Newsletter #149 - May 12, 2006
Profiles and Custom Profiles

With Vista, the new Expression suite, Open Source projects for phones and other gadgets, video profiles are more and more in the limelight to us who know about them. To most they remain in the background. It's been over a year since a newsletter about video profiles, and that was about custom ones. This issue is about both standard and custom ones... profiles in general.
Some profiles are embedded in the .exe or .dll files of programs... Movie Maker for example. Others like Photo Story use profiles that are in small text files that end with .prx and are easy to read and tweak with Notepad... or even easier with the Profile Editor utility that comes with the Media 9 Encoder package. You can study the internal profiles indirectly, by looking at the properties of rendered videos. It's much easier to study the stand-alone profiles, as they contain a wealth of study material.  
Profiles in some ways remind me of codecs. There are lots of them, you select one when rendering a video, and then it works in the background. And if you have issues with a profile, it's something not easily understand.
To see how far reaching the Windows media profiles are, consider, the mother ship of open source projects... here are some snippets from one online article. 
Source Forge

I rounded up copies of the video profiles (.prx files) on my XP laptop and Vista desktop... 362 of them.... a pretty large study group.... I found them in folders associated with...

Reading a Profile
For quick and easy browsing of profiles, all but a handful of them will open in the Windows Media Profile Editor, which comes with the Encoder package. Profile EditorThe few that can't be opened with it can be viewed and edited in Notepad. 
Have your .prx file extension associated with the Profile Editor so double-clicking on one will automatically open the utility with the profile in it.
My website's Saving Movies > Custom WMV Profiles page includes a tutorial about using the Profile Editor.
The utility shows most of the settings... if you're not intimidated by reading the rest of the story, open the file using Notepad.
One of the more interesting profiles is shown at the right... a WinSAT test profile from my Vista system. It's for a Hi-def video sized at 1920x1080, 24fps, with no audio.
WinSAT stands for Windows System Assessment Tool... something Vista uses to check the performance capability of the system.
Movie Maker only works with profiles that have both audio and video tracks, so this one won't work in it. I just copied it to the MM2.1 profiles folder and checked... it's not in the list. To prevent trying to use one that won't work, it's simply not included in the list.
WinSAT in List

To use this profile in Movie Maker, check the audio option in the profile, save the change, and it'll then show up as a usable profile in MM2.1. We just took a HiDef profile from the Vista environment, made a minor tweak, and used it on an XP system... profiles are versatile. 
The name you see in the first field of the utility... WinSAT Test Profile... is the name in the dropdown pick list in the app that uses it.
Before getting into the subject deeper, here are...
... a couple notes...

Vista Corner
Sticky Note for a few more weeks... Making Movies with Vista! a six page article in the Spring 2007 Special Edition of MaximumPC, is on bookstands now to May 29, 2007. Starting on page 78... the article covers the movie making process from camcorder tape to viewing on a standard video DVD.
Digital Camera Corner
I shot my first batch of RAW pictures with the Nikon D40x 10.2 megapixel SLR camera... saving each to two images, a JPG image in addition to the RAW one. I didn't notice any difference when doing the shooting. The time between shots seemed about the same as when shooting only to JPG images.
I've installed the software that came with the camera, and the RAW codec, on my Vista system... and copied the pictures from the camera card... nice shots... Bernadette, our local color expert, is impressed with how well the images align with reality, and she hasn't seen the RAW ones yet.  
.... back to the main topic...

Custom Profiles...
I'll run down the apps we're most interested in... and make some comments about the profiles.
Media 9 EncoderWindows Media 9 Encoder
I have two folders... setup from the installation of the Windows Media 9 Encoder SDK. They contain the settings for the built-in options when using the Encoder, and any project-specific profiles your save.
The Profiles items include any saved ones for Encoder sessions. One of mine is to use when capturing with my Dazzle80 device, to a 640x480 video size.
The Settings files are either audio or video, not usually both... and the video ones sometimes have multiple choices for target bit rates. These multiple ones would be for streaming packages that sync with the performance capabilities of the computer accessing them.
These make great study files. I copied one of them to the new Expression Encoder and it worked fine rendering a video. As the new Encoder supports getting audio and video settings from different profiles, they probably have more possible usage there than they do in Movie Maker.

Movie Maker 2.1 in XP
About 18 built-in profiles come with Movie Maker 2. The settings are all built into the program so you can't copy them to use elsewhere. To look at the settings, you need to be a bit less direct. Render movies from them and study the video file properties.
You can add optional extra profiles by making a Movie Maker\Shared\Profiles folder and copying other profiles into it. Use those from Vista, Expression, the Encoder, or make your own. My folder has 98 profiles in it.
We noted in the intro that, when Movie Maker won't work with a profile, it'll ignore it and not put it in the drop down list of options when saving a movie. That's not always the case.
Motion ThumbnailThere's a downloadable pack of 14 profiles to use with Expression apps... when I copied them to the profiles folders of XP's MM2.1 and Vista's MM6, Movie Maker ignored 10 of the 14. Maybe that's better than the four it listed.
When opting to render a movie with any of these, the process seemed to start but the progress meter sat forever at 0% and there was no indication of the rendering happening. 
These will be good to study...  why are they listed by Movie Maker, and why won't they work?
Note the first page of the profile shows the NTSC option checked, with the option for 'Custom' grayed out. Page 2 of the window shows the frame rate at 15 fps.

