PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #122 - Oct 28, 2006
Pixelan's PanZoom Maker

Pixelan's new PanZoom Maker tool is great... I'm a fan of easy to make customized effects that are specific to one use and disposable. This new tool meets my criteria.
It's much like Photo Story 3 for motion settings... tell it where to start and end, and it'll take care of the xml code behind the scenes. It'll be in your collection of Video Effects for you to apply to your project clip.
You can use it for still pix as I did in my first test, but where it really excels is on video clips. For a sample video clip, click the link or the picture.
PanZoom Maker - with combo frames
The white selection outlines are by PanZoom Maker... the red ones are 'targets' made in to use as a job-aid. I'll show you a bit later how I approached making the sample clip.
To start, here's an extract from a Pixelan mini 'press release', a forum post. 


9/11/06 post on
Just a quick note here to let forum folks know we've greatly improved and expanded our effects add-ons for Movie Maker. For the first time, we've brought a lot of our high-end code from our plug-ins for other editing systems into MM.... (and)... we've made a cool PanZoom Maker 1.0 tool that is a visual, non-XML way for users to create/insert custom Pan/Zooms in MM. (And yes, it's XML is editable too, for those of you who want to dig into that.)

To learn more, please go here:
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... Let me know if you have questions. I'll do my best to stay in touch here for a while and discuss these plug-ins or answer questions in the forum as much as you want. We'd also love to hear suggestions for further enhancing our PanZoom Maker tool. But we are heavily at work on several new projects, so sometimes I lose track of checking in on cool places like here. ; ) Thanks for reading.

Michael Feerer
Pixelan Software
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Michael's post was made while I was on vacation, and I'm just now catching up with the new tool and changes in the SpiceFX packs. I'll cover PanZoom Maker here, and changes in the SpiceFX Packs in issue #125 in a few weeks.
PanZoom Maker
The utility reminds me of the Transition Maker tool I sell... a stand-alone one that works on the sidelines. When you're ready to use the customized set of 25 pan/zoom effects, click on the big button to create and roll out (or modify if it's already there) the xml code that Movie Maker 2 uses. Restart Movie Maker so it reads it as it loads, and your new or changed pan/zoom effects will be in the collection. 
PanZoom Maker
The Help button opens this Pixelan website... which points out the features, and explains them enough to start using the tool.
I'll take it for a test drive, first using a still picture in a movie project, and then a movie clip.
... before getting into it further, a few notes...

Vista Corner... I just read the first published book about Vista... Introducing Windows Vista by William R. Stanek, published by Microsoft Press. It's 300 pages includes one page about Movie Maker, four about Windows Photo Gallery, and nothing on DVD Maker. It was written with an early beta version and DVD Maker probably wasn't included.
Internet Explorer 7 was released... I was first made aware of it by a couple newsgroup posts saying that Movie Maker was crashing after the upgrade to IE7. There's a new section on my Crashes and Hangs page. After doing the upgrade myself with no ill effects, I've yet to see another post about the issue.
The Europe 301 project includes a new video greeting card of Florence. It runs less than a minute and is my first video on the newer version of mydeo's streaming service. At 340 Kbps, it's less than half the bitrate of the files I usually put on file-downloading servers. The mydeo service is the subject of next week's newsletter, and a tutorial about making such video cards will be in newsletter #126 to help with making holiday cards. 
I borrowed an old 35mm slide scanner from a friend (Chuck Bentley, who seems to be making it into these newsletters more and more)... some of my thousands of slides from the early 70's are seeing light again for the first time in many years... scans by the Minolta Dimage Scan Speed are as large as 4032x2678 pixels, a bit over 10 megapixels. They'll be perfect for Photo Stories of the olden days.
.... back to the main topic...

PanZoom Maker
PanZoom Maker, being a stand-alone tool, has its relationship only with Movie Maker 2... with no output except the xml file for MM2's collection of special video effects. Let's look at it in combo with Movie Maker.
with notes
The entry field for the effect's name shows in the collection to help you correlate the effect with your work in PanZoom Maker. The extra notes are just for the PanZoom project file. Both are extremely helpful.
When you Press the big rectangular button under the right panel in the main working window, the set of 25 custom Pan/Zoom settings are packaged into an xml file and placed in the Movie Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX folder... in a file named PixelanPanZoomCustomPack.xml
If there's a file there already, it'll be replaced by an updated one.

