PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #109 - June 24, 2006

Summer Fun - an Old-Fashioned Drive-in



An old drive-in is a fun summer theme, at least for those of us who used to go to them... or still do.
Two regular posters on the forums set the stage for this issue. The Doctor a has an old picture of a drive-in on his website. Dominator was asking about an animated stamp that would leave an imprint and then go off-screen.
As a fun tutorial exercise, I used both ideas to make a video clip for this issue. Here's the link: 
... before getting into it further, a few short notes...

Vista Corner... There's an Extensibility SDK available as a download for those with an MSDN subscription. It lets you build custom transitions and effects for Vista's Movie Maker on an XP system. I played with it a bit, made my first custom XML file, and ported it to my Vista system... it worked. The SDK includes a test utility to let you check how it works without having a Vista system. It's a programmer's environment (which I'm not) and the test utility is working kind of flaky for me... but it's the beginning of custom items for Vista.

My first for-sale video on Google Video... submitted on May 3... still has the status of "Video is verified; stay tuned - it will be live shortly"... that's almost 2 months now, and I'm beginning to wonder if the process is for real, at least for us home movie makers.

The editing phase of the Renaissance Wedding is in the home-stretch. There are 12 videos that total 50 minutes now online (the Living Projects > Renaissance Wedding page), and just a few more to go. I'm shooting for their first month's anniversary to have them all online. 
Wedding VideosI'm starting to work on the DVD project. The first renderings to DV-AVI files had audio glitches so I switched to saving them as high quality WMV files with a custom profile, which play fine.
See the file list at the right... 50 minutes of videos for a total of 3+ GB of file size... that's comparable with the MPEG-2 files on a DVD. The data rate is up at the 6 to 8 Mbps level.
Rendering the Invitation video to the new file today led me to a good exercise. The project file showed big red-X's and, when I tried browsing to the new location... there wasn't any. It was the first of the 12 videos I had made, and cleanup efforts since then included inadvertently deleting them.
The good part was an exercise in recovering from such a situation. I've been doing the capturing from tape using WinDV, with the settings such that I get a set of DV-AVI files that are auto split. Recapturing the tape today confirmed that the files get the same names, and start and stop at the same points. The new files were used by Movie Maker, complete with all the editing.... I think I'll do next week's newsletter on the subject. 
.... back to the main topic...

Let's step through the making of a clip... a cartoon playing on the drive-in screen, with a diversion early on of a stamp coming down and leaving my URL imprint of some cars... and the URL sits there through the rest of the show.
Step 1 - Round Up the Inputs
the Drive-In Picture
Drive-InThe Doctor has an Image of an Old Drive-In on his website. Right click on the picture and you'll have a 640x480 sized one that looks like his...
We can do it either way, make the screen transparent and use it as a title overlay on a video, or add the playing video on the screen by using a Picture-in-Picture approach. PIP is a rectangular approach, while a transparent cutout in an overlay can be most any shape, so I'll go with the PIP approach as the screen is a head-on rectangular view.
We'll get back to it after rounding up the other inputs...

Cinderella Cartoonthe Movie
Let's do an old-fashioned cartoon. For that I turn to The Internet Archives and it's collection of oldies-but-goodies, free to download and use.
Use the link, search for 'Popeye', browse the list, and there will be 'Popeye The Sailor Man: Ancient Fistory'... one of many available.
The site offers a number of quality choices, the highest one being MPEG-2. I go with that one and take it through a conversion process to make it into an AVI or high quality WMV. The copy I'm starting with for this tutorial is an MPEG-2 file of 142 MB, 720x480, 6-1/2 minutes...

the Stamp 
StampDominator (his handle on the forum) said he was looking for something like the image at the right... the post said "...A stamp like this being slammed down onto a piece of paper and leaving the symbol or words..."
StampHandlesI looked around the house to see if I had anything that could be used as the handle... there was a wooden handled wax sealing stamp, and a smaller wax embossing seal with initials.
I put them on the kitchen counter and, using natural light, took this picture.

Step 2 - Plan the Approach
Before putting the parts together, we'll need to do some work with the still picture, and then use it in an animation. There are always many tools to choose from, and I'll pick those I'm comfortable with, and can do the job. Here's what I see doing.
A - Use the wooden handle... it's closer to what Dominator was looking for. It'll need to be extracted from its background and a wide base made.... using Paint.NET
B - Rather than have the stamp moving in straight lines as an image overlay, I'll have it move a bit more complex in an animation... using RenderSoftVRLM... making an AVI file.
C - Add the cartoon to the drive-in screen, using a Picture-in-Picture transition with custom xml code
D - Make an image to use as a title overlay... to start when the stamp hits the cars, and continue through the movie. The image needs to do two things: flatten the cars under the stamp, and have the URL or logo that the stamp leaves behind.
E - Find a sound effect for the stamp hitting bottom.
F - Make the final assembly in Movie Maker.

Step 3 - Implement the Plan
Make BaseA - Make the Stamp...
We have the handle for the stamp, now cleaned up by making the background transparent in Paint.NET, using the magic wand and erasing tools as needed.
To make the base look like it came with the handle, I selected the rectangular part of the handle shown at the left, copied it, then pasted it into a new layer, rotated it 90 degrees, and distorted it to suit.
That's enough for a newsletter exercise. The stamp will only appear for a few seconds. If I wanted to use the image for something that showed it longer, I'd make the corners of the base a bit rounded, and add a thin black line at it's bottom so it looks more like the edge of a rubber stamp.
We're heading to Rendersoft VRLM for a more complex animation, and we'll be having it play over a background video... so at this step make a bluescreen background.
Tip: I first made the background black, but got lots of black pixel artifacts when overlaying the animated stamp onto the background video in Movie Maker... I resolved it by changing the background to blue. Blue works best in Movie Maker. 
Save the image as a BMP file to animate it in Rendersoft VRLM.

