PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #125 - Nov 18, 2006
Pixelan Transitions and Effects v3.0

Happy HolidaysMy latest video doodle turned into a holiday greeting... a bit on the early side. Use the link or click on the picture to view it.
To extend the wishes further, Cary Marsh, the CEO and founder of mydeo, sent a special link offering newsletter readers 50% off the regular one year subscription rate... an offer valid only until December 31st... it would make a great holiday gift for family members and friends who make movies or stories.


I'd been planning an issue about the latest version of Pixelan effects and transitions for weeks now, but every time I started I found it a difficult subject to write about. How can you adequately describe in words, pictures, or even video clips the infinite variety of visual content you can achieve by selecting not just one effect or transition, but multiple ones. 
For effects you can apply as many as 6 of the same or different ones, and change the sequence they are applied to the clip... sequence changes alone can change the visual results dramatically. Transitions can look so different when you adjust the time it's applied; the same transition that lingers on for 10 seconds can be great, while the same one at the default 1-1/4 seconds might look poor. 
The Pixelan website has expanded lots, in attempts to show what each effect and transition does. It's doing it with either the sample images that Movie Maker uses, or a new sample from Pixelan. The expansion helps a lot, but still falls far short of getting you excited about what they will look like with your videos and your own still pix. 
Many of Pixelan's thumbnails that show up in the collections in MM2 give added insights into the effect or transition, but your system typically uses the same two Microsoft sample pictures in the preview monitor... and the preview uses still pix, not videos... which often fall far too short.
With about 1,000 effects and transitions on my laptop, and about 600 of them from Pixelan, the only way to really see them in action is to apply them to a test project and do a preview.
In an attempt to show you more, I selected 12 video clips from our recent vacation, each 5 seconds long, using the default transition duration of 1-1/4 seconds (which I'd usually adjust in a real project), and made 1 minute or less sample videos. My choice of effects and transitions was pretty random, and I limited the effects to one per clip.
Here's a link to the baseline, the 12 clips with no transitions or effects...
No Effects or Transitions Used
I'll cover the newsletter poll results after the regular feature. Scroll down to below the closing comments.
... before getting into details, here's a few notes...

There was one too many newsgroup posters wrestling with the issue of not being able to save a movie, with MPEG-2 source files from a DVD being used... so I did a test that I should have done long ago.
I added a new section to the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of the site... a new work-around, which should work for Divx, Xvid, and other file types that can get into a project but result in issues when editing or saving the movie.
Vista Corner... I just finished installing the final released version... my first pass to quickly check things showed Vista itself, Movie Maker, DVD Maker, Photo Gallery, and Windows Media Player all working well. Nothing more was needed beyond the basic installation, which I installed on a newly re-formatted drive.
.... back to the main topic...

Pixelan Effects
The effects packages are listed here to align with Pixelan's website... click on either the name of the package or one of the images to see a sample clip that uses them.
The italicized statements are from Pixelan's website.
The images are snapshots of some of the thumbnails that show in the collection of video effects.
My personal comments follow the images.
Bonus Effects 
9 Bonus Effects - These bonus effects provide painterly and abstract looks that can add a unique touch to your videos... 
Bonus - Blends
Bonus - Ink
Blend in Color, Blend in Grayscale > Chalk & Charcoal >> Cutout > Dry Brush >> ink Outline >> Sponge, Sprayed Strokes, Strokes...
These need to be applied to real clips to see them in full glory.

Pack E1 - Corrections
Correction Effects - Pack E1 - Expanded/improved in Version 3.0! 46 total effects for commonly needed fixes of color, contrast, hue, and edge noise in your clips. Five new CleanCrop effects perfectly retain image sharpness while eliminating frame edge artifacts! For many videographers, this Pack will be useful in almost every project!
• Improve Contrast
Movie Maker does not provide any contrast adjustment. This Pack solves that! Sometimes all an image needs is more or less contrast to make it visually sing!
• Color Correct
Fix common color problems in shots. Subtly color-correct clips that are too 'hot', cool/blue or not 'white balanced' from your camcorder. Or add a creative tint!
• Crop Out Noise
Movie Maker also does not provide cropping. This Pack fills the gap! Easily eliminate frame-edge noise, etc. WITHOUT losing image quality or stretching your image.
• Blur Better
Increase or decrease blur during a clip for a transitional effect. Or apply a slight constant blur -- often a more useful alternative than the strong blur already in Movie Maker.
Set - Blend and Border
I have a lot of analog 8 and Hi8 video files, which have the standard artifacts on the bottom edge... about 7 to 7 pixels high. The crop bottom filter is the easiest way to resolve it. 

