PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #124 - Nov 11, 2006
a Mass of Vacation Videos and Pictures

Browsing the 9,200+ still pix and 20 hours of video footage from our recent Europe 301 vacation shows that getting them into movie and story projects will be one of my most challenging projects... or by default they'll sit where they are doing nothing, like old boxes of slides, negatives and film reels.
I'd been 'testing the waters' since we returned, making a few small stories and movies, bringing some to show the kids and grands, and laying the groundwork for a vacation website. I'd been thinking of how and when to get fully immersed... keep walking tentatively into the shallow end or jump into the deep.
Armed with a new 500 GB external USB2 drive, I took the plunge this week. The way I'm doing it deserves a newsletter, as I'm using multiple collection database files. First some background.

the Photographer and Videographer
Bernadette used two cameras, one with 7 and the other 5 megapixels, moving the files from the flash cards and memory sticks to the tablet PC as we traveled, and from the tablet to an external USB2 drive when we got home.
She's a Photoshop and Painter expert, and uses the pictures for her projects. She also does 'touch-up' services for those I use in stories and movies. Her way of organizing picture files and working projects is to use very descriptive folder and file names.
I'm the video guy with a different approach to naming and organizing. I put stickers on the mini-DV tapes as I take them out of the cellophane, assigning sequential tape numbers with no descriptions. The Europe 301 vacation footage is on tapes #115 to #134. I make notes about the content in my personal database, and don't re-use tapes.
I don't change the camcorder clock as I travel, so time code data always reflects Kalamazoo time (Eastern). In addition to the video footage, I snapped a few hundred 2 megapixel pictures with the camcorder's snapshot feature... which moved daily from the memory stick to the tablet.

Here at home during the day, Bernadette works downstairs with her desktop computer and the tablet while I work upstairs with my desktops and laptop. We routinely pass files via our network's wireless router.
We spend 3 hours most every night at our Barnes & Noble store... with the tablet and laptop, and whatever work we carry on them. Files and projects routinely and often move back and forth between the portable computers and the desktops, and between internal and external drives. Red-X's for moved source files are routine.
However we manage the source files, it has it fit within our lifestyles and personal styles.

the Goal and first step
I want all vacation pictures and video files instantly available for browsing and movie projects by being in a Movie Maker collection, but I don't want a single huge collection database with 10,000 clips. Importing large video files (with auto clip creation) and batches of still pix takes 10 or more minutes for each, not instantly available.
Bernadette wants the originals of all still pictures on her computer(s)... I'm happy with copies.
To work with multiple collection databases, I made a set of them in MM1 to use in MM2 as needed. After many hours of importing the source files into MM1 collections, it takes only seconds to import any of the MM1 collections into MM2. 
... before getting into the details, here's a few notes...

My impromptu short survey gave me lots to mull over. I sent the request after receiving an appreciated email from a long term subscriber, saying in part: "... the last couple of newsletters I feel like I'm a kindergardener trying to take advanced calculus.  Maybe you should have two newsletters, one for the beginners and intermediates and another one for the techies that are into the advanced placement arena.... I'm probably an exception but I thought you might want to test the waters and see if you're hitting your target market....". I took his advice and sent out the poll.
Thanks for the wave of responses. Over 80% said 'great, keep up the good work'... but on the other hand, some affirmed the feelings of the emailer and included some good comments or suggestions. I don't see a full change of course coming or doing 2 weekly newsletters, but I'm thinking of ways to make improvements. I'll give a full rundown of the poll results next week, along with my plans to change.  
Vista Corner... it was Released for Manufacturing the other day... it'll be time for another newsletter after I install the version that was released.
a Friend - I bumped into someone the other day who was the first person to attend one of my Movie Maker training classes... years ago. I'd helped him lots since then, even building his website. He was excited about finally moving on to another movie editing app... he bought a Mac and went to the big Apple store in Chicago and attended a class in iMovie.
.... back to the main topic...

Vacation Source Files
To get the still pix, I borrowed Bernadette's external USB2 drive, plugged it into my laptop, and copied the folders to my big external drive. That did it lots quicker than doing them over our wireless network. I then rotated any that were taken in portrait mode, about 2,000 of them. The stills are JPG images and we rotate them using IrfanView's lossless rotation feature. 
I captured each of the video tapes using MM2's 'rewind and get the full tape' feature, with the option to auto-create clips turned off.   
At one time back in the days of MM1, my collection database had grown to about 11,000 clips and it took over 5 minutes to start Movie Maker as it had to check each source file as it opened. I've not built one that big in MM2, but I've run into too many cases of MM2 wiping my collection database clean when I didn't want it to. For my Europe 301 project, a set of smaller collection databases build and maintained in MM1, and used in MM2 is a good approach.
Still Pix Folders
The DV-AVI files are the backups of the original tapes... and if I lose a DV-AVI file, I can re-capture it from the tape, even if it's being used as a source file for projects.
The original files of the still pix are on Bernadette's external drive, and my set is the backup. 

