PapaJohn Productions

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story
Newsletter #96 - March 25, 2006


Special Video Effects
Let's do something a bit on the lighter side, after last week's heavy techie topic of quality settings in custom quality-based VBR profiles... how about a broad look at special video effects?
Just a few years ago, in the days of Movie Maker 1, there was one special transition... a fade or dissolve from one clip to another... and no special video effects unless you used other software to make and clip and then import clip. Before that were special effects that your camera or camcorder could apply as you took the shot or footage.
Today there's a proliferation of fantastic special effects, and the choices are growing daily. Some you can apply to your pictures and clips with other software before importing. Photo Story and Movie Maker 2 have many built-in effects, and many others are available in add-on packages. And then there are the infinite possibilities from custom XML files.
Let's look at:
... before getting into it, here are a few notes...

From programmer Bruce Shankle comes a new Utility for users of Movie Maker. Select a project file (.MSWMM) and it'll show you a list of the source files, including custom XML files and the source files used by them. It's a great tool to help you stay organized.
If you like reading XML files, use the Show XML button to see the internals of the project file. And if your source files are spread all over, you can round up a set of selected ones into one folder... by clicking the Copy Files button.
Movie Maker Utility
Bruce is still enhancing it and adding features being requested. Get a copy from his website. I'll be adding a link on mine.

the Vista Corner... you've no doubt heard the release will now be after the end of the year instead of in time for year-end holidays.
I received my first formal positive feedback this week from Microsoft about them incorporating a suggestion... I noted you could copy and paste from the Photo Gallery to the DVD Maker, but you couldn't drag and drop. Now you can do both.
.... on to the main topic...

Effects Applied by a Camera or Camcorder
These of course vary by the brand and model. The party line is to not use them on the original, and add effects during computer editing. Yes, but maybe there's something the camera can do that your software tools can't, or it can to it easier or better.
My Sony Hi8 camcorder has a pastel effect which gives the video a cartoonish appearance. Here's a clip that used the feature during recording:
Hi8 camcorder - pastel effect
The other effects on the camcorder are: negative, sepia, black and white, solarize (makes it look like an illustration), mosaic, slim, stretch.
Our digital camera is a 5 megapixel Olympus C-5050... the options for effects are B&W, Sepia, Black board, and White board... had to dig out the manual to find the settings and take a set of pix... here's what the 4 shots look like.
DigiCam Effects
They might see some use in transparent overlays when the black or white needs to be transparent... or as still images by themselves.
Are these better

Editing Images and Video Clips Before Importing 
IrfanView - Menu to EffectsYour image editing apps have features to edit pictures however you want. Beyond that there are great add-in filters. I'll use some filters that work with most things from Photo Shop to IrfanView.
We'll use two filters from Richard Rosenman... the Pinocchio one for this part of the newsletter, and the Pixelate an Image one a little later.
As long as you're there, download the rest too, as each of them is great.
Install them to IrfanView... by copying the .8bf files to the Plug-in folder.
8bf filters

open an image
drill down to the 8BF filters
double-click on the Pinocchio one
... play around

I made a slight adjustment to the Golden Gate in the middle of the main span.
Golden Gate - Adjusted

Effects in Photo Story 3 and Movie Maker 2
There are many that come with the apps, and additional packages available from Microsoft and others.
Photo Story 3 has 3 'auto fix' options... for contrast, color levels and red eye. You can apply one or more to a picture. Beyond that it has 10 visual effects that you can select from, using one effect per picture.
Movie Maker 2 has lots more choices, with 60 or so built-in special effects.
Additional 3rd Partly Effects (Movie Maker) - Microsoft released some additional packages... and Adorage and Pixelan sell very professionally made ones. The Setup Movie Maker > Other Software page of my website has links to them.
Movie Maker lets you mix and match any of them, up to a total of 6 on each clip.
Let's look at effects in Movie Maker... by splitting some video footage of a parade at MGM Studios in Disney World, taken in 1999 on my Hi8 camcorder. I split the clip into a batch of 10 second clips. 
Here's the start of the storyboard... notice that I have the first clip in twice.... to illustrate the use of different effects on the same clip.
Fade-In-OutThe Fade-in and Fade-out options, so easily accessed by right-clicking on any clip in the timeline or storyboard are in fact video effects, and counted as 2 of the 6 effect limit....

