PapaJohn Productions

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story
Newsletter #94 - March 11, 2006

High Definition - VC-1

When I first saw that 3 of the 9 choices for publishing a movie in Vista were high definition (HD) profiles, I perked up... and when looking closer at the pre-beta 5308 build last week, one of the Publishing Optionsoptions further caught my eye... Windows Media HD 1080 - VC-1 (228 Kbps). What's that?
Part of my interest was from not knowing enough about it. I had studied the properties of the 720p and 1080i videos on WMV-HD discs, and made profiles to emulate them, but I hadn't seen any labeled as VC-1. Maybe they are VC-1 and I didn't know it.
What's the HD 1080 VC-1 option, and how does it differ from the HD 1080? is the bitrate noted in the drop-down list of 228 Kbps really so? 
For the High Definition choices, 720 stands for 720 horizontal lines of resolution and 1080 for that many lines. On a computer monitor, think of them as the pixel height by whatever number of pixels wide. The i or p after the number means 'interlaced' or 'progressive'...
Remember my mentioning last week that my laptop XP system needed to get a codec to use a movie rendered with Vista? I had noted the name of the codec package as it downloaded and installed... wvc1dmp.CAB... it turns out it was the VC-1 file that needed the codec.
About the bitrate of 228 Kbps; I submitted a bug report as I'm sure it's a typo. They might mean 2,280 Kbps or 2.28 Mbps.

Here's a Microsoft website page What is VC-1? that starts with:
VC-1 is a video codec specification that is currently being standardized by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and implemented by Microsoft as Windows Media Video (WMV) 9 Advanced Profile...
Here's a website to check your computer to see if it can play high definition files... WMV HD Advisor ... use the bottom link "See If Your PC Can Play WMV HD" and drill down a bit... if you opt for T2 Judgment Day - a 1080i video, and check your system... you can compare your results to my laptop....
Judgement Day
Once you know what to expect, you're ready to download and play this 1080 Photo Story that I made to align Photo Story 3 and Movie Maker 2 with the 1080 VC-1 profile of Movie Maker in Vista.
Photo Story - Big Ben
... before getting into it further, here are a few notes...

the Vista Corner
Movie Maker in Vista is version 6.0.5308.17 per the Help > About window.
I did some more checking of the Vista DVD Maker and am really impressed with the built-in styles, motion menus and automatic chapter points... lots of great eye candy, and I haven't burned a bad disc yet. Yes, there are some issues with the user interface, but it holds lots of promise.
That cool Roll-O-Dex feature of build 5270 seems to have been dropped... I haven't found it in the 5308 build.

MyDVD8And on the other side, I went back into Roxio's MyDVD 8 to look some more at its DVD authoring features.. and found myself exploring its movie-making option, as shown in the working window at the right.
Maybe Sonic (Roxio) and Microsoft did some technology info swapping... I'm checking Vista to making DVDs and MyDVD 8 to edit movies!!!!
The world keeps turning, and we have more and more choices as it does.

I did a system restore the other day, going back about 5 weeks to check something, and when I undid the restore to come back to now I found my collection database was zeroed out.
Be sure to save a copy of the database before doing a restore. Lately I've been running with a pretty clean slate of collections, so I didn't miss it.
.... back to the main topic...

The 3 HD Choices in Vista
Before digging into the VC-1 option, here's some info about the 3 HD choices in Vista. The info comes from WMP 10 when viewing sample files, not the same Big Ben sample story that's coming up. The bit rate figures are the totals of audio and video.
HD choice display size aspect ratio video codec bit rate
720 1280x720 widescreen WMV9 Pro 6.19 Mbps
1080 1440x1080 standard with widescreen displayed WMV9 Pro 8.19 Mbps
1080-VC-1 1440x1080 standard WMV9 Advanced 11.14 Mbps
Let's go into the VC-1 choice. 