Effects Pack E2 - Pan/Zoom
Pan/Zoom - Pack E2 - Expanded/improved in Version 3.0! Sharper image resize algorithms, 32 new pan/zoom variations (99 effects total now), and easy-to-remember effect names.
• Follow Your Subject
Apply pan/zoom moves within any image, just like in Microsoft Photo Story! Unlike others, our effects smoothly accelerate/ decelerate for a high-end, elegant touch.
• Enliven Stills
Apply the well-known "Ken Burns" look to animate stills. Works great at any size/resolution MM can accept. Greatly extends the versatility of your images!
• Mix and Match
Our effects are modular. Zoom in tighter to your subject, hold as long as desired, pan with your subject's movement, then zoom back out. Or any other combination you desire.
• Easily Customize
99 p/z variations are included, as shown below. To further customize to perfectly match a particular shot, try our visual, easy-to-use PanZoom Maker! NO messing with XML code!
Pans and Zooms are always useful... and this canned pack of them easy to select from and apply... leaving the Pan/Zoom utility for more detailed surgical steps. You can tell from the thumbnails what the effect will do, while the set of 25 effects from the separate utility all use the same thumbnail, with no indication of what it'll do.

Effects Pack E3 - Borders-Frames
Border/Frame Effects - Pack E3 - Expanded in Version 3.0! Terrific ways to highlight your subject -- using borders, frames and other useful accents. A simple, elegant custom touch for special scenes. Ten new frame effects have been added, bringing the total in this Pack up to 50 effects now!
• Highlight & Accent
Use the elegant approach of brightness or color saturation to highlight your subject. A terrific accent for sports videos, family shots, weddings, special scenes, etc.
Focus Attention
Use these effects to focus your audience's attention. De-emphasize background or scene-edge distractions. Especially handy for active/complex shots.
• Enjoy Variety
Choose from several useful shapes and variations of frames -- organic, soft, shadowed, and more. Nothing cheesy! Easily match the look you desire.
• Express Love
Use heart-shaped effects to express love in wedding videos, family segments, remembrances, etc. A classy custom touch for special scenes!
Like many of Pixelan's effects, the subtle ones are often extremely effective and allow for repetitive use... much like the simple fade transition is routinely used. But the subtlety is often not seen very well in the samples... try them on your clips and toggle with and without them.
The repetitive use of these makes them an extremely useful pack.

Effects Pack E4 - Animation
Animation - Pack E4 - 30 amazing ways to easily create color-accurate cartoon/animation looks from your video. Or to form beautiful abstract imagery. Just like high-end effects shown in several recent movies/commercials. A creative breakthrough now available for Movie Maker users!
Animate/Cartoon. QUICKLY create cartoon-like animations from video while RETAINING color accuracy and stability.
Accent Beautifully. Blend abstract/sensual artistic styles with details from your source image.
Distill Essentials. Simplify images to their most emotional/ compelling artistic elements.
Renew & Revitalize. Easily and attractively revitalize/ customize existing clips and stock footage for new projects.
Effects - Animation
These look like they will be lots of fun in selected cases... I haven't explored them a lot beyond adding some to the sample.