If you're like me, adding the fade in or out, or both, are done anytime the mood strikes, and usually at a different time then adding other effects from Clip 1Clip 2the full collection... by doing it that way, I'm sure you don't stop to consider the difference in overall playback that happens based solely on when you decided to add what effect.

Let's use the first clip of the project to illustrate what can happen, by chance or design.

I took frame snapshots with Movie Maker as I stepped slowly through the frames.... when watching the video, you might blink and miss something important.
Five selected frames of the first clip in the project are at the left....
... and the same five frames of the second clip are at the right. Remember that the second clip is a copy of the first.
What's happening?
The first clip starts by seeing fully the Adorage: Egypt motif frame effect, with blackness in it...
.... the blackness changes to show a couple other Adorage frame effects working inside the Egyptian frame.
Outside the window of the frame in the frame is the Chinese parade going on...
At the end of this 10 second clip, the view inside the Egyptian frame turns to blackness, until totally black.... followed by the clip ending in a straight cut with no transitioning. 
The Fade-In, From Black, and Fade Out, To Black never effect the overall view... just the view inside the frame.

The second copy of the same clip uses the same 6 effects, but sequenced differently.
It's the whole frame that fades in from black, not the view inside the Egyptian frame... and at the end of the clip, it's the whole frame that fades back to black.
The sequences of the effects used on each clip are shown... the positions of the Egyptian frame and the Fade In and Fade Out effects are the only ones that are different.
I'm spending a bit of time on this, as it's more important than you might have known or thought. The overall viewing experiences you create can be dramatically different. Which of these two panning spotlight effects do you want? The difference isn't in the effects used, but in their sequencing.
I prefer the one on the left with the bright white frame. There are many lighting and border/frame effects... check what you get with a different sequence when you use them together. 

The next clip in the project is a normal situation at a parade or other spectator event.... when you're not in the front row, you can end up with heads to the left and right of your view.
Applying a zoom-in effect will get you closer and remove the people in front of you, but at the cost of reduced quality... here's the Pixelan Pan/Zoom Center effect applied 4 times to get closer and closer, just enough to crop the heads out.... 
Zooming In
Here's a link to a sample that shows these clips, with an extra clip thrown in for the multiple frame effects...
Multiple Effects

The Wide-World of Custom XML Effects
"....when is a title overlay really an effect? when it's used to add a custom image overlay...."
For those who can't get enough effects, or when the thrill of developing a new different effect is more satisfying than making a movie, custom XML can satisfy you. 
Let's go through a sample... a 'privacy overlay' to hide a face. We'll bounce around a few apps as we go... leave them open in separate windows, and with copy/paste there's never a need to save a file until you're finished. With a few windows open, it really doesn't make a difference if you're using a few windows in a single app or a few windows with different apps... the process is quick and easy.
Here's the link to the sample clip this part of the newsletter ends up with... about a minute long.
Hiding a Face

The steps start and end with Movie Maker...
1 - Movie Maker
Path of Facetake frame snapshots from the video at various places along the path of the face you want to hide... I took 8 of them for the face in the Chinese parade float, starting with where the face first comes into view and ending with when it leaves the scene.
the snapshots, taken from the clip in the collection, are JPG files of 640x480.

2 - Paint.NET
put each of the snapshots on a different layer
select the area of the face, and delete the rest... I used the Ellipse selection tool to copy round sections from the original layers to new ones
save each layer individually (by making the other 7 layers not visible) to a new BMP file... 8 files - 640x480 BMPs  

3 - IrfanView

here's a new fun part of the process... open one of the new BMP pictures and use Richard Rosenman's Pixilate an Image filter to hide the face.

using the menu of IrfanView... Image > Effects > Adobe 8bf Filters (or Control-k keys from the keyboard)
double-click on the Pixelate... filter to open it... 
here's the 7th one before changing from the default settings. If you still recognize the face, increase the Horizontal/Vertical settings (use the Horizontal slider and the Vertical moves with it to keep the pixilation as squares)....
Pixelate Filter
PixelatedI stopped when the settings were notched up to '21'... OK and it's applied to the original picture. Now you can't tell who it is.
Do this for each of the 8 pictures, and you'll have roundish highly pixilated things on white backgrounds... all positioned right if placed over the frames we started with... but BMP files are not transparent, so we have to take them into Paint.NET to make them into PNG files for our overlay images.

