Subdividing an Overly Complex
The subject has been with us since Movie Maker 2.0 was released. MM2 gave
us the ability to add neat video effects and transitions, but with those
features came increased demands on our computer's memory.
We can add RAM and tweak virtual memory settings to get more, but I've
watched memory usage during lots of renderings and have
yet to see Movie Maker use more than 2 GB... when it gets to that
level, it stalls or crashes. I think the programmers who made Movie Maker
assumed 2 GB was more than enough.
Adding memory will often make it reach that hurdle quicker but do nothing
to help you get over it. If that's the case, it's time to sub-divide the
project and successfully render it in parts. Then assemble the parts and
save the final movie.
It's become a popular remedy for issues about rendering a movie, maybe too
much so. Sometimes it's not the complexity of the project being the real
issue... but for this newsletter let's assume it is.
One of my standard services is to do the sub-dividing for those who
don't know how, or prefer to have someone else do it for them. I've yet
to come across one that couldn't be subdivided, rendered and
Let's look at two projects I've subdivided for others. I'd
rather use real-world cases than make something up.
One of them is a wedding project of over 2 hours. You
don't need any of the source files to open someone else's project... you can see
the titles and title overlays, but most of the clips will show the familiar
big red X's.
The other is a soccer project, about 8 times
shorter in playing duration than the wedding video project. It's a bit
over 26 minutes.
A quick look at the two shows similar complexity in terms of the
numbers of things in the project. The wedding project is obviously made from
video clips, as the audio track associated with the video is as full as the
video track... video clips have associated audio but still pictures don't. The
soccer video is a slide-show of still pix, with hardly any associated
Another big difference is in transitions. The wedding video hardly has
only a couple, but the soccer slide show looks like it uses
a transition at every possible location.
They each have about the same number of audio/music clips and almost
no title overlays.
... before getting into it
further, a note...
Vacation Corner... we're putting
the finishing touches on our plans and starting to round up the
things we're taking. I was able to change the August 24th trip to bypass a
stop in London. We now have a direct flight from Chicago to Zurich.
.... back to the main
When I get an 'overly complex' project to
subdivide, I first do an overall assessment to see if it's the right approach,
and to see how feasible it is.
I'll spot check the location and type of source
files being used. If video clips are MPG files I'll ask about their source...
to be sure we're not dealing with MPEG-2 files. Even without the source
files, the properties of the clips in the Movie Maker project show their file
location and full name.
The wedding project used mostly
video clips with .wmv extensions.
and music files with .wav
Of course, as I'm PapaJohn and not the one who sent the project file,
it'll look for the personally associated files in my
After passing the source file checks... the
next review is for convenient points to split the
Notes about the Wedding
The wedding project had an overall duration of 2
hrs, 7 minutes, 2.93 seconds. The sum of the parts needed to add
up to that when the dividing was finished and the rendered parts were in the
final project for assembly. If they don't add up to a total duration very
close to the original, you need to check things to see what
Keep a copy of the original complex
project file to check against as you create the sub-projects.
The figure at the right shows
a clean break point at the half way
mark... two video clips with no transition between them, and a change
in music files at the same point, with no audio fading from one to the
Notes about the Soccer
The project had a duration of 26 minutes,
38.33 seconds. It was a typical slide-show, JPG images with durations of
exactly 5 seconds each, and with a different transition between each.
The closest clean break I could find about
mid-way was this one at just over 19 minutes. There was no transition used
between a title clip and the following video clip... but splitting the
project there would be right in the middle of a music file, and audio blips are
much worse than slight visual ones.
With 7 music pieces in the project,
and no clear space between them, it appeared that one of
the sub-projects would be the music track. If I saved that first
I wouldn't have to think about how any of the divisions would
effect the audio.
Touch any of the video clips on
the timeline with your mouse, use the Control-A keys to expand the selection to
all of them, and press the Delete key... you'll have
this subproject, just the music. Save it as a new project file with a name
With the music in its own project,
re-open the original project and strip away the music.
Touch one of the songs with the
mouse, use Control-A to expand the selection to all the music, and then the
Save the project to new file. At this
point you'll have 3 project files... the full original, the visual part
only, and the music.