Effects Pack E5 - Cosmetic
Cosmetic - Pack E5 - 30 effects adapted from our powerful CreativEase BlurPro plug-in for other video editing systems. Typical blur effects alter the entire scene, limiting their usefulness for digital video. The unique technology in this Pack makes it easy to SELECTIVELY SOFTEN your clips and/or create fresh animated blur effects. You can even use it to nicely SHARPEN scenes without introducing typical sharpening artifacts.
Soften Yet Retain. Soften areas AND retain edge definition (i.e. smooth skin but keep fine hair, eyelashes) so the overall scene does not blur or lose depth.
Enhance the Sensual. The opposite of above is also handy… easily soften ONLY certain details (i.e. blemishes, harsh reflections) to produce lush/sensual visuals.
Be Dreamy/Surreal. Apply just the right touch of SELECTIVE softness for dreamy/ surreal looks in wedding videos, dream segments, etc.
SHARPEN Better, Too! This Pack also is for sharpening! SHARPEN only desired areas, accenting details more effectively and reducing sharpen 'halos.'
Effects - Cosmetic
The Pixelan website does a good job of showing the before and after images, but using a close-up of one eye, something I've only done a couple times for fun clips. My sample clips show them as they are more apt to be used on a story or video clip. It's not just what it does to the eyes and face, but to the rest of the picture too, as the filter gets applied to the whole frame.

Effects Pack E6 - Film
Film - Pack E6 - 30 effects to help your video look like various looks/grains of contemporary film. Also includes OLD film effects, such as scratches, flashing, and strong grain.
Add Filmic Grain. Apply subtle luminance-based grain to emulate contemporary film. From subtle to strong, we include several choices.
Age Your Footage. Scratch, tint, flash, and decay your clips to emulate old film looks. Much more tailorable than MM's one built-in Film Age effect.
Film Looks Galore! Dozens of terrific film looks (selective colorations) to stylize your clips. A great complement to applying grain (described at left).
Mix and Match. Experiment with applying more than one look to the same clip -- to create unique blended styles of your own!
If it looks old, users want an effect to make it look new. If new, they want one to make it appear old. I guess the perpetual quest is to take something good and make it different. It's complimentary to the video that it looks so good that they want to put their personal stamp on it and make it different.

Effects Pack E7 - Time
Time - Pack E7 - 30 ways to add image ghosting, motion trails, and other cool time-delay effects, such as in sports/active shots or dreamy/surreal scenes. Also includes unique blended stop-action, strobe, and flash looks.
Look Dreamy. Slow down your clips and apply this Pack to create terrific dream looks -- for special segments, wedding or religious videos, etc.
Emphasize Motion. Use ghosting to highlight motion in the scene or a pan/zoom of a still-image. Echo light or dark, or both.
Blend Stop-Action. Freeze frames per a set interval, with blended action in-between, for an attractive/unique stop-action effect.
Add a Hot Strobe. Easily apply a strobe, a fun effect especially when used with other effects. Add a hot white flash too, if desired.
Effects - Time Ghosting
My holiday greeting video, in case you missed it, used a number of these.... ghosting and flashing effects. That's why I used the bouncing globe, something with enough movement to appreciate the time effects.

Effects Pack E8 - WOW
WOW - Pack E8 - 30 amazing effects; your audience will think you used a high-end FX system! From organic blurs to creative color effects, it's terrific for a wide range of projects.
Be Creative Quickly. Quickly drag-and-drop creative color effects into your scenes, from cutting-edge distortions to glowing color warps.
Enjoy the Organic. This Pack's organic, flowing visual effects are far more compelling for artistic treatments than standard effects.
Apply the Unique. Easily create fresh, unique blur looks that were previously possible only in high-end video effects systems.
Make It Flow. Form incredible fluid/molten effects quickly. To amplify the effect, simply apply it repeatedly to the same clip. Easy!
Effects - WOW
This and the following ones are really fun... for occasional use.... especially for music videos.
Plus Pack + Fun
Plus Pack

I'll run through the transition packs alphabetically, as they appear in Movie Maker's collection.
Transitions - CoolFX
CoolFX - 3 Bonus and the rest in Pack T3 - 43 cutting-edge transitions, such as organic, fire, beautiful irises, bands & reveals -- all with soft, seamless edges. Ideal for videos of family, events, music, or sports.
Transitions - Cool FX
The samples on Pixelan's website use the sample landscape picture... these are great but subtle transitions, and my sample video clips show them better. 
Transitions are easier to check on your real project as you can only have one transition... so applying another one removes whatever is there before it. No need to remove one first.

