PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #106 - June 4, 2006

Another Look at Vista

the First 'Public' Beta (Build 5384)


My installation of build 5384 was the easiest ever... maybe part of it being smoother had to do with not shooting myself in the foot by opting to reformat the hard drive, and having the needed drivers hanging around in folders accessible to the new Vista build. Regardless of reasons, it's great to see the first public beta release installing and running well before I start checking features.
As this build marks the first of the 'publicly released' ones, let's give it a once over to see how Windows Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker work.
There will be lots of adapting/adjusting to align or realign existing software with Vista, not just to make custom profiles, transitions and effects work. For example, I installed the latest version 1.6.15 of VirtualDub a couple days ago, and saw this note on the website.
For those of you using a recent beta of Windows Vista, including the just-released beta 2, you may notice severe problems when attempting to use VirtualDub with Aero Glass enabled -- specifically, that the display keeps resetting over and over. The problem is that the way that VirtualDub displays video is incompatible with the Vista Desktop Window Manager (DWM), and the DWM disables Aero Glass in response. Unfortunately, some semi-recent changes to the DWM have made the problem much worse: when the DWM attempts to disable Aero Glass, it resets the display and that also causes VirtualDub to reset its display mechanisms, tripping the DWM again, and resulting in a loop of resets. Click on another window to escape the loop. The workaround is to go to Options > Preferences > Display and either turn off DirectX or enable Direct3D. The technical issue is that VirtualDub uses the same window handle for GDI and DirectDraw rendering, which the DWM really doesn't like; I will be working on fixing this for 1.7.0.
Those not as diligent as VirtualDub programmers, and users who don't keep their software up to date, will find themselves behind the 8-ball when they upgrade to Vista. I like my Aero Glass and don't want to turn it off now that I've worked hard to keep it.
This newsletter won't go into lots of details... it's just a check of the new build to be sure Movie Maker and DVD Maker continue to work well, and to highlight anything new, different or noteworthy.
... before getting into it further, a few short notes...

I forwarded last week's issue about MyDVD 8 Premier to 3 key people at Sonic.... and promptly heard back from two of them. My concerns about tech support were passed to the head of the support function, who was already aware of and taking steps to enhance things.
Vista Corner... it's out of the corner for this week's issue.
Another follow-up note about my first for-sale video on Google Video... submitted on May 3... the current status is still "Video is verified; stay tuned - it will be live shortly"... 31 days and counting.
The Renaissance Wedding last Sunday was a hot 90+ degree day... I have 4 hours of video footage and Bernadette took about 800 still pictures. The website page turned from a pre-wedding countdown to the post-wedding videos... access it via the site's menu > Living Projects > Renaissance Wedding page.... or use this direct link... 
The Photo Story 3 tutorial for MaximumPC is due for submittal by Monday... I'll finish it up right after I distribute this newsletter.
.... back to the main topic...

Vista Build 5384
Movie Maker
Collection with Test Files
The first thing I did was gather a batch of 23 assorted files... asf, avi, flv, mp3, mpg, rm, wma, and wmv... copying them from my XP laptop.
I made a new collection named 'Test Files, and dragged and dropped the whole folder from My Computer into the collection.
The batch all came into the new folder... no new collections are automatically created for each of the videos.
20 of the 23 made it. The Flash and Real Media files didn't, as expected.
Note the file names under the thumbnails at the right... they are all date/time stamps... not the file names from the file manager.
Below is the same list of files in my file manager... MM2 uses the same file names you see in your file manager, but Vista doesn't... it uses date/time stamp info. To see the file name, you need to either linger over a thumbnail and let the tool tip pop up with the duration and file name, or check the clip's properties to see the full path/name.
Test File List
Another thing different is the icons used for different file types such as music files versus video clips... MM2 uses different ones similar to the file browser view at the left, while Vista uses a generic document icon for any file type.
My batch of test files included 3 very odd sized files, ones I use on my website... I marked the above screen shots to show that when the thumbnails display them right, the preview monitor doesn't. And when they look messed up in the thumbnail, they look right in the monitor. All 3 play at the wrong shape in WMP10 on XP, but look right in WMP11 on Vista. 
Maybe I'm the only one who uses such extremely odd shapes, but you might have occasion to use a file that is off-standard.
The imported files included an MP3 and 3 MPEG files, which worked fine.

