PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #99 - April 15, 2006

Special Effects and Transitions 


It's been a year and half in development... neither ProDAD nor I have been hurrying this project along, but it's finally completed and being published... PapaJohn Editions of special effects and transitions for Movie Maker 2.
Here are the thumbnails for the package of 30 transitions.
PJ Transitions
... and the package of 40 special effects.
PJ - Effects
Contrast those to the current classic Adorage thumbnails that look like these, and you can see one aspect of progress that we're making with the new ones...
Adorage Thumbnails
There's a new page on my website for info and links to download the packages, see a demo clip, and a video of my grandson Nick and his classmates on a Mission to Mars a couple days ago... my first video that used the new packages. The website page is Editing Movies > Adorage - PapaJohn Editions.
Beyond this news, I'll cover the general state of extra special effects and transitions, and take a look at the added demands of such items on your computer resources.
... before getting into it further, here's a couple notes...

Trivia Question: Which app (Photo Story 3 or Movie Maker 2) can import the highest quality still picture? A: Movie Maker... Photo Story 3 gives an error message if an image is greater than 7200 pixels in height or width... Movie Maker accepts bigger ones... I've tested MM2 with ones up to 10,000 x 10,000 pixels.  
The Vista Corner... nothing done during the week except to schedule and record a TV series... 
InkscapeInkscape is a vector-based graphics app that I just added to the Other Software page of the website.
It's great and fun for doodling, drawing, has a calligraphy tool that works well (better with a pen tablet), and is a free download...

Some technical info: it uses the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format for its files. SVG is an open standard widely supported by graphic software. SVG files are based on XML and can be edited with any text or XML editor (apart from Inkscape, that is). Besides SVG, Inkscape can import and export EPS and PNG files. 
.... back to the main topic...

The State of Special Effects and Transitions 
I've yet to meet someone who doesn't like special effects and transitions. On the other hand, there are many who go way overboard in using them. It's easy to do as they are fun and easy to apply.
There's never too many to select from, like you can never have too many albums in your music library. But in the quest for more, there's a few things to be aware of
For all my studying of this item, I still don't know what or how to count. I have 307 video effects and 550 transitions on my laptop, and the system runs fine... so it's not about how many thumbnails are in the video effects and transitions collections. If you know how to translate this caution into something that I can pass along to users, please let me know.
All of the optional extras are great... but if you run on a pretty lean system, and tend to collect lots of extras, you may be at the point of needing to manage them better. Let's look a bit deeper.

The AddOnTFX Folders
It's easy to study the extra memory needed to have all of the optional effects, transitions, and custom title overlays available for a moment's use. They all use AddOnTFX folders... not one folder, but two.
The first Adorage MM2 package uses the AddOnTFX folder under my c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\Application Data\Microsoft\Movie Maker. It's interesting that it's also the path to the MM1 collection database. So I'll call this one the MM1 AddOnTFX folder.
The two new Adorage MM2 packages align with what all of the other ones use. I'll call it the MM2 AddOnTFX folder, the one under c:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared.
Here's my file manager looking at both of them.
AddOnTFX Folders
If you've turned codecs on or off by renaming them, that's similar to switching on and off these folders of extra effects, transitions and custom overlays. Of course you won't want to turn them off if you're relying on any of them in a current project.
I turn the AddOnTFX folders off by renaming them to AddOnTFX-Off... and then back to usual. When I want to go back to basics to see how MM2 works without all the extras, I simply rename the two folders as shown in this figure.
Let's do some turning on and off to help study memory needs for these extras.

Memory Usage
Here are some interesting scenarios...
If you don't have either AddOnTFX folder, then opening Movie Maker 2 costs you about 20 MB of memory... until you actually touch a thumbnail for a video effect or transiton... when you do, memory usage jumps up another 20 MB, effectively doubling the initial memory needed to run Movie Maker 2. 
If you have only the MM1 folder with the first Adorage package in it (the new ones use the MM2 folder), memory usage is the same as without it. There's no apparant memory cost to having the MM1 folder sitting there with the first Adorage package in it.
The MM2 folder costs you. If your MM2 folder is fully packed like mine, Movie Maker uses an extra 40 MB when opening, and then another 20 MB on top of that when you touch a thumbnail. The memory picture is the same if the MM1 folder is on or off in tandem with the MM2 folder... so again, the MM1 folder isn't adding to the needs.
It's easy to turn off all the extras by renaming the two folders, but more difficult to do it selectively. To remove some of the packages or the specific items in them, you would need to do an uninstall or move them to another folder, and reinstall or move them back when you want to use them.
You can turn off the folders with MM2 open... but as the effects and transitions are already in memory, nothing changes until you restart Movie Maker.
Movie Maker 1 uses 5 MB of memory... and has no extra effects or transitions... much of our memory needs for MM2 is because of those extras. And we love them...

Test Project
I couldn't stop short of doing a test project and watching memory usage. Here's what I did and saw.
Nothing noteworthy happened during the rendering. It finished and my peak memory usage never reached my 2 GB of RAM.

Playback and Beyond...
As I watched the video in Windows Media Player, amused at the random showing of pix, transitions and effects... the show stopped short... sitting on the 89th picture for the duration. But there were 11 more on the timeline after that picture. Had it reached some limit during rendering??? I had to check further.
If someone asked for help at this point, I'd probably be inclined to tell them to spit the project in two, as it's too complex, but I didn't get the familiar error message during rendering, and my memory limit wasn't reached.
I went in the other direction, making it more complex. I copied and pasted the full timeline to double everything in it... and started another render.
Memory usage never went over 750 MB, less than half of my RAM. So it's not really a memory constraint as memory relates to RAM and virtual memory. It might be that limit of 100 Direct Show Filters that Microsoft cautions about... but I don't know. I had no issues putting all the extras into the Movie Maker folders and using them... it's only when making such a complex project that I hit the brick wall.
That's enough for this newsletter... more learning to do for a future issue. 

Conclusions and Closing
Extra effects and transitions are here to stay... the computer makes them so easy to apply. However, if you run on a pretty lean system, and can't afford the memory needed to have them all instantly available, you need to manage them. More RAM is always a good thing. 
If you run into performance issues when editing projects, rendering movies, or viewing the saved movies, consider the impact of your add-ons.
I wish I had more answers about what we call the 'complexity' issue... until then, have a healthy respect for whatever it is. Fortunately you can make great movies by doing it in parts and putting the parts together.

Have a great week...