PapaJohn Productions

Newsletter #131 - December 30, 2006
A Sample 'High-Def' Story
 

 

This newsletter is a sequel to last week's... the high rez 1280x720 sized story made last week from mini-DV tape footage, and streaming on the mydeo server, whet my appetite for stories of higher quality, ones using more pixels than what you have in a DV-AVI file. I decided to make one from some 5 and 7 megapixel still pictures....
 
Our pictures and video clips from Europe are still looking for movies and stories to go into... last week's story went from the bus station in Venice up the Grand Canal to St. Mark's, but it was made from DV-AVI quality snapshots. How would a story look of the St. Marks area made with higher quality pictures... 
StoryHere's a link to the result... a 1 minute, 40 second story... I'll be expanding it from here, and using it on the Venice page of my Europe 301 website section. 
 

 
Here are the steps to make it...
 
Still Pictures to Story
 
Step 1 - select a batch of pictures for the story, copying them to a project-specific folder. Most of the work putting the story together is actually done before opening Photo Story.
 
Step 2 - plan the sequence and the preps needed to use the images. The key things I needed were...
Step 3make the series of still pix for the story... at the 1280x720 pixel size.... I had Adobe Photoshop Elements and Paint.net to choose from, each of which can handle layers of transparent or semi-transparent images. 
 
Step 4 - distort the set of finished pictures before importing them into Photo Story 3... make their height 133% of the originals.
 
Step 5 - import the set of distorted pictures into PS3... save the project file.
 
Step 6 - use Mark Coffman's TweakPS to remove all motion settings in one easy stroke...
 
For the special effects of curtains and Picture-in-Picture, the images need to be over each other without applying any pans and zooms.
 
Step 7 - use TweakPS to also change the default 5 second duration if you want. I left it. The right setting seems to depend on your mood of the moment.
 
Step 8 - on the background music page of PS3, add the audio file... I used ambient sounds from St. Marks square in Venice.
 
Step 9 - save the story using a custom profile for a size of 1280x720 pixels.
 
Step 10 - upload to a server for file downloading or streaming... pass out the link. 
 
For those interested in more details, I'll expand on the steps below.
 
 
... before going into it, here are a couple notes...
 

 
Notes...
 
Vista Corner... I just received a box from Microsoft that says it's "... 1 of 5,000 Windows Vista Launch Kits..." It's full of helpful items and goodies to help setup and enjoy Vista, including a 315 page printed Windows Vista Product Guide, and one of five randomly included games... mine is Microsoft Flight Simulator X... 
 
I'm busy writing about Vista for a few different places... here's an extract of a long view that I'd like to share...
 

As good as it is, Movie Maker in XP fell short on a few key counts…  

With Vista, Movie Maker takes a big step forward… it resolves each of these short-falls...

 

Beyond that, Movie Maker in Vista supports high definition files, and previews in full quality rather than the rough draft mode of Movie Maker in XP.

 

Mydeo
 
This link provides a special 50% off the usual annual service price... good to Dec 31.... I'll keep it as a sticky note until then.
 
http://www.mydeo.com/?XSC=17&XSPC=HPPY0612
 
To compare streaming video from mydeo to the file downloading of YouTube... take a look at Chuck Bentley's holiday greeting... a subscription to mydeo makes a great holiday gift. 
 
 
.... back to the main topic...
 

 
About the Video to Story Process
 
Here are some more 'behind the scenes' notes about the steps...
 
Step 1 - select a batch of pictures for the story, copying them to a project-specific folder.
 
I used some of the 5 and 7 megapixel JPG pictures from our trip to Venice.
 
 
Step 2 - plan the sequence and the preps needed to use the images. The key things I opted for were...
  • curtains to open at the start and close at the end... just to be cute!! I picked one of our hotel pictures to extract the curtains from.
  • pictures with frames or shapes that could be used in Picture-in-Picture type effects. The high definition widescreen stories offer more of an area to use than standard 4:3 aspect ratio ones, making it easy to combine interesting pictures in unusual ways. PIP effects are perennial favorites, ones you don't see used in Photo Story.
 
Step 3make the series of still pix for the story... at the 1280x720 pixel size....
 
I used IrfanView and Paint.net in tandem. IrfanView to do the overall cropping and resizing, and Paint.net to put the images together as layers with selected areas being transparent. It's easy, quick, and lots of fun. And it sets the stage for a different kind of story.
 