I selected all 20 of the test clips in the collection and moved them to the project...
Note that the tool tip info shows the same file name as the clip in the collection, not the real file name that shows in collection's tool tip. Unless you rename the clips in the collection, you'll have only date/time stamp names in the project.
I saved the project file, one with a 15 minute overall duration.
The project preview looked and sounded good, not counting the distortions resulting from the odd sized videos. 
Full screen project previewing shows the full quality of the source files... my system kept up with the audio, but the video wasn't as smooth as it would be with a better video card or system. For now, it's fine.
Movie Maker didn't provide any feedback about the name of the project I was working on... no 'Test Project' showed where it usually does in MM2.

Rendering the Movie
I opted for the biggest and best choice, and the biggest rendering challenge... Windows Media HD 1080 (7.8 Mbps)... Movie Maker said it would need 882 MB to make the 1440x1080 sized movie... it took a couple minutes to size it up, forecast a 78 minute rendering time...
Playing SquareThere were no video effects or transitions, and no titles. Except for the large output size, it's a fairly easy rendering task.
I had mixed widescreen and standard movies and stories, and had Movie Maker's option set at standard 4:3. The pixel dimensions of the rendering choice of 1440x1080 is 4:3.
I really didn't care how things looked... more wondering how easily and well Movie Maker worked when given an assorted batch of source files.
The rendering too 75 minutes. The file size was 818 MB, a bit less than the forecast. 
My system has a 3.0 GHz CPU and 1 GB of RAM...

Playback in WMP 
Playback in Vista's WMP11 showed the individual clips looking different in terms of black borders... standard sized clips such as the Big Ben story were squares with borders, while widescreen source files played at 4:3.
This wasn't a test of the playback aspect ratio or sizes... just noting in passing what I see. The bottom line was the rendering went well and the playback looked and sounded great.
Movie Maker in Vista still works... let's go onto Windows DVD Maker.

Add Files to DVD MakerVista Build 5384
Windows DVD Maker
The first step is to add some files to use as inputs...
I started with the HD 1440x1080 movie that was just made... and then dragged the same batch of source files used to make it in Movie Maker.
You can see My Computer in the background of the screen shot at the right that the file names in DVD Maker align with those in the file managers, not the date/time stamps as they appear in Movie Maker.
The image at the right shows the feedback from Windows DVD Maker after the batch was dragged and dropped. A well written message, and confirms the issues with the 3 files that didn't make it into Movie Maker.

Files in DVD Maker
DVD Maker thumbnails try to adapt to the image sizes, but some are too wide, too thin, off-based totally for odd-sized input files... whatever.
As disposable temporary items, there are no issues other than for the sake of neatness.
Note the reading at the bottom of the window... where it says there's 120 minutes of total room on the DVD... better than the one hour limit of many disc making apps.

With Minimal to No Preps
Burn the Disc...
I had submitted a request for a project-saving feature, so I was checking for it.... but didn't find one. I put little efforts into making choices worth saving, and I was eager to burn and watch the disc.
After selecting the style, I skipped the preview and pressed the start burn button.
2 hrs, 20 minutes later the disc drawer popped open and DVD Maker asked if I wanted another copy.
Disc Ready
I won't say yes or no until I check the first one.

DVD Playback
on my XP Laptop
My Vista system burns to DVD+R discs and my laptop to DVD-R ones... as Vista made the disc, I go to the XP system to check it.
Here it is on my laptop playing in InterVideo WinDVD... the main menu window first... with some motion previews.
The Play button takes you through the videos in sequence. The Scenes button takes you to the sub-menus.
If you think these still shots look pretty cool, wait till you see it in action playing on the DVD. The choices of styles in Windows DVD Maker are outstanding... by the way, the video being previewed here is the parade at the Renaissance wedding on Sunday.
DVD Main Window
The next picture shows one of the 'Scenes' sub-menus, each a 6 pack of 'buttons' to click on, to play the movie or story files used as inputs. 
There are a few of these sub-menu screens. With 6 to a window, additional sub-menu's are added as needed... the left and right arrows move you among the sub-menus, while the up arrow gets you back to the main menu.
DVD Sub-Menu
Windows DVD Maker works too...

Conclusions and Closing
I'm pleased to see how well Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker in Vista work at this point in the beta phase....
A little more work is needed on Movie Maker's user interface... feedback about which project is open, and file names that align with those used in file managers. I'll be submitting formal suggestions to Microsoft.
As more builds roll out, and Vista gets closer to final release, I'll do newsletters with lots more depth for both Movie Maker and DVD Maker.

Have a great week...