About the Installation
For most users, the PanZoom Maker 1.1 program is available by double-clicking a desktop shortcut added by the installation.
For the 'under-the-hood' geeks, it goes into the C:\Program Files\Pixelan\SpiceFX Packs 3.0 folder, and the executable is PanZoom Maker 1.1.exe.
A fully-functional demo is included as part of the SpiceFX Packs 3.0 demo available at Pixelan's web site. You can try it for an unlimited time, but an X will appear over the effects

Cropped ImageAbout Making Custom Settings
My first test was with a still picture...
The working viewing window is 240x180 pixels... which is a standard 4:3 aspect ratio. As I shot my trip to Europe in widescreen mode, I'll explore it to see what if any effect the MM2 project setting has.
I cropped part of an image of a couple little boats on the Arno river in Florence... to check the pan from one boat to the other in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio versus using the same effect with the same image in a widescreen 16:9 project. I added the red boxes in Paint to use as targets in PanZoom maker and to be able to check how well the effect aligns with the planned selections.
Test Image in PanZoomI didn't pay attention to the size of the cropped image... just eye-balled it to somewhat align with either a standard or widescreen movie. The pixel dimensions of the image were 329x173. 
The first thing I'll do is open this image in PanZoom Maker so I can set the settings with it rather than guessing where they start and end, and what size the selections should be.
Here's what it looked like in PanZoom Maker when finished. If I get from the white outline at the left to the white outline at the right, it'll be fine as the boats will be centered.
From there, I imported the picture into MM2, put it on the timeline, applied the custom pan/zoom effect, and took snapshots of the first and last frames of the project's clip.

Standard mode resultsTest results...
Something didn't work well
Note the heavy pixelization introduced by the tight zooming. It's not caused by the Pixelan tool... it's the result of how Movie Maker handles such things.
Widescreen mode results
With the same starting image, a comparable Photo Story 3 clip would be far superior in visual quality. But PanZoom Maker and MM2 working together can do it with video source files, while PS3 can't.

Retest... retest...
What happened in the first test? Was it the tool or operator error? The retest shows it as the operator.
For the first retest, I started over with the image resized to standard 640x480 pixels, and then used it in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio movie. The results were perfect... here's the first and last frames from the video.
Similarly, starting with a resized image at 864x480 aligns it with a widescreen 16:9 project, and the results are also 'spot-on'.
Pixelan's online PanZoom usage instructions don't tell you about the input source file sizes... the image in the tool expands to fill the working window... each of my 3 pictures - 329x173, 640x480, and 864x480 looked exactly the same in the tool.... and generated exactly the same xml code for the custom pan/zoom effect.
It's a user issue... knowing how the different source file sizes will effect the results. You can do iterative changes using the PanZoom tool and Movie Maker, or you can pre-plan it by aligning the image in the working window of PanZoom Maker with your project. 

About Saving a PanZoom Project and Reopening an Existing One
You can save a project file using the Save Button... and open a saved one using Load.
If you decide to switch to another PanZoom project file while working on one, you can load the one you want... but PanZoom won't ask you if you want to save any changes made to the one you have open. Be careful not to invest a lot of effort in tweaking a project file, and when interrupted to quickly open another... forget to save your work.
Like Movie Maker, the tool does not backup your project file... if it's important enough to be backed up, you need to do it.   
When you open PanZoom Maker, it automatically opens the last project file you were working on... and it won't note which one is open. It seems pretty standard for Windows apps to show the file name in the upper left border... maybe the next version will add it.
The Clear option resets the settings, effect names, and extra notes... not to some defaults or blank text fields, but to what they were when you opened the project file. I made a project file called blank template with no added effect names and notes, so I could use it to start a fresh project.