the VC-1 Profile in Vista's Movie Maker
Here's another extract from the Microsoft website about VC-1:
"... VC-1 decodes HD video twice as fast as the H.264 standard, while offering 2-to-3 times better compression than MPEG-2.
VC-1 offers superior quality across a wide variety of content types and bit rates..."
It goes on to say there are Simple and Advanced VC-1 profiles of various bit rates with different settings. The pixel dimension sizes range from 176x144 to 2048x1536. You wouldn't call a video of 176x144 pixels high definition, so VC-1 is more another codec type than it is something only associated with high definition.
VC-1 File PropertiesJust as with MM2 in XP, I don't see stand-alone profiles for the choices in Vista, so I'll study it like I did the WMV-HD discs, looking at the movie files that Vista produces when using the option.
The file's properties are shown by importing it into Movie Maker 2.1 and playing it in Windows Media Player 10.
VC-1 file properties - 2The image at the left is the info from Movie Maker.... the video size, bit rate, frame rate, and audio properties.
The image at the right from WMP10 adds some codec info... a VC-1 file is compressed by the WMV 9 Advanced Profile codec.
The Simple VC-1 profiles are implemented by the WMV 9 Video codec, and the Advanced profiles by the WMV 9 Advanced Profile. 
When selecting the VC-1 option in Vista, the Movie Maker setting of standard 4:3 aspect ratio or widescreen 16:9 doesn't make a difference to the saved movie... it makes it as standard 4:3 at 1440x1080 pixels.
To make custom profiles that align with this VC-1 file, let's start with a Photo Story and a high resolution image. I'll use an 11 megapixel picture of Big Ben from a monthly magazine disc. 

Photo Story 3 Profile   
Although the Video 9 Advanced Profile is an option when using the profile editor, you can't use it for a story.... PS3 stories can only be rendered with the Image v2 codec.
The properties of the sample video file from Vista gives us enough info to make this custom profile for Photo Story 3.
Using PS 3 Profile - 1the Windows Media Profile Editor:
General tab
Quality VBR - Windows Media Audio 9.1 for the audio, and Quality VBR - Windows Media Video 9 Image v2 for the video.
You can use different options for audio but the video compression requires the Video 9 Image v2 codec.
Quality-based tab (see the figure below)
VBR Quality 98, 48 kHz, stereo VBR for the audio. Others would work also.
The video size of 1440x1080 and the frame rate of 29.97 aligns with the properties of the file rendered by Vista.
I checked key frame intervals from 1 to 15 seconds and settled at 15. With a story limited to panning and zooming in a linear manner, it means the full frames are at 15 second increments, with the frames between them being calculated on the fly. More frequent key frames might be easier on the computer, but with a larger file size... it's a tradeoff that I haven't studied in any depth.
If the picture has a duration of less than 15 seconds, it'll use the lesser duration, so I'm not sure this setting makes much difference.
Quality Setting
This is an interesting setting that I haven't explored much... you would think that the highest number of 100 is the best in all cases... maybe not. If 100 is always best, why is the VBR Quality of 98 for the audio setting the highest number you can pick? Maybe the extra file size to go to 100 doesn't make a difference? But I'll start with it for the video.
The Video quality setting in the profile can be from 0 to 100. I'll be exploring this setting in more depth in next week's newsletter. To help assess the quality of the story and the movies of MM2 and Vista, I did this exercise:
Here's a cropped segment from the annotated original image before it was imported into Photo Story 3... a 33 MB picture.
Here's the cropped segment from the last frame of the story, with a quality setting of 100... about the same as the original image.... a 9.6 MB story file.
PS3 Clock Hand
The story was then used as a source file in Vista's Movie Maker, and rendered using the 1080 VC-1 option. The movie file was 62.1 MB, with a total bit rate of 18.8 Mbps. Here's the same crop from the last frame of the 1080 VC-1 movie.
VC-1 Crop 
It maintains the quality well...
MM2 Custom ProfileThat leaves us only to make a custom profile for Movie Maker 2, and see how well its quality compares.

Movie Maker 2 Custom Profile
Using a CBR mode and the Advanced Profile codec, the same codec used by Vista... with a video bitrate of 19 Mbps.... about the bitrate of the video saved by Vista's Movie Maker.
The file from MM2 was 73.1 MB, a bit larger than the 1080 VC-1 movie from Vista. It's a big file, but not as large as a DV-AVI file, which would be 111 MB for the same 30 second video.
MM2 Profile
The cropped segment of the last frame of the movie made in MM2, shown above, looks about the same as the other crops. I'm satisfied we can align the quality of the stories and movies.

Conclusions and Closing
If your computer and big-screen can handle HD 1080, you can make and view stories and movies comparable in quality to Vista's HD 1080 VC-1 profile option.
And if you're like me, and don't have a new high definition camcorder for the source material, use still images and start with a story.
I put the two custom profiles online... here are the links:
Photo Story 3 - 1440x1080
Movie Maker 2 - 1440x1080
I'm not ready to roll them out to my website... not until at least after next week's newsletter, in which I'll take a closer look at differences in quality when using different Quality settings of Variable bit rate (VBR) files.

Have a great week...