Preparing Still Pix Before Importing
We rotated the couple thousand pictures that were shot in portrait mode... before my importing.

Building Collections in Movie Maker 1
The pix and video files were ready for importing into Movie Maker collections... into the set of MM1 collection databases. Here are the steps I took.
Step 1... Made the normal MM1 collection database folder shareable and easy to reach.
Right click on the folder with the MM1 collection database and select Properties. 
Make the folder 'shareable' and give it a short easy name like MM1. This makes it accessible as the MM1 folder on the Hummer laptop, saving the need to drill down through layers of folders and subfolders.
Opt to let network users change the files, so you can write over the current collection database with a different one from the set in the Europe 301 library.
Share Property of MM1 Folder
You don't need to have a multiple computer network to get the benefit of setting up the sharing this way. You'll see in a minute.

Step 2... Make a vacation collection library, a starter set of MM1 collection database files
I made a set of sub-folders in the Video Tapes folder of the external drive, one for each of the main stops of the vacation... Alps, Florence, Istanbul, etc.
I kicked each off with a copy the MM1 collection database file that was empty, copying it from c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\Application Data\Microsoft\Movie Maker.
It's these folders and the MM1 collection database files in them that I'll refer to as the collection library for the vacation files.

Step 3... Make an associated set of batch files, one for each of the collection database files in the library.
A batch file is a simple text file that runs when you double-click it. Your computer does whatever you tell it to in the file. Run the batch file when MM1 is closed or it won't be able to copy over the database file currently in use.
Make a batch file using Notepad... type the command line and save the file to whatever name you want, but with a .bat extension.
When I double-click the Get Alps.bat file, it copies the MM1 collection database for the Swiss Alps part of our vacation from the Alps folder in the library on the external drive to the laptop (named Hummer)... see that it's putting it into the folder named MM1, the advantage of having set it up in step 1 for easy access. Here's a chart to help you see it all... 
Batch File
By double-clicking on any of the batch files, I get the associated collection database file in a split second.

Step 4... Import source files into the MM1 collections.
Run one of the batch files to get the latest collection from the library. I'll do the one for Istanbul.
Open MM1 and note that it's now using the Istanbul collections. Import more source files, arrange things, rename collections and clips... do all the normal things you do in collections.
When you close MM1 it offers to make a backup of the collections file... whenever it offers, I say yes and point it to the original file in the library on the external drive. That provides the latest copy where I want it for the next use.
Backup MM1 Database
The collection tree opens in MM1 in the fully collapsed view... not the fully expanded view in MM2.

Step 5... Use the MM1 Collections in MM2
MM2 Collections
MM2 can import MM1 collection files. I select them as needed from the vacation library on the external drive. Import more than one if you want. It takes lots of time to build a collection, but only seconds to import it into MM2 ready for use.
The collections open in the fully expanded view, as shown at the right for my Alps collection file...
It's convenient to have both MM1 and MM2 open at the same time when browsing clips in MM2. If you want to rename a clip, fix a typo, move one to a different collection, delete some, etc... use the window with MM1 running and make the change so it'll be saved in the collection file in the library when closing it.
The cost in computer memory to have MM1 open in addition to MM2 is minimal. The picture below shows open processes ranked by memory usage when I have both MM1 and MM2 open with the same collections in each. MM1 is using only 9% of the memory that MM2 is using.
Memory Usage
I run MM1 and MM2 together often, sometimes using the same source files. I've never run into a clashing issue.
Having the library of collections on my external drive means that neither MM1 nor MM2 is using the 'original'... which kind of frees me up to play with the clips in the collections, not being concerned about what I'm doing to the master files. For example, if I want to crop a segment of music from a clip and save it as an audio file, I can split it in the collection, put the segment on the timeline and render it to a WMA file. If my temporary splits or other changes in MM2 get out of hand, I'll close MM2, delete the collection database and start over.
My feeling of freedom to chop up or move around clips in the collections of MM2, with the safety net of getting another copy of the collection file from the library if I go overboard, helps me when making projects... helps shift to doing creative things without worrying about the administrative end of preserving things that I've invested much time in.

That's it for setting up the Europe 301 collections... now to put them to good use by making projects.

Conclusions and Closing
I've fluctuated over the years... sometimes having one large collection file, other times having many small ones, and most recently just working with a clean slate and importing what I need at the moment. The right way to work depends on the project, how stable MM2 is (mine is very stable... I wipe out collections by doing a system restore and then undoing it, nothing to do with Movie Maker... testing new versions or different software that results in problems).
Something told me that, before jumping into the mass of Europe 301 source files, it was time to not risk losing the dozens of hours it's taking to create the library of collections.
I'd forgotten how useful that MM1 option of backing up the collection file is... wish it were part of MM2. I keep telling users about the need to backup their collection and project files, but there's not an easy way for newbies to do it.

Have a great week...