Transitions - Energy
EnergyFX - Pack T4 - 36 'natural' transitions that use wind, gravity, etc. to reveal the next scene. Especially handy when you need an eyecatching transition that looks "real".
Transitions - Energy
The default transition duration of 1-1/4 seconds is often too short for these. I tweak the durations after applying.

Transitions - Particles
Particles - Pack T5 - 44 exciting particle-effect transitions as sophisticated as those made by the highest-end visual effect systems. Includes bursts, page curls, drops, spills, spins and trails.
Transitions - Particles
I agree with Pixelan's comment... soft sophisticated quality, as are most of their effects and transitions. I'm sure that's why Microsoft goes to them.

Transitions - Picture in Picture
Picture in Picture - Pack T2 - 54 professional PIP (picture-in-picture) transitions, allowing you to fly clips in or out of the scene, hold them, softly slide in or away, or zoom in/out effortlessly. Great for many projects!
Transitions - PIP
The samples on Pixelan's website use the sample landscape picture transitioning into a plain pink image... with no animation.
My samples with the default transition durations don't do as a good a job as they could... if I were to adjust the durations manually and appropriately for each, something I'd do when using them in movies.

Transitions - Plus
Plus! Pack... released by Microsoft and developed by Pixelan - 2 crack, drain, erode, 2 evaporate, 2 fire, fizzle, 3 flow, 2 organic, random scan,  rip vertical, snow, 2 star, 6 texture
Transitions - Plus Pack
Long and slow in many cases makes for interesting visuals...

Transitions - Fun
SnowA couple snow transitions from a Microsoft Holiday Fun Pack
I like the snowflakes effect more than the snowy transitions.

Transitions - SoftFX
SoftFX - Pack T1 - 35 ultra-soft, subtle 'directional' dissolves, a great alternative to regular fades/ dissolves in Movie Maker. Tie transitions seamlessly to your subject, action or theme -- for a terrific "pro" touch!
Transitions - SoftFX
The samples on Pixelan's website use the standard sample landscape picture... these are great but subtle transitions, and my sample video clips show them a bit better. 

Conclusions and Closing
I think my actual video clips show the Pixelan effects and transitions a bit better, but I'm not satisfied with them.... Using the right ones in the wrong place doesn't do justice to either the effects, transition or the video clips they are used on.
When selecting from these, you're heavily into the creative part of the movie making process...
You can't apply them if you don't have them... get at least the trial versions and check them out. Beyond that, it's a reasonable investment in tools you'll use over and over.

Special Section
... the Newsletter Poll and comments
the kickoff for the poll was an email from a subscriber saying...  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 thought you might want to test the waters and see if you're hitting your target market. (I won't be going to 2 different newsletters... I put a lot into each issue and couldn't do 2 of them without drastically lowering the quality of each... but yes, used the comment about testing the waters).
I asked all subscribers to rate them as being too hard, OK, or great
80% of the responses selected great, keep up the good work. Thanks for that and I intend to... but emailed newsletters, like websites, are always different, changing, and getting better...
Regardless of the rating, many of them had good comments. Here are the suggestions for changes.
  • More on Vista - from one responder...
  • ... from another - Learning about Vista is not as interesting (Vista will become more interesting as time goes by... I'll mix issues about it in pretty slowly... and as I decided not to write a book about Vista, I'll be adding all the basic 'How-To' info on the website, and won't need to cover it in newsletters.... which are for more advanced info than the basics.)
  • Keeping a log on that site (Google Video) that’s supposed to post a video isn’t too interesting since they haven’t been able to do it. It will be something if they ever get it on and that would be news worthy.  (I agree that the log ran too many weeks... it never did get published by Google and I didn't get any note from them... it was just quietly erased... anything about Google video is newsworthy I think.)

Have a great week...