Newsletter #98 - April 8, 2006
If you haven't wrestled with the fine-tuning of a video
to achieve smooth visual flow over a number of clips, you may
not appreciate this week's subject... with tips to achieve it.
Start by viewing this 2+ minute
sample that I put together to illustrate some points. Click on the link or
When viewing it, I'm hoping you won't notice anything special beyond the
morphing clips... sometimes the absence of jerkiness, audio glitches, and other
artifacts isn't noticed, but their presence is.
This sample uses 21 separate clips... try counting how many you
see as you watch it before getting into the tutorial below.
When I started editing home movies, a
transition was made by cutting the film with a razor, and splicing the
selected clips back together with glue or tape... there were no video
effects except ones you could add when shooting the footage.
Movie Maker 1 let me do the same straight cuts a lot
easier using the computer. Beyond that it
supported overlapping clips with an automatically applied fade or
dissolve transition. Anything more creative than that needed to be done with
other software. Even so, it was a big step forward.
Today we have hundreds of built-in and add on transitions to
pick from, and an infinite assortment of custom made ones using XML
Transitions other than straight cuts
are often trying to achieve some kind of smooth change from one scene to
another. Morphing fits into that category, even though the change happens
from the beginning of a clip to the end...
A forum poster the other day referenced a utility from
downloaded it and two others: Squirtz Lite, Squirtz Morph, and Squirtz Water
Reflections. Playing with the Morph app led me to the topic for this
The morphing app got me into thinking about the smooth visual
flow of a video from one end to the other, not just of the morphed clip... let's
go through a sample project that uses video clips, still pictures, Photo
Stories, and morphed clips.... and strings them together in a smoothly flowing
... before getting into it
further, here's a
Last week's newsletter resulted in positive and more than usual
Vista Corner... since last week I've
used the Media Center software for the first time on my Vista
an hour+ of a golf special on TV
Movie Maker to make a movie from 2 source files, a VOB file on a DVD in
the disc drive and the recorded TV show
my Creative Zen portable media player with the Vista system and copied my
multimedia library to it, including the recorded
all went flawlessly... no bugs to report this week.
Transitions and effects are always in the limelight
with those included in MM2
Get extra packages from Microsoft and 3rd parties that are
easy to install and use
Transition Maker 2 and PIP+ are utilities to help you customize
XML coding opens things up to infinite possibilities... for those
with sufficient computer skills
finished restructuring the XML - Persian Section of the site, folding
my Custom Overlays page into it. As part of my review, I copied and
pasted all the XML info in that section into a new set of XML files and checked
them in Movie Maker... to once again verify they work as noted... and yes,
Some of the menu pages and
branches have moved... as I continue to morph the site from its original focus
on 'problem-solving' to one of 'doing amazing things'.
On the subject of 3rd party
packages... there's something new on the near horizon that I'll be
announcing as soon as it's ready, hopefully by next week.
.... back to the main
Let's look at the project
by viewing the storyboard. As a topic, I was trying to integrate the
idea of morphing with Darwinian evolution, and achieve a
fairly seamless visual flow. I looked through my stock of
clips, picked some, and jumped right into the editing.
My experience is that the
smoothest flow happens from one clip to the next when the source
files align in pixel dimensions. With my goal being a
640x480 online video for the newsletter, I made each of the movie source
files 640x480. Source files for the stories used as clips were larger, but the
stories were saved to 640x480 sizes.
one to the next, when a video clip is involved, can be seamless if
you take a screen shot of the clip at the exact point you cut or trim it,
or start or end it. Taking snapshots in the timeline gets you 320x240 jpg
images, so to keep the snapshots aligned with the goal
of 640x480, take them in the collection... with a source video
of 640x480 the snapshot will be that size.
To edit clips at 640x480 through
multiple renderings, I use a custom profile with an extra high bitrate as
an alternate to using DV-AVI clips.
Let's go through each clip on
the storyboard... focusing on things done to maintain a seamless
In the first
1 - PhotoStory... we'll start
with a Hubble
(ssc2005-11a2.jpg) of 3,000 by 1,681 pixels (5
megapixels). 3 copies of the same picture to be able to change the motion
direction a couple times. No transitions between each, and with the start
of each picture being at the same point as the end of the previous one.
Photo Story is a great tool, if for nothing more than making such a
seamless clip. I saved the 20 second story with the 640x480 size
2 - After importing the story
into MM2, I took a snapshot of its last frame... to pause
in the whiteness of the galaxy. Rather than lingering at that point in
the story, the snapshot of the last frame lets you linger as long as
you want in the movie, changing the duration of the still
picture as needed. Using a frame snapshot instead of a white image makes
the whiteness the same shade.
3 - The lightning/thunder
clip is the only part of the video that has some dynamic
action, to juxtapose the calm smooth flowing of the rest. The
still picture of the galaxy whiteness fading into it is one of 3
points in the movie that uses a standard transition, a fade of a
second long. The scene is from my camcorder in the Big Sur area of
California, cropped in VirtualDub to remove the road and part of a car at the
lower right... with fake lightning/thunder added by a custom XML title
overlay and a stock sound effect.