4 - Paint.NET
it's here that we not only make the white background fully transparent... we also make the big blocky pixels translucent to the degree we want, somewhere between fully opaque and fully transparent....
open each in turn and
  • use the magic wand tool to select the white background, followed by the delete key to remove the white pixels (with a selection tolerance of zero if some of the blocks are initially included in the selection)
  • Layer Propertiesdouble click on the layer in the Layers toolbox to open its properties
  • in the drop down list of blending modes, change the blending mode to Multiply, Difference, or Darken... these 3 modes will work in Movie Maker and the others won't
  • set the opacity to 200... that's the degree to which you'll be able to see thru the pixilated area (actually the degree to not see through it)
  • Save it as a .PNG file for use as the overlay image in Movie Maker... 
do each of the 8 to end up with a full set of PNG files... still at our 'standard' size for the movie, 640x480
the image at the right shows the 7th image being worked on

5 - Notepad
... is where you do the XML file editing...
of course you don't need to write it from scratch... you copy and tweak the code. In this case, I started with the XML file used for the condors flying around my virtual office a little while back.... the full code is in newsletter #92 
the XML file had 4 sections for 4 flying birds... I'll copy/paste one of the sections to expand it to 7 sections, one for each of the path segments between the different face positions... and change the pointers to the appropriate overlay images
here's the section of code for the 6th portion of the movement... to get from position 6 to position 7. I learned in this exercise that zoom values of 1.0 double the size of the overlay image, and 0.5 leaves it full size.... letting me use overlay images of 640x480 over a video of the same dimensions
XML Code
and then it's tweaking the settings for the entrance and exit positions. In doing it, I'll make the entrance position of each the same as the exit position of the previous one... like motion settings in Photo Story 3. And I'll use the Moving Overlay Images Positioning Guide on the Editing Movies > Text > Custom Overlays page of my website for the first draft... just taking a rough stab at the right numbers. We'll fine tune it after seeing what the first cut looks like in Movie Maker.
Tweaking XML Code in Movie Maker
to avoid doing all the math and getting it wrong anyway, I did the position settings visually... by trial and error...

6 - Movie Maker
leaving the XML file open in Notepad, here I am in Movie Maker working on Moving Overlay #6...
by swapping out the usual Sample1.jpg preview picture with a temporary one showing the faces in positions 6 and 7, I'm able to make the XML file adjustments while previewing the title overlay animation... seeing the pixel blob moving from one face to the next... all without needing to apply it to the project
if the size of the overlay is too big or small, I'll change the zoom setting. If the pixel blob starts or ends at the wrong spot, I'll change the position setting.
I didn't start the movie project itself until all the animation previews showed the overlays moving just right from one face location to the next...
with the XML file open in Notepad through the whole tweaking process, see which direction the overlay should move, wing it with an XML setting change in the right direction, save the XML file... and reboot Movie Maker to check how it changed... Movie Maker reads the XML file as it boots up, so forgetting to reboot it after an XML file tweak will result in you not seeing the change.
... over and over as needed until each of the 7 overlays are working as well as you want. Moving the overlay a little more to the right means increasing the x value, the first of the two position settings... a little more down means increasing the y value, the second number.
from there, it was creating a movie project as usual, applying the 7 custom title overlays in sequence, positioning them to align with the underlying video, and changing the overlay durations to not have any gaps in the overlay track from the first face position to the last.
MM2 Project
That's it... you've got a hidden face.

Conclusions and Closing
The custom overlay sample was a fun and rewarding learning experience. There are often requests for help on covering a license plate, a body part.... maybe an ex-spouse in a wedding video. Lot's of applications.
I learned what the zoom figures did to the size of the overlay image, how to apply the translucency settings in Paint.NET and which blending modes work, and the exercise of swapping out the Sample1.jpg file with the face pictures was invaluable in avoiding any heavy-duty... or light-duty... math.

Have a great week...