Newsletter #150 - May 19, 2007
3rd Anniversary Issue - Picture-in-Picture

For some reason, when it's time to celebrate an event such as the 3rd anniversary of these newsletters, the ever-popular Picture-in-Picture 'Brady Bunch' approach comes to mind. Like a good wine, you can't have too much of it. I won't try to make a whiz-bang production... what I'll do is embed 3 videos of different sizes over a background video or still picture.
Here's the 'concept sketch'. More than a sketch, it's a frame snapshot from...
the draft video
The draft doesn't have a story... and has no artistic merit. It's purpose is to illustrate the planning and making of such a clip or video. 
What's mostly different about this versus previous newsletters about PIP is the use of non-standard aspect ratios... which means the videos need to be cropped and deliberately distorted, similar to prepping pictures for a widescreen Photo Story.

One new reader who is using the Title Overlay Starter Kit asked for info about xml code... this sample video uses custom xml code in a few places, so I'll cover it in a bit more depth for her.


There are other ways to achieve PIP. Your methods depend on your skills, tools, and motivation. I tend to start with some xml code that is known to work, and hand tweak it with Notepad.
Others prefer using Rehan's PIP Plus utility... here's a new tutorial about doing it that way from Ayumilove. She and I started with the same concept sketch and went down different paths.
8 minute video tutorial - PIP Plus
I had asked her about making such a video for this issue, but we didn't have the luxury of the time needed to do a joint effort. Seeing her dexterity with the PIP Plus approach, and reading this newsletter will give you two methods to choose from.
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
Viewing RAW pictures from the Nikon D40x camera isn't working... the codec from Nikon works with the Nikon software but not with Photo Gallery. I'm seeing positive reviews of the camera and agree with them.
I'll keep shooting and collecting pictures with it. There will be some photo opps at a high school graduation party across the street this weekend.
.... back to the main topic...

Making the Sample Video...
Step 1 - Planning and Preps...
Start with the desired end result and work backwards. For this exercise, it's a video of 3 minutes on my website, accessed by a link... with newsletter readers having broadband connections. I'll render it using my rule-of-thumb 'Video for LAN (768kbps)' setting of Movie Maker, one of the 'Other Settings' of MM2.1.
It'll be a standard 4:3 aspect ratio one... at 640x480. 
I'll start with DV-AVI files from a mini-DV camcorder, and do each of the many renderings along the way to DV-AVI files to minimize generational losses, I'll only do a heavy compression to a WMV file at the last step before rolling it out to the website.
The preparations include making the custom XML files needed for the Picture-in-Picture approach and the scrolling title overlay.

Step 2 - Make the XML PIP File... for 3 custom transitions
The concept sketch was at the finished video size of 640x480... but working with DV-AVI files each step of the way means planning and executing the steps using standard NTSC DV-AVI dimensions of 720x480 (PAL users would substitute their standard dimensions). WMV files can be any size you want, but DV-AVI needs to be the one standard size. We'll be seeing that size over and over at each step.
Here's another frame snapshot from Movie Maker... it was saved at 640x480, so I used IrfanView to resize it to 720x480 before taking measurements.
Then I measured (using IrfanView or Paint) two things about each of the 3 overlaid videos:
I keep attempting to make a visual that shows the corners and sizes graphically, and correlated with the settings in the xml file. Here's my latest attempt. Study it one video at a time so as not to get confused or overwhelmed.
Style - 3
And here's the full xml file for it, which I named "PapaJohn-PIP-3rdAnniversary.xml".
The xml file goes in the Movie Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX folder. The three transitions will show up in the Video Transitions collection.
XML Code
Testing is easy... put any clip on the timeline with another one after it, apply one of the transitions, and render the movie. In a few seconds, you'll be able to confirm the transition works as intended.
Scrolling Text
Make the opening text overlay image and its associated xml file
The blackness of this .PNG image file made in is how the transparent pixels look when saved as a JPG file.
The overall image size is 890x1232 pixels, only because I already had an image of that size, with an xml file that I knew scrolled well. If I wanted to spend the time making a different sized image, I'd have to tweak the settings in the xml file. 
Make the PNG file as you want and put it in the Movie Maker\Shared folder. That's the default place that Movie Maker looks for it when an xml file points to one. 
Below is the xml file. I started with a copy of an existing file, changed the title name to one I wanted to see in the list of title animations in Movie Maker.
If you want a different png file, you can copy the new one over the old one as I did, or change the name to align with a different one. 
The annotations of the xml file highlight the only things you need to think about as you clone existing xml files, or segments of the files to add more items to the same one.
Animated XML
I'm not aware of any limits to how many items you can have in a single xml file.
With the xml file and image in place, they are set to use in the project.
XML and PNG files for the Video Labels...
The concept sketch in the opening paragraphs showed the names of the scenes... River Arno, Swiss Alps, and Rome... each of them tilted a bit and somewhat transparent. They were done with a 640x480 png image overlay, using the xml file from my image overlay starter kit.
Take a frame snapshot into and use it as a template to easily make labels like this... then hide the template as you save the new overlay png file with only the text showing.

