 kbps video... 3:2 actual
aspect ratio with a tag to display at 4:3
- DVD Widescreen Quality - same specs as for DVD Quality,
3:2 aspect ratio, but with a tag to display at 1.77:1
- HD-720 - 1280x720, 6000 kbps, 29.97 fps
- HD-1080 - 1440x1080, 8000 kbps, 23.97 fps
- HD-1080 VC1 - 1440x1080, 10932 kbps, 29.97 fps
- Medium Low Bandwidth - 320x240, 100 kbps, 15 fps, mono
- VHS Quality - 640x480, 1000 kbps, 30 fps
5 of the choices are for WMV files with bitrates higher than the 2100 kbps
highest bitrate option of MM2.1... the world of high definition, higher quality
All of the WMV choices are rendered with a new Windows Media Audio
10 codec. When I first tried to import one into Movie Maker in XP, I
got a message about not having the codec, and it couldn't get it
because I didn't have the automatic option turned on to get
codecs as needed... an error message making a clear and
good point. I checked the option, tried again, and the codec came
down. Once installed, the file worked find in Movie
Prereq to opening this app is having your digital camcorder connected by
firewire, turned on, and set to VCR/VTR mode.
The word 'Import' in Vista encompasses what we call 'Capture and
Import' in XP. This wizard is a stand-alone app. It can be opened
directly, or accessed via the menu of Movie Maker. It's an interesting
The app's name gives a clear message that it's to get digital video.
The Help file of Vista follows through with saying that, for capturing analog
video, you should be using the software that came with the device.
There are 3 choices of format... the first one 'Windows Media Video' being
what we're used to in XP when opting for WMV files, and the 3rd one 'Video
Device Format (AVI)' being DV-AVI from my mini-DV camcorder. I haven't had any
problems using these options.
The choice of 'Windows Media Video File Collection' is new. It captures to
a set of individual WMV files based on such things as breaks in
time-code, changes between standard and widescreen, and other
factors. The data from the camcorder flows first into a temporary DV-AVI
file, and from there into a set of temporary .WMV_TMP files. When the
process is finished the temporary files are renamed to .WMV and the
residual .TMP DV-AVI files deleted.
I can see the File Collection process happening, but I've yet to be
successful at capturing a full tape and getting a set of finished files. I tried
twice from the same tape... got 35 minutes through it the first time and 45
minutes the second time. By not successfully finishing, my computer has
about 10 GB of temporary files that were never cleaned up because the
normal end of the process wasn't reached.
I can rename a .WMV_TMP file to .WMV and it plays fine.... I can rename the
large .TMP file to .AVI and it doesn't play in anything.
Windows DVD Maker
I like the word 'Wizard'... this is one too. Wizard's are smart enough to
know what your system is capable of or is doing. This one taught me a
The system I have Vista on is a 2 year old HP desktop with a combo
CD/DVD writer, something I'd never used. When I tried to open the DVD
Maker by itself or from the DVD option in Movie Maker, I kept
getting a message about not having a DVD in the drive.
So I put one in... and got a message about it not being a
I had to do some research to figure out that the drive in this computer
needed a DVD+R disc, and I had only previously used DVD-R and DVD-RW in my
With the right type of blank disc in the drive, the app opened. I didn't
understand why I needed a disc in the drive to start the app, but I'd been
coming from a background in DVD making software that lets you make a DVD
project or create a virtual disc on your hard drive.
This DVD Maker doesn't have a feature to save a project, something I've
submitted a request for. It provides lots of neat visual options, but not the
ability to save your work in a project file.
To check the DVD making, I rendered a set of 6
WMV files using Movie Maker in Vista, using some of its built-in
DVD Quality - 720x480, 3000 kbps video...
3:2 actual aspect ratio with a tag to display at 4:3
Quality - same specs as for DVD Quality, 3:2 aspect ratio, but with a
tag to display at 1.77:1
HD-720 - 1280x720, 6000 kbps,
HD-1080 - 1440x1080, 8000 kbps, 23.97 fps
HD-1080 VC1 - 1440x1080, 10932 kbps, 29.97 fps
Then I made DVDs from the set... one
disc with the new MyDVD Premier 8 running on my XP laptop, and the other with
Vista's DVD Maker... both transcoded the wmv files to MPEG-2 and burned the
discs without issue...
When comparing how the two discs
performed in various players...
- neither disc auto-started in XP on my laptop... I had to open the
main files manually to give them a kick start
- they both auto-started and worked in my $30 CyberHome DVD player
- both discs started automatically when inserted into the drive of
the Vista system, opening in Windows Media Player 11.
Here's what the opening screen looks like playing in WMP... a cool look as
the smaller rectangles take turns previewing one of the videos. The options for
customizing the DVD menu's look in Vista are neat, more than I
Pressing the word 'Scenes' replaces the above look with this one... each of
the 6 videos was rendered from the same project, so they all look alike... how
do I know which one came from which input file? I don't know.
There's no project file for me to open to see which one I put where,
and no titling feature to note them on the DVD menu. Without doing
the project over and keeping notes, I can't associate them.
Here's what the MyDVD8 disc menu looks like, also playing in
Now you can tell them apart by their names.
When viewing each of the six as they played, I wasn't
focusing on the quality of the visual or audio. I was most
interested in how they looked overall in dimensions. They all looked the
same in aspect ratio.
In an attempt to show you, I used WMP10 in XP to take frame snapshots from
each of the videos on the disc made by MyDVD8, and put them into the composite
image at the right.
The blue background is the canvas in Paint, where I made the
composite... the scene itself and any blackness around it are from the frame
snapshots in WMP.
One of the options in Vista's DVD Maker is
'standard' versus 'widescreen' aspect ratio. Maybe you can't or
shouldn't mix the two different types on the same disc!! I have to study
this a bit.
The MyDVD project settings give you a choice of
4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio for the menu, but I'd always felt the app picked up and
used the aspect ratios of the individual video files. There's no aspect
ratio choice for the videos.
That's food for thought for another day. This
week's issue is more of a sneak peak than an in-dept test.
... and I still have an open
item between earlier versions of MyDVD using the pixel dimensions of the
videos and not the standard or widescreen tags in the WMV files, and me
having to force it to widescreen by making custom sizes. Scanning the
images here shows them all displaying standard 4:3, so the same issue may be
carried forward into MyDVD8 working with WMV files made in Vista's Movie
Conclusions and Closing
As most of you don't have Vista, I
won't be covering it with lots of issues... you can look at the posts
on newsgroups and forums, and check the emerging pages on my
Vista works.... it's great to see
Movie Maker moving forward with new features and being in the mainstream of the
Photo Story isn't there, so it'll
continue to be an added app. I didn't install it yet in
this build. It worked in the previous build, not initially,
but when I set it's properties to run in compatibility mode
with the XP system. I'll be installing it soon in this
If you have any questions about the
Vista software, don't hesitate to drop me a note.
Have a great week...