Newsletter #151 - May 26, 2007
Photo Story Tips and
This week's topic was requested by a newer
subscriber... who commented I had lots of stuff about Movie Maker,
but less about Photo Story.
That's true. It's the 80/20 Prado Principle in
action... 80 percent of the people have digital cameras and
are interested in slide-show type videos... they get 20% of
the newsletters. The 20 percent with the camcorders get 80% of
the articles. Maybe they need the help more!
Actually, it's partly because my website has 'how-to'
info about Photo Story, along with tips and tricks. As I add them to
the website as I come across them, maybe there's less need to cover them
in newsletters. We'll see... I usually don't have a problem filling up
space with words after I start.
Here's a cut at some things we can cover here
Photo Story works in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, and comes
with quality settings that only save stories to that ratio.
With TVs, monitors and website viewers more and more supporting
widescreen... you can trick Photo Story to produce a widescreen
or any other aspect ratio story. Do it by deliberately
distorting the images before you import them, combined with using a custom
profile to distort them back in the other direction when you render the
story... here's a link to a Sample
When Photo Story was released, the high end of quality was a
standard DVD. With custom profiles you can make stories equal to or better
than High Definition
ones... here's the link to the Same
... High def 1080 and 720 are widescreen, but you make them
standard if you want, with a custom profile.
Today broadband service is better and better... but not
yet close enough to what's needed to stream DVD quality movies...
yet stories of High Definition quality can be easily
streamed. Why? Story files are only about 10% the size of movie
files.... I could point to the same sample, as it's a
streaming high-def story on the mydeo service.
The quality of the panning and zooming
still pictures in Photo Story beats the pants off the same panning and zooming
in Movie Maker. Photo Story uses all the selected pixels from a
picture as large as 52 megapixels, while the best Movie Maker can do is High
Definition sizes of about 2 megapixels... the
long-standing website Sample - Echo
are unlimited when you go
beyond the titling features built into Photo Story. Panning and
zooming isn't limited to up and down, or right and left... go diagonally
and do it with text added to the pictures before importing, as in
Narration and music don't share the same track as they do
in Movie Maker, so you're free to use both with a single
Beyond those, tricks and tips include
Swapping a project's narration file with a different one...
any wav file, not just a narration
Preventing your music from stopping too soon
Let Photo Story generate music, and grab a copy of it for a
Movie Maker project.
I'll cover some of these items in the rest of the newsletter.
... a few notes...
My Laptop is my main computer... and it
uses XP, not Vista. Unless noted, assume anything in
the newsletters was done with XP using MM2.1. This would be important
for something like the custom PIP transitions of last week's issue, as
the xml code for XP and Vista systems differs.
This 'sticky note'
ends with this issue... Making Movies with
Vista! a six page article in the Spring 2007
Special Edition of MaximumPC, is on
bookstands until May 29, 2007. Starting on page 78... the
article covers the movie making process from camcorder tape to
viewing on a standard video DVD.
get Silverlight packages to play on my website... while they played
fine locally on my laptop. With lots of help from Microsoft, the issue
ended today on a positive note. Here's the story:
Servers that use IIS 7.0 or higher are all set to host
Silverlight packages... it seems my 1&1 service host
uses something less than 7.0.
Servers with IIS less than 7.0 should tweak their properties
to add the MIME type of .xaml... I chatted with 1&1 tech
support and found that, as I'm on a jointly used server, neither they
nor I could or would tweak the IIS properties. Of course I
could opt for a service that includes a dedicated server and tweak it the
way I want.
After my chat with 1&1 I kind of threw the towel in with
the thought of using Silverlight packages on my site, not wanting to pay 5
times as much for dedicated server space... but Microsoft provided
an easy to implement hack that lets me go forward. Rename the player.xaml file
to player.xaml.txt and make an appropriate tweak in the StartPlayer.js file.
Here's the link to the now playable Silverlight package on my 1&1
It's time now to go to the next step... making cool vector
graphics stuff with Expression Design to include in Silverlight
I had another ongoing issue with my 1&1 service, which also
got resolved this week. I have an allotted 300 GB of hard drive
server space, but for some reason I had been two-blocked at my
current usage of just over 2 GB, constantly running into messages about the
server being full. With that resolved, I now have 298 GB of space open
for my Silverlight packages, or whatever I want to use it for.
.... back to the main
Selected Tips and
Rather than repeat the info already on the website,
I'll focus on a few items and do some learning as I go. I know story files
have stereo audio, and imported stereo background tunes will stay stereo.
But, what about narration?
The little mic that came with my laptop is
mono, as would be the audio created by it. What if I had better audio recording
equipment and made a high quality stereo audio track? Could I pass it over
to the story project? Would the rendered story keep it at stereo and high
quality? Let's explore it as best I can without the stereo
Let's first look at where narration files are
stored before they get saved in a project wp3 file... and then swap one
with a high quality music file. Here are the steps...
I narrated the first picture of a story... for about
20 seconds. That file must be stored someplace
It's a WAV file, saved with other temporary project
files. The temp folder names move around a bit... this one was
c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\Local Settings\Temp\PhotoStory1\
Copied a 3-1/2 minute song (WAV format) from my music
library... replacing the narration0.wav file. Even though the temp
file is in use by Photo Story, it'll let you copy and paste another
file over it
Saved the story project and the new music file
went into the wp3 project package... the complete tune, not the
trimmed first 20 seconds that you hear when previewing the story or
viewing the saved one.