Step 3 - Select 3 videos...
I took some clips from my library of Europe 301 videos, trying to select scenes that would align with the planned shapes. The video clips had been shot in widescreen mode on my camcorder. They are:
I added opening and closing curtains in Movie Maker, and made their overall durations such that the 2nd video was 5 seconds longer than the first, and the 3rd 5 seconds longer than the 2nd. I wanted them all to end at the same time, but kick in at 5 second intervals when starting up.
At this point each of them was normal looking widescreen. The river and Alps scenes were sped up lots so you could see the clouds in action. With the opening and closing curtains added, they were ready for cropping to align with the planned shapes.

Step 4 - Add the colored frames and crop segments from the DV-AVI files...
Cropping ButtonUsing DV-AVI files is great!!! You can go back and forth between Movie Maker and other apps such as VirtualDub with no concern for quality degradation. I use the Panasonic DV codec for compression when saving with VirtualDub, and the built-in DV-AVI choice when saving with Movie Maker.
None of the clips were really critical when it comes to dimensions... a little bit off one way or the other would be hard to notice, and if it was... I could forgive it as a newsletter tutorial sample. If you need things exact, then you'll need to do some measuring of pixel dimensions when you get to the cropping step.
Cropping is easily done with VirtualDub. Whenever you add a video filter, any filter, the grayed out Cropping button becomes functional. It perked up and became functional when I added the resize filter.
Here's the working view in Virtual Dub when making the squarish one. The steps taken are:
At this point we haven't done any cropping yet... that'll be next.
VirtualDub - Cropping
Why crop them? The PIP process will set the videos into the little boxes anyway. 
Yes, but if you look at Ayumilove's tutorial, in which she didn't do any cropping, you'll see distorted videos. Take a widescreen video and put it in a square, super-widescreen, or tall thin shape, and it'll need to be mis-shaped. You can take some liberties, but you need to crop them to eliminate, or at least minimize, such distortions.
Pressing the Cropping... button shown two images above opens this working window. To crop a really tall thin segment from the video of Rome, I adjusted the two X dimension offsets. I'm leaving the top and bottom ones alone and just pulling in the left and right sides.
I wanted the Via Sacra sign to be in the cropped segment, so I scrbbed to that location as I did the cropping settings.
By cropping the video, the resizing to 720 x 480 will do an extreme distortion of the tall thin slice. But when it's tucked into the planned shape in the PIP step, it'll get squeezed back to looking normal. Two counter-balanced planned distortions will nullify each other and make things right.
It's at this step that exact measurements would come in handy if the final result is important in terms of dimensions. I'll leave that for you to do with your movies. 
The three videos now have colored borders and appropriately cropped to be used over the main background. So we need the background. 

Step 5 - Make a background clip...
leftrightThe background can be a still picture or a video clip.
I used two images with an extremely long fade transition, so the image after the PIP videos differs from the one that shows before them... something no one would notice.
As the final video size will be 640x480, use still images of that size. Or use a background video clip of 640x480 if it's a WMV, or use a 720x480 DV-AVI.
I added the same opening and closing curtains to the background clip as was used for each of the 3 PIP ones.

Step 6 - Add the 3 videos... one at a time in 3 rendering passes
We made the cAdding Video 3ustom XML file as part of the preparations... at this point
  • Put the background clip on the project, and then the first of the three to be overlaid.
  • Apply the first custom transition. Adjust the beginning of the overlaid video to align with where you want it to begin.
  • Trim the background and added video so they pretty much end at the same time... a split second difference is OK as they can't end exactly together.
  • Render the movie to a DV-AVI file.
  • Import the saved movie and use it as the background for the 2nd overlaid one... position, trim the ending, and render.
  • Do the same to add the 3rd one.
One benefit of Rehan's PIP Plus approach is that the preview monitor of Movie Maker shows what you are getting. With my approach you have to go with some experience and faith that it'll work out OK. With either approach, if it doesn't work right you need to tweak and redo it.  

Step 7 - Add garnishing to taste...
With the main part of the movie done, it's time to add the scrolling overlay title, the overlay for the video labels, closing credits (I used one of Movie Maker's standard animations), and audio/music.
I was going to add the audio from the Roman Forum clip in addition to the music, but didn't get around to it.
Render the final video...  my current rule of thumb is to use Video for LAN (768kbps).

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
There are always things to write about... passing the 3rd anniversary has some significance, but much.
Selecting topics, doing research, and writing them helps me learn about things I wouldn't if I were not doing them. I hope it helps you also.
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...