Standard aspect ratio is 4:3 in both XP and Vista... and
widescreen is 16:9. The big difference is:
Movie Maker in XP distorts video clips as needed to fill
the screen. No black letterboxing borders appear... good if you dislike
black borders, but not good if you dislike the distortion of the
MM6 in Vista doesn't distort video clips... instead
it adds black borders as needed to the top and bottom, or the
It you've grown accustomed to the distortion in MM2, and
rely on it, you could find yourself in the same bind the poster was
My camcorder doesn't 'letterbox' by adding borders to
the clips as they are recorded on the camcorder. But the poster's camcorder
does. His library of tapes with black borders on them work well
in MM2 as he has grown accustomed to the distortions. Beyond
accustomed, he considers it a good feature.... and is in a
dilemma with Vista as he can't use it to make the same
Sometimes our familiarity with software is such
that even improvements can upset the apple-cart.
Odd sized movies and stories that
don't align with the standard 4:3 or widescreen 16:9 aspect
ratios are still in need of the same customized treatment. The good news is
that the custom profiles used to make them in XP still work in Vista.
Before getting into more details, here are...
... a few notes...
When importing video
clips into MM2.1, you have the option to turn off the 'create
clips for video files' option. You don't have the option in MM6.
Auto clip generation is part of the importing process. I noticed some
I reached across my network and imported a full 13 GB 1
hour file that was captured in XP, and it imported into Vista in a
second... without auto clip splitting. The tags and markers in
the DV-AVI files must have some differences, something to explore more
If you don't want auto split clips in the collection,
select them all and use the Combine feature. Unfortunately,
you'll have already spent the time to have the auto-splitting go through the
file. Combining them is much faster.
I'm often in need of
quickly grabbing a test file to see how something works in an app. Often it's
easier to make a new test file than to find one I've used
before. But with two working laptops and smaller more portable external
hard drives, I'm consolidating my test files into one place.
One of my external USB drives
is a cute little red SimpleTech 40 GB one. It's been sitting on
my desk for a month waiting to be used. It's powered from the USB
port of the computer, which makes it super portable. I'm rounding up
my test files, and attaching the drive to whichever computer
needs it most at the moment. The others can reach across the
network to them. And it goes in my backpack when I leave the house.
.... back to the main
Let's look at the usual 4:3 and 16:9 aspect
ratios first, and then those that depart from them. Given any
standards, there will be those who want to deviate from them... for fun like me
or for artistic effect.
The two options in Movie Maker's settings pretty much define the
usual ratios. The standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio video
clips are usually shot in those proportions on a camcorder, and the
ratios carried along in movies. Photo Story includes profiles for standard 4:3
aspect ratios only, but by using custom profiles, you can make widescreen
Mini-DV and other camcorders usually record video clips
with pixel dimensions of 720x480 (NTSC). When brought
into the square pixel environment of computers, a tag in the clip tells the
software that it was shot as standard or widescreen. The software will squeeze
it in a bit to make it standard 4:3 or stretch it a
bit sideways if it's 16:9 widescreen.
Computer software use some combination of pixel
dimensions and the standard/widescreen tags to determine how to
show it. The programmers changed how Movie Maker in Vista
makes its decision versus how it displays the same clips in XP.
Clips shot in standard or widescreen and saved by MM2.1 in
XP as either standard or widescreen fill the working screen... with
distorted images as needed.
MM6 in Vista maintains the aspect ratios of the source
clips, and adds black borders to the top and bottom as needed to fill the
In both XP and Vista, standard clips in a standard project, and
widescreen clips in a widescreen project fill the working window just right and
don't need black borders.
In Vista's MM6, a widescreen clip saved to standard gets
black borders at the top and bottom. A standard clip saved to widescreen gets
black borders at the sides.
Distortion may be acceptable for some scenes but not others...
in these snapshots, distortion might even be considered an
In XP I've been trained to make either standard or widescreen
movies, not mixing different clips. In Vista I can relax, feed a project
any mix of standard and widescreen clips, and let Movie Maker automatically
do the letterboxing.
Unusual Aspect Ratios...
I have a couple embedded videos on my website's Save Movies >
Custom WMV Profiles page. One tall and thin, and the other short and fat. The
short one is made of 6 Picture-in-Picture thumbnail videos over a
short extremely wide background video of 850x60 pixels.
Movie Maker in XP and Vista treat the video the same, distorting
it to fill the window. Viewing results vary with the viewing software. Here it
is looking as designed by opening it in TMPGEnc. It was hard to find
something that would open and display it at its
Frame snapshots of this video taken in the collection bin
by Movie Maker differed a bit in the two systems...
The one by MM6 in Vista is shown at the right
(384x288 pixels), while the one by MM2.1 is below (80x60). Both
of them show the same distortion, making the clip fill the window at a
standard 4:3 aspect ratio... of 16:9 widescreen if I toggle to that
I'm not the only one who uses odd-sized movies and stories.
There's an occasional request from someone who needs help making a profile
that aligns the pixel dimensions with their preference.
If you're using such custom profiles, copy the whole
Profiles folder from the Movie Maker/Shared/location of XP to the same
location in Vista... make the folder if you don't already have it. Restart Movie
Maker in Vista and the profiles will be in your pick list when saving. They
the Aspect Ratio of Still Pictures and Animated
Movie Maker in XP and Vista handle still pictures the
same... centering the usual snapshot type images within the window, and
resizing them as needed to fit within the window and yet maintain the
Vista's enhanced handling of video clips extends to
the hybrid animated GIF files.
the right the animated globe GIF file (a series of square pictures at 96x96
pixels) is handled in XP with the usual video distortion to fill
At the left is how it appears in Vista.... and
although not a standard 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ration, the squareness of the
globe pictures is right for the roundness of the globe. It's
letterboxing the clip by adding black borders on the sides.
Closing... and What's Next?
The poster who asked for help wasn't
really satisfied by my conclusion that there wasn't an issue in Vista... beyond
that I was calling it an enhancement.
His camcorder shoots in
quasi-widescreen mode, adding black borders to the video as it captures
footage. My DV camcorder doesn't do it that way, but I have an older
Hi8 model that offers the option. It adds a complexity to the situation
that he'll have to deal with after understanding what's
There's a new tip #10 on my website's
Vista > Movie Maker > Introduction page, about how
MM6 handles aspect ratios differently than MM2.1. I didn't check MM2.6 in
Vista but expect it to work as MM2.1 does in XP. I downplay MM2.6
by not mentioning it or including it in my studies.
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...