Movie Maker 6 in Vista
MM6 in Vista comes with fewer profiles than MM2 in XP... and about half of them to produce newer High Definition videos.
As in XP, you can create a Movie Maker\Shared\Profiles folder and use custom profiles or those from other places. Copies of my custom profiles from MM2.1 work in Vista, so I can continue doing things as usual. 

Photo Story 3 running on XP or Vista
It works the same on either XP or Vista. The standard set of profiles are in the open as .prx files in the Profiles\1033 subfolder, the same folder that you use to add custom ones.
Photo Story profiles are unique in that...
  • they must use the Windows Media Video 9.1 Image codec, one that can't be used by Movie Maker, the Expression Media Encoder, or other apps
  • video codecs used by Movie Maker and other apps can't be used by Photo Story
The profiles included with Photo Story 3 are all standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Custom profiles are needed to make widescreen stories. This week I got a request to help make one for a 9:16 ratio... the other side of squareness, tall and thin. It worked fine.
In addition to using a custom profile for anything other than 4:3, the pictures need to be appropriately distorted before importing into PS3 because it doesn't have a setting to toggle between standard and widescreen as Movie Maker has.

Expression Media Encoder
Extra Profiles14 profiles are included in the in the Encoder... beyond those, you can add extra profiles to the Profiles sub-folder.
I copied two YouTube profiles from my Movie Maker profiles folder, and they show up in the Encoder list and work fine.
Encoder SettingsIn Movie Maker, you get to select video/audio from one profile.
In the Encoder, something neat is your ability to select the video settings from one profile and the audio settings from a different one.

If you copy a profile to the Encoder folder that it won't work with, it'll show up in the list and you can select it.... but you'll get this status when you start the encoding...
I put a PS3 profile in the folder to force this message. 
Bad Profile
It's not really a 'bad profile'... more a 'bad user' trying to do something I shouldn't.

Saving a New Profile
Getting into the advanced profile settings is the key to making changes and saving them as a new profile.
See the picture below... I've circled and pointed to the little keyhole to press, which expands or contracts the expanded settings window. Remembering where things like this are is one of the reasons I write newsletters, so I can look it up when I forget how to get to such a feature.
Where is the new profile saved by default? I found it in...
c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\Expression\Expression Media Encoder\Profiles\PapaJohn Test Profile.prx
Will such a profile work in Movie Maker? I copied it to the MM2.1 profile folder to see. Yes, it does and the saved movie looked good.
Expression Encoder - Saving New Profile...

We've seen the Expression Media Encoder with its 14 built-in profiles... in .exe or .dll files, not readily available for studying or using in other places... but there's another way to approach them. 
On Microsoft's Silverlight website, there's a downloadable set of 14 profiles in a zipped file (use the link in the Downloads section at the right of the website page)... Silverlight Profiles
The package has files with the same names as those in the Encoder, so they make a good study group... as the newest set of profiles to come along... made for Expression and the online Silverlight experience.
One is for videos heading to a Zune
Another is an interesting 'Motion Thumbnail' profile, 160x120 pixels at 15 fps. We've seen that one above, the one that hung Movie Maker in XP and Vista.
Those that say VC-1 in their names use the Windows Media Video 9 Advance Profile codec. The others use the Windows Media Video 9 codec.
Copy this pack to the Expression Media Encoder profiles folder and they'll all show up and be usable. But you don't need them as they're the same set hard-coded into the app.

CamtasiaCamtasia Studio
Beyond the Microsoft apps, other software can use the same or other profiles... here's one of interest, the Camtasia app used by many to do screen captures.
The video codec used by Camtasia is the Windows Media Video 9 Screen one, as you can see in one of the profiles it uses. That's the same codec used by the Windows Media 9 Encoder when it does screen captures.
Similar to the Image codec used by Photo Story 3, the Screen codec is used  by few apps.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
With the Profile Editor and Notepad, you have the tools to study and tweak the profiles. Make a set of backup files if you decide to try some.
Profiles and custom profiles (.prx files) are here for the long run. If you haven't used a custom one yet, or copied a profile from app to use in another, you probably will as you continue doing video work. 
When is a custom or different profile needed or desired? For example...
  • they are needed in Photo Story 3 to make a widescreen story, or any other shape different than standard 4:3 aspect ratio. I helped someone this week make one for a 9:16 ratio.
  • Movie Maker in Vista provides a more streamlined set of profiles than MM2, half of them to render high definition video files. To continue using the settings you are used to in XP, custom profiles may be needed.
  • the new Expression Media Encoder can use custom profiles... or create new ones.
Next week is issue #150, which I score as the 3rd annual anniversary one... looking back on my set of issued newsletters, I see that the one was published May 15, 2004... that's 50 a year.
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...