B - Make the Stamp Animation...
Open Rendersoft VRLM and insert a simple shape, an unshaded XY Plane (a square to start with).
Rendersoft - Animated Stamp
Select the Picture (PCT) icon to add the BMP file of the stamp to the plane.
Rendersoft uses a black background by default, and with black coloring of the inserted unshaded XY plane.
As the stamp background from Paint.NET is blue, change the background color of Rendersoft to align with it. Put the blue slider all the way up to 255, leaving red and green at 0. All the blueness aligns.
The picture shows where I want the stamp to be when it's crushing some cars to leave my URL.
I set the working window to about 640x480, opened the animation panel, made it 500 frames long.... so it plays slowly. You can speed it up as needed when it gets to Movie Maker.
The stamp goes down vertically at the left to where it leaves its mark, then moves up some to the right, and angles away to the upper right. It took a few keyframes in Rendersoft to define the points.
I exported it as an AVI movie file... at a frame rate of 30.... using the Cinepak compression codec. In a couple minutes I had the AVI file of 639x478 pixels. Rendersoft isn't exact about video size, but for what we're doing, this is close enough. That's why I made the animated stamp first. It's easier to align the still pictures to its location than it is to make the images first and make the animation to suit.
Animated StampUsing the Persian Chroma - non-red transition... I did a quick check in Movie Maker as the animation moved over the image of the drive-in... here it is at the frame where the stamp hits the lowest point, where I'll be flattening the cars and leaving the URL to play for the rest of the movie.
The quick check showed it looking good...
Tip: I checked each of Persian Gal's 5 chroma transitions. 'Chroma non-red' and 'Chroma white' worked well, while the other 3 didn't... see the Editing Movies > XML - Persian Section > Script Types > Compositing page for the xml code.
Positions in Paint
C - Put the Video on the Drive-in Screen...
The steps to embedding the video are:
  1. Open the 640x480 png file from the Doctor in IrfanView and resize it to 720x480. As I work with DV-AVI files for each rendering pass, and DV-AVI has a fixed size of 720x480 pixels (NTSC), determining the position of the embedded video is easiest by using a picture of that size.
  2. Copy the 720-x480 image from IrfanView to Paint... note that I tend to do all my resizings in IrfanView... you could open it directly in Paint and resize it there, but for me it's just as easy to copy from one app and paste into another. I have both apps open and routinely move images back and forth between them.
  3. Note the positions of the 4 corners of the drive-in screen...
  4. The upper left corner is the first position you need to enter in the xml code... the x distance over in pixels and the y distance down. Do a little arithmetic to determine the width and height of the screen, the other two numbers needed for the code. Here's the XML file.XML code.
  5. Open Movie Maker, put the still picture on the timeline as the first clip and the cartoon as the second.
  6. Add the PIP transition between the two, overlap the two clips enough to have the video playing over the drive-in picture. As the first clip is a still picture, you can grab its right trim handle and pull it to the right as far as needed to make its duration slightly longer than the video for full overlap. 
  7. Using this XML code doesn't show the results in the preview in Movie Maker. Render the movie and it'll be there, saving to a DV-AVI file.
At this point, the drive-in movie is playing on the screen but the stamp hasn't entered the scene yet.

D - Make an Image to Use as a Static Title Overlay...
Making start when the stamp hits the cars, and continue thru the movie. The image needs to do two things
  • flatten the cars under the stamp
  • leave the URL behind
While the Picture-in-picture works in 720x480 mode, an image overlay works at a true 4:3 aspect ratio of 640x480. Here are the steps:
  1. Use Movie Maker to overlap the animated stamp with the still picture of the drive-in. When the stamp is in its lowermost position, take a snapshot.
  2. Bring the snapshot into Paint.NET.
  3. Use the rectangle select tool to copy the base area of the stamp to a new layer... that'll be the area that'll get the URL.
  4. Flatten the cars in the rectangle by using various Effects such as Pixelate.
  5. Use the text tool to add the URL.
  6. Play with the layer properties so it looks OK when positioned over the original image of the drive-in. I used a blending mode of 'Darken' with an opacity setting of 103. Play with the layer until you think it looks OK.
  7. Save the image as a PNG file... the checkerboard area shown above will be transparent.
  8. Copy the PNG file into the Movie Maker\Shared folder named as Overlay1 if you're using my Starter Overlay Kit (see the Editing Movies > XML - Persian Section > Script Types > Custom Overlays page).

E - Find a sound effect...
... to use when the stamp flattens the cars. I picked a metal gate closing sound effect from one of my Sound Dogs packages

F - Assemble in Movie Maker and Render the Movie...
Making the final project is a minor step but important... the main video, animated stamp, and sound effect all have to come together at an appropriate time, and align. Let's focus on the 6 second segment where it all happens.
Movie Maker Project

Conclusions and Closing
My stamp wasn't what the Dominator had in mind. As often happens, one person's idea doesn't align sufficiently with another's implementation. I didn't expect it to... I wasn't making the stamp for him. It was an exercise that hopefully gave him some ideas, and served as part of this week's newsletter.
There are a number of forum regulars who are developing custom transitions and effects for anyone who asks. My approach is to freely pass along info about how to do things, but stop short of doing it for them.
Looking ahead a couple months, we'll be off to Europe from late August to late September. I'm planning on not issuing newsletters during the trip. As subscribers pay for 52 issues, not 52 weeks, it won't effect how many you get. Most encourage me to continue them as we travel, and I might, but I'd rather assume there won't be any than find myself under schedule pressure to produce them.  

Have a great week...