Saved the story and used TMPGEnc to rip the audio track from
the WMV file to a WAV file
Looked at the WAV file in Audacity. The wave patterns and
volume settings over the first 20 seconds were different
for the two channels... which verified the beginning stereo
music successfully made it through the rendering, not being changed to
Then I looked at one part of the story's audio
track that came from a narration, done with my
The audio segment had 2
channels showed the same wave patterns and variations in volume level.
It's mono, but good mono as it uses both channels to play from both
Not only did this exercise show that Photo Story handles the audio well,
it's setting the stage for audio editing you can't do as easily with
... Movie Maker's narration files are WMA, not WAV files. That makes
it a two step process to get a narration to Audacity for 'enhancing'.
The story narrations can easily go back and forth between Photo
Story 3 and Audacity for whatever adjustments you want.
Whenever the project is open, copies of the current narration
files are in the temp folder, where they are easy to copy, enhance in
Audacity or mix in more audio, and put them back. When you re-save the
project, the latest enhanced narration files will be included.
music files also show up in the temp folder when you open a project,
provided you added them from existing files. Those computer generated files done
by Photo Story are not saved as audio files.
If you look inside a project WP3 file, the added background music file
will be named something like 'Soundtrack0.wma'. But when you open the project in
PS3 and look at the set of temp files, the file shows with its
original file name, like 'Track 1 from a CD.wma'. The project's XML file does
the linking between the two names. It doesn't do that with picture files,
as it drops the file names during importing and doesn't include them in the
As noted, the
background music auto-generated by Photo Story are not included. As
computer generated midi music, they get rendered into the final story
without having to be saved as music files first.
didn't like a WAV files substituted for a WMA background music file. Stay
with the WMA file type and you can easily swap them out as done with the
narration files. Use whatever file names Photo Story is using and you'll be in
To enhance an audio track that
includes auto-generated midi music, rip the audio track from a saved story
to a WAV file using an app such as TMPGEnc, tweak it in Audacity, then run
it through Movie Maker to a new WMA file.
For the highest quality audio to rip... use a custom profile that
renders the story with 'lossless' wma audio.
Audio files that are too long are nicely faded out by Photo Story... much
better than those that stop too soon and leave you silently watching the rest of
What About Visual?
There's been a
number of newsletters recently that focused on the visual of a
making high definition sized ones, see issues #130, 131 and 146.
For stories with quasi-animations see #135 and 141. Three of
these haven't made it to the online open distribution point yet, but
they're in the pipeline.
About cropping black borders...
If you opt to remove the black borders, you can't undo the feature to get
the full image back. When you save a project file with the borders removed, are
the full images in it, or just the cropped parts?
To test it, I started with this picture. Of course it offered to do the
border removal to get it to a 4:3 aspect ratio.
When I gave it the OK I was surprised to see this note,
one I hadn't run across before.
I tried again
with a closer to normal sized picture. This time it did the border
removals. After saving the project file and copying a picture from
it, I compared it to the original and found them identical.
isn't done to the picture itself... it's in the XML code of the project. If
you need a copy of the original picture back, you can easily reach into the
project file to get it. Here's how.
Inside the Photo Story Project File...
The screen shot at the right shows the contents of a wp3 project
file, a compressed package similar to a zipped file.
Here's how I go into them...
- rename the .wp3 extension to .wp_
- double-click the renamed file using a file manager
such as the shareware Total
Commander (my favorite - the website doesn't mention Vista,
but it works fine on it too)
If the extension is .wp3, double-clicking automatically opens it in Photo
Story. When it's .wp_ Total Commander treats it as a compressed
folder, shows the contents, and lets you copy any of the files from
The pictures are sequentially numbered from 0 to whatever. The narration
files are named aptly. Imported background music files are named with sequential
numbers starting with SoundTrack0. Similar to the pictures being the
complete uncropped ones, the music files are also complete. If you used 15
seconds of a 4 minute tune, the complete 4 minute file is in the project.
Start with High Quality Pictures
Probably the most important tip for the visual of a story is to
use high quality pictures... not only in pixel dimensions but
Pixel count is easy... one of the digital cameras I'm currently testing
is a 10 megapixel Nikon D40x SLR, a great camera for
Content is something else, as it's a very personal thing... I like making
stories from a single picture. To make a new sample for this
newsletter, I used one of the shots from the Nikon, a
bronze sculpture in a little park in Saugatuck, Michigan. We started our
regular seasonal visits to the beach a few days ago. Get ready for more
seagulls, sand and water...
I used 11 copies of the same picture... with transitions removed,
and motion settings that start each picture where the last
one ended, a great feature of Photo Story.
Closing... and What's Next?
Photo Story works well on XP and
I have a client who has lots of high
quality still pictures and wants to get her first camcorder to start making
videos. As she hadn't heard of Photo Story before, I asked her to
email a couple of her high quality pictures for me to make a demo. She had
reservations, saying that she had Power Point, all she needed for
slide-shows... so why bother. With nothing to lose, she emailed two
pix. Her next response was 'WOW!!!'
We'll be getting her camcorder, but I
wanted her to include Photo Story in her software toolbox.
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...