Newsletter #150 - May 19, 2007
3rd Anniversary Issue -
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
Here's the 'concept sketch'. More than a sketch, it's a
frame snapshot from...
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.
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...
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
.... back to the main
Making the Sample
Step 1 - Planning and
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
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
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
Here's another frame snapshot from Movie Maker...
it was saved at 640x480, so I used IrfanView to resize it to 720x480 before
Then I measured (using IrfanView or Paint) two
things about each of the 3 overlaid videos:
the location of the upper left corner, which in
xml code is the OffsetX and OffsetY values... how much it is offset from the
upper left corner of the overall screen
the width and height of
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.
And here's the full xml file for it, which I
The xml file goes in the Movie
Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX folder. The three transitions will show
up in the Video Transitions collection.
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.
Make the opening text overlay
image and its associated xml file
The blackness of this .PNG image
file made in Paint.net 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
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
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.
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
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 Paint.net 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
Step 3 - Select 3
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:
clouds over the river Arno during sunset for
video 1... the squarish one
morning wake up misty clouds over the Swiss
Alps... the view from our bed... for video 2... the wider than widescreen one
various scenes of the Roman Forum
(in Rome) for video 3.... scenes that would hold their own
when looking at a severly cropped tall
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...
Using 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:
Use Video > Filter from the main VirtualDub
Press the Add button and select the 'resize'
Check the option to expand the frame and
letterbox image... and enter the overall frame width and height... 720x480.
To make the frame 10 pixels wide, deduct that
much from the dimensions and enter the new width and height of the video
itself as 700 x 460 pixels
Pick the color of the frame
Show the preview and scan the video if you want
to see how it'll look with the border, and at the new
At this point we haven't done any cropping yet...
that'll be next.
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
I wanted the Via Sacra sign to be in the cropped
segment, so I scrbbed to that location as I did the cropping
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
The three videos now have colored borders
and appropriately cropped to be used over the main background. So we need
Step 5 - Make a background
The 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 c
ustom XML file as part of the preparations... at this
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
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
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
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).
Closing... and What's Next?
There are always things to write
about... passing the 3rd anniversary has some significance, but
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...