About the Custom Effects in Movie Maker
Each of the 25 custom pan/zoom effects in Movie Maker use the same thumbnail. If you make 25 custom ones without notes, you might be well off keeping PanZoom with its project file open, and use it to check what the effect is doing, as a supplement to seeing it in the preview window of MM2.
If the MM2 preview window used your project image instead of the default sample, it would reduce the need for such notes, but it doesn't.  
Custom Pan-Zoom Icons
The xml code flows from the PanZoom project... to the custom xml file that's saved when you add the effects to Movie Maker... to the selected clip(s) in the movie project... to the saved movie project file.
If you want to change a setting in one of the custom effects, you need to repeat the process all the way through, and do an extra step of removing the previously added effect. A movie clip can have as many as 6 effects, so adding a tweaked pan/zoom without removing the previously applied one would result in two of them in the clip and the xml code embedded in the project file. Movie Maker won't change already added effects to align with changed settings in the PanZoom file.

Sample Use on a Video Clip
The opening gave a link to a sample video clip that plays first as shot by the camcorder, and then again as adjusted with a PanZoom Maker effect. If you didn't view it on the way in it's a good time to go back and watch.
... here's the link again: sample
My first test of the tool was with a still picture. For panning/zooming of those, my favorite tool is Photo Story 3.... but PS3 can't handle video files. That's where PanZoom Maker has quickly become a key new tool.
For a test run with a video clip, here's the starting and ending frames of a 17 second video clip from our recent vacation. As I shot it I was panning from left to right, noting the passing police and ending up with a couple fairly famous statues.
Starting and Ending Frames
It's hard enough to pan well when shooting, nevermind try to do well at both panning and zooming at the same time. But now, when looking at the clip in Movie Maker, I thought I'd try adding the zoom to the pan by using PanZoom Maker... to focus more on the police at the beginning and the sculptures at the end.
Jumping ahead to the end result so you can compare the before and after... here's the new starting and ending frames when the PanZoom effect was added... exactly what I wanted.
Revised start and end frames
Here's how I got to it... by using what I call a 'job-aid' (a term from my past).

One of my personal preferences is to use a job-aid  when determining where to position the starting and ending points for the clip in PanZoom Maker... here are the steps I took.
  1. Trimmed the clip in the MM2 project to get the frames I wanted for the movie project
  2. Used Movie Maker to take snapshots of the first and last frames
  3. Imported the two snapshots into as 2 layers... the ending frame over the starting one
  4. Changed the opacity setting of the ending layer (double-click on the layer to open the settings window) to 114 so I could see both frames at once
  5. Saved the compound image as a JPG
  6. Used the Paint app to add red rectangles over my selected starting and ending points... the police and the statues
  7. Opened the newly annotated image in PanZoom Maker (it would be good if PanZoom Maker was tweaked to let me drag and drop an image into the working window from my file manager... instead of having to drill down to it)

With the job-aid in the working window of PanZoom Maker, it was easy to select the starting and ending positions and appropriate sizes for the effect... the white rectangular overlays.
PanZoom Maker - with combo frames
In my mind, when viewing the clip in the project, the police were in the middle or at the left and the statues at the right.
But the job-aid in PanZoom Maker showed the starting selection to be closer to the right and the ending selection of the statues closer to the center.
That's because the video clip already includes some panning... and why it's easier for me to work with the job-aid in PanZoom Maker.
It's a trade-off. PanZoom Maker special effects can be tweaked and revised. But you have to close Movie Maker, re-do them in the tool, open MM2 and the project file, remove the previous effect and apply the revised one... doing it over and over in an iterative manner until the setting is just right for your needs.
Even with the job-aid I had to do one iteration related to the size of the source files in MM2 versus PanZoom Maker... The video clip is a DV-AVI file shot in widescreen mode, and the MM2 snapshots from the timeline used for PanZoom Maker are 424x240 pixels...
It feels pretty good to be so close with the first pass, which makes the second pass something to look forward to rather than a source of frustration.

Conclusions and Closing
The PanZoom tool is a great addition to my tool box and I expect to be using it a lot. When hand-holding a camcorder, it's best to avoid panning and zooming... especially when computer editing tools like this one can do it so much better.
Limit the zooming to a moderate amount so the pixelization doesn't get too heavy, unless you want it that way.
I want to thank Michael Feerer and Pixelan for reviewing a draft copy of this newsletter. It's a rare case that I provide a draft to anyone for review, but Michael has always been great to work with and I always appreciate his comments. 

Have a great week...