I open IrfanView and Paint.net and leave them both running... IrfanView to open the JPG files from the camera, crop the selected areas, and resize them to align with the working project in Paint.net. I don't bother to save the images before moving them to Paint.net.
 
When a new picture is ready to add to the project from IrfanView, I copy it to the computer clipboard (Control-C keys), add a new blank layer to the project in Paint.net, and paste the picture into it (Control-V keys). After pasting you can move it around on the layer to position it just right relative to the other layers. 
 
For the full curtain to open and close, I made a layer and painted it with the color of the drapes, picking the color with the eyedropper tool and covering the layer with the paint bucket. You can do better with a more complex color gradient pattern.
 
All images for this story were made in a single Paint.net project file. After making individual layers for curtains, frames with and without the cutout transparent areas, text, etc. I toggled the visible layers on and off as I made BMP images from them, in the sequence I wanted for the story.
 
Paint.net
 
The snapshot above shows 5 of the layers mixed together... the curtains, a window with the central rectangle made transparent, a mask from a street vendor positioned behind the window, the clock of the clock-tower in St Marks square with the round central part erased, and a picture of me shooting video on a layer behind the clock.
 
Toggle the visible layers on and off. When the layers show what you want, use File > Save As > change it to the BMP file type, and save the picture in the folder of images being made for the story. After Paint.net flattens the layers to make the BMP, and the picture is saved, I press the Undo button of the menu to reopen all layers to continue on to arrange the next one.
 
If the Paint.net project gets too large, and your system starts slowing down, make different ones for each part of the story. With my laptop having 2 GB of RAM, I didn't run into that situation.
 
 
Set New SizeStep 4 - distort the set of finished pictures before importing them into Photo Story 3... making their height 133% of the originals. I used the batch process feature of IrfanView.
 
From the full set of prepared pictures, already in the sequence I wanted them in the story, I used the batch process to make another set in a different folder, a set of deliberately distorted pictures.
 
 
Step 5 - import the set of distorted pictures into PS3... drag and drop the whole batch from your file manager into PS3.
 
Save the project file so you can remove the motion settings without having to do them individually... or do them individually if the project is small enough. Close PS3 for a minute while you do the next steps.
 
 
Step 6 - use Mark Coffman's TweakPS to remove all motion settings in one easy stroke...
 
For the special effects of curtains and Picture-in-Picture, the images need to be over each other without any default pans and zooms.
 
 
Step 7 - use TweakPS to also change the default 5 second duration if you want. I left them at 5 seconds, which when reviewing I thought was on the long side. The right setting seems to depend on your mood of the moment. Short quick changes seem to align with today's style, but the number of things going on in parallel on a high definition story like this begs for more viewing time. Not knowing if I wanted them shorter or longer, I left them alone. It's easy enough to use Mark's utility and tweak them again.
 
 
Step 8finish editing the story
 
For the curtains opening and closing, use appropriate transitions... I used 'Split, Vertical' for the opening parting ones, and 'Reveal, Down' for the dropping curtain at the end. The picture was the same for each, just applying different transitions. 
 
On the background music page of PS3, add the audio file... I used ambient sounds from my camcorder tape of St. Marks square.
 
Render the story to a draft wmv file and import it into Movie Maker. Add audio and music, and sync the visual and music. When ready to save the music/audio track as a WMA file, delete the video clip and save the movie. It'll be a high quality WMA file for the story.
 
 
Step 9 - save the story using whatever profile you want. I used a custom profile of 1280x720 pixels.
 
 
Step 10 - upload to a server for file downloading or streaming... distribute the link(s). 
 
Here's another copy of the link to the story streaming from the mydeo service. For comparison, here's a link to the same story downloading from my 1&1 hosted website. They play equally well on my laptop at home.
 

 
Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
 
As an exercise for a newsletter, the sample is fine. As a viewing experience for some of our vacation pictures, I think I'll do more... use this part for the opening, and the last couple pictures to close the curtains at the end. But between the opening and closing I'll add some more pictures in more of a conventional PS3 manner, using the pan/zoom features.
 
My testing of the next notch upwards in quality, to the 1080 level, shows that it'll work equally well. But too few have screens to view them at that resolution... I don't. So I'll leave that for another day. It's nice to know that we can step up to it without doing anything more than changing the canvas size in Paint.net and using a different profile to save the story to.
 

Have a great week...
 
PapaJohn