In some cases that might be enough of
a subdivision. Render the video and music to separate files and then bring
them in as individual clips and combine them in a final rendering.
But that would be too easy. Let's
assume it's not sufficient and break the video into two or more
If we split the visual at the 19
minute mark as shown earlier, it'd be easy to combine the two parts of the video
Notes about the Audio/Music
Music and sound effects on the
audio/music track can always be treated as a separate sub-project. The
rendered audio track is often the same duration as the video track. Seeing them
come together and ending at the same place in the final project provides
some assurance that the dividing is going well.
you strip away all the clips on the video track, and all the title overlay
clips, leaving just the audio/music... rendering it to a movie will result in an
audio WMA file.
Use the high quality choice and save
the rendered audio/music track for the final assembly.
Notes about Title Overlays
Check the position of the first
title overlay of the group you're going to copy from the master project to a new
sub-project, so you can align it with the clips in the new project.
The soccer project had no title
overlays, and there was only one in the wedding project. It was easy to
position because it started at the same time as the final video and
Basic copy/paste skills are all you
need to move batches of clips from an overly complex project into new
sub-projects, and to position them as needed.
The steps to easily copy a batch of
clips from any of the tracks into a new project are:
select the first clip of the group
hold the shift key down as you move
to the last clip in the group and select it... all of the clips in the group
will be selected. Don't worry if you don't get enough visual feedback... keep
going and assume it'll happen right
use the Control-C keys in combo to
copy the batch of clips to the computer's clipboard. You won't see anything
until you paste them into the new project
open a new Movie Maker project
(File > New Project) and paste the batch of clips into it... touch the
timeline with your mouse before pasting to be sure they'll go to the
right place. Use the Control-V keys in combo to do the pasting
if you're pasting a batch of video clips, they'll all be snuggled to
the left... if you're copying a set of audio/music clips or title overlays,
you may need to position them on the timeline. After the pasting, zoom far
enough into the timeline so you can see the starting point for the batch. You
can drag them as a group for gross-tuning, and use the nudge left or
right feature as needed for fine-tuning.
If you haven't done it yet, when you
have nothing else to do, try copying/pasting a batch of clips from a
project into a new one to see how it works. Fine tune your skills by
practicing as needed. It's easier to do than to write about
Render the Parts.... and do the final assembly.
Render each of the sub-projects to DV-AVI files (or high quality WMV), and
import them into Movie Maker with the auto-splitting option unchecked so they
come in as single clips.
Put the parts on the timeline and render the complete finished
project using the quality profile you need. High quality WMV files need the most
memory, DV-AVI files need a moderate amount, and low quality WMV files need
Conclusions and Closing
Subdividing an overly complex project
into renderable parts is fairly easy... it just takes a high level
of copy/paste skills, and a disciplined/organized approach to make any
notes needed about which clips start where on the
If you need to split a project such
that the final assembly involves adding transitions, make a note of the
transition names and their durations. I'll include such instructions with
the sub-projects, saying something like ".... between parts C and D, add a fade
transition of 5.4 seconds....". It's easier if there isn't a transition
involved, but sometimes there is.
Calibrate the computer that is doing
the rendering by splitting the project into just a couple parts and
rendering one of them. If it can't get through one part, split that
part again... and again... and again as needed. I had one project that needed to
be split into parts that were each less than 5 minutes, even with my 2 GB
of RAM. Once you determine the size and complexity of the sub-project that
can be successfully rendered, you can do the project carving as
I haven't mentioned how much RAM a
computer needs to successfully do the renderings. It's not really
important. If it's your computer that's doing it, you just need small enough
projects to get fully over the rendering hurdles with the quality choice
you need. The goal is to render it on your computer, not mine or
With our vacation to
Europe less than two weeks away, I'm phasing out of newsgroup
and forum postings for a while... next weeks newsletter will be
the last one until I return.
Movie Maker and Photo Story will be
on my mind as I shoot video throughout the trip, and Bernadette will
have 5 and 7 megapixel cameras for the still shots.
Have a great week...