4 - Another snapshot, the last
frame of the stormy clip, used to ease the transition from the video
clip with dynamic motion to another video clip with motion but less dynamic.
5 - The fish are swimming
at 1/2 speed compared to the original camcorder footage.
6 - A still shot of the last
frame... to stop the motion on the big fish used as the first picture for
the morphing of the fish to the turtle.
On the second
7 - The first of a number of
morph clips... the snapshot of the fish was 640x480... the image of the turtle
was a scan from a book of copyright free images, cropped and sized to be a
640x480 BMP image... and I flipped the turtle image horizontally so it was
facing the same direction as the fish before it, and the live turtle that
8 - The same image used for
the morphing clip ahead of it... using this almost 3 second image lets the flow
of the video pause a bit before going into the next movement.
9 - The next movement is
another morph, 5 seconds to go from the turtle illustration to the first
frame of the live turtle clip.
10 - The snapshot of
the first frame of the live turtle clip has a duration of 1-1/2
seconds. The still picture is again
used to briefly pause the motion.
11 - The video of the turtle
runs for almost 8 seconds. The original footage was taken by someone
testing his new High Definition Sony camcorder. It was sent to me as a
1080i video clip... I re-rendered it to a 640x480 wmv source file
for this project.
12 - Another pausing snapshot,
this one of the last frame of the real turtle clip. The alignment stayed
good, but you can see an abrupt change in sharpness when the
video changes into this still picture. I didn't see that when
using the snapshot taken from the first frame... rather than stop to
explore it, I kept going.
Moving on to the
3rd line of clips
13 - A 5 second morph from the
live turtle to a monkey illustration...
14 - The monkey
illustration is another scan from the same book of copyright free
images... cropped and resized to 640x480.
15 - The
first monkey image morphs into a larger monkey face,
another scanned illustration sized at 640x480.
16 - The monkey face sits
there for 1-1/2 seconds, another pause in movement using a frame snapshot from
17 - The monkey
face morphs over 5 seconds to a girl's face.
18 - The girl is
a Movie Maker snapshot from the first frame of a Photo Story saved
The last line
of the composite storyboard
19 - Similar to the first
Photo Story in the project, the girl's face is a high
rez 8-1/2 megapixel image, this one from a magazine
disc. 3 copies are used in the PS3 project, with motion settings
going from the full image to as closely as possible into the
20 - To get all the way into
the iris of the eye... a Movie Maker snapshot of the final frame of the
first story is used as the only source picture for
a second story of the girl's face... to continue the motion
into the blackness.
21 - Once all the way into the
eye, a standard clip is used for brief
Now that you've seen the use of some
morph clips, let's go into the making of them, using Sqirlz
Sqirlz Morph -
The morph app is pretty easy to
Drag and drop a couple still images
into it from your file browser (or open the pictures from the menu). If
the two open windows sit on top of each other, make the overall working window
larger and move the two image windows.
Add a point to either image by first
selecting the plus sign and then clicking on a spot on either image. The
app will guess where you want that point on the other
If the guessed point needs
correction, select the arrow icon and then move the point.
When the mouse is over any of the already
added points on either image, lingering over it will cause the corresponding
point on the other image to have a circle around it to kind of say "here I
Do enough points... more is
Do a File > Project > Save As if you
want to re-open the same project later, as we do in Movie Maker and Photo
Story. A good idea.
Set the Animation Period using the main menu > Morph >
Period. The period is the total number of frames you want in the saved
video clip. I did all mine for 5 seconds at 30 frames per second, so I
When you have enough points and have
adjusted them as you want, and you're ready to create the morph video clip,
press the avi icon... you'll step through a few little option windows
scaling... if you want less than the
full size of the images
save as... for your folder and file
AVI frame rate... I picked 30 to align
with my usual NTSC video project
video compression... defaults to full
frames-uncompressed... I picked 'Microsoft Windows Media Video 9, pressed
the configure button... pumped up the performance meter so it was on better
quality instead of faster rendering... and changed the quality level
from the default of 80 to 95.
pressing OK after that starts the
rendering process, which is pretty quick on a fast computer that is
making a clip with only 150 frames
You've now got an AVI file rendered
with the WMV9 compressor, which works fine in Movie Maker. You may have
noticed other options for saving the animation... a flash SWF file, or an
animated GIF. They work too.
That's enough to help you
start using it. There are other features you can explore, such
as using more than 2 images at the same time for a more complex
Conclusions and Closing
I think the visual
smoothness you can achieve when bouncing around from story to
still pix, to video clip, to a morphed clip... to whatever, is as good as you
can want or expect it to be!!!
The Squirtz Water Reflection app
works as well as the morphing one, and can handle adding water to video
files, not just still pictures. I haven't tried doing anything yet with
I talked with Randon the other night about what to say if
someone is interested in using his music, as his website isn't
setup yet to do it... the bottom line is I'm free to act as
his agent and sell his music for non-commercial or small-scale commercial use
like mine. I have 4 of his albums (62 tracks total) and most of what I'm
making lately uses pieces from them. If you hear anything you'd like to use, ask
for a price or make an offer for a track or album. For larger commercial uses,
you should contact Randon
via his website
Have a great week...