Newsletter #155 - June 23, 2007
Tweak PS... Under the
Mark's Tweak Photo Story utility has been in use
now by many, including myself, for almost 2 years. I've mentioned
it before as an essential tool when making some special projects such as a
'quasi-movie' with hundreds of quickly flipping pictures looking like animation.
But I've never done a newsletter
using it as the focus... this issue is for you Mark, even
though you didn't ask for it.
I'll start the comments
with the picture at the right, a link to Mark's website where you can download
the latest version 1.0.4. Use it to go to his site, where his
really old screen shot doesn't include the button to Remove
Transitions. Nor does it mention that it installs and
runs on Vista in addition to XP.
One early version of
TweakPS had an expiration date of Dec 1, 2006. That was followed by
another that turned into a pumpkin on June 1, 2007.
Mark gave up on
embedding an end date, so this newest version 1.0.4 released this
week will run forever. More importantly, this is the first version that
also installs on Vista. We now have both Photo Story 3 and TweakPS running
on Vista, where I've been able to render stories that wouldn't render on XP.
I've credited it to Vista's better memory management as the apps are the
This utility works by
tweaking selected items in the xml file embedded in a Photo
Story 3 project (the saved wp3 file).
The picture at the right is a look
inside a sample project for this newsletter. It has the 100 JPG pictures, 3
external music files, and the text-based xml file... the super-script that
runs the rendering process to make the story.
TweakPS has 4
Changes the picture durations from their 5 second
default times to whatever you want... from 0.01 to 300 seconds. The ability to
go as low as 0.01 second durations is beyond the lower limit of
0.1 seconds built into Photo Story. 0.1 is 10 frames per second while
0.01 is 100 frames per second, letting a series of flipping pictures go faster
Removes all motion settings... the default
is for some motion on each picture in a story. When I did my
'quasi-animation' stories the motion is done by flipping through pictures
quickly, not using the pan/zoom feature of Photo Story. With hundreds of
pictures to remove the motion from, going through them one at a time is
prohibitively time consuming.
Removes all transitions... used by
Photo Story as the default for each picture.
Randomizes the pictures in the
story... something I don't use after carefully planning the sequence the
As the app becomes more popular, and extends it's useful life
through Vista, there are some rough edges that can run into
real issues. I'll explain below.
Before getting into more details, here are...
... a couple notes...
My new Vista laptop works
well, and I find myself alternating nights at Barnes &
Noble with it and my 'Hummer' XP laptop. Having moved my current
working projects onto a little SimpleTech external drive helps.
It's getting to the point that
it's not a matter of which computer I'm using, more of where the
originals of the project files are located.
Yesterday's USA Today had 3
separate articles that focused on or included video in a big way...
continuing the expanding interest in it. Part of that interest
rubs off onto Movie Maker. I see it in my increasing website traffic
and daily comments in my YouTube inbox.
In parallel with online
videos, new internet-based organizations are evolving. I'm actively working with
two of them.
will soon be providing online support services for
Windows-based users in North America. I expect to be one of the experts
providing such service.
The other is an online
provider of software reviews. It's too early to provide a link, but I'm
finishing my first drafts of reviews of some audio editing
.... back to the main
Under the Hood
The install went smoothly on both XP and Vista
On my XP system with the previous version, the
default installation was to a different folder... TweakPS versus
the previous one in TweakPhotoStory. As the installation wasn't
over the previous version, and it didn't remove the old
version... I have two installed versions, one that won't open because it
expired, and the new one.
I quickly forgot which was which... the working
windows look identical unless your computer clock is current and you can't open
the expired one, they don't show the version number, and don't have a pull down
menu with a Help > About item to check.
It was hard to find the version number of 1.0.4 as it's buried
someplace inside the main executable.
Selecting 'Click here for support information' is the only place I
Right clicking on the main executable and checking the
Version tab shows it as version 1.0.2728 19455.
I've uninstalled my older version now.
Let's go down the options and explore what happens with each. To
test the features, I made a story project with 100 JPG files from a 7
megapixel camera, using default Photo Story settings all the way, but adding
some external and computer generated music.
Change Picture Durations...
At the low end of picture durations, you can run into an issue
by making the picture durations less than the usual video frame durations.
Tweak PS lets you set the picture durations as low as 0.01
seconds. That means in one second you would have 100 pictures going by.
NTSC videos are typically 30 frames per second, and PAL are
25. That would mean that 3 or 4 pictures would pass by in each frame. Would
the frames be a composite of 3 or 4 of the pictures? Would
it skip some pictures? What would Photo Story do? You can see from the PS3
filmstrip view that it accepted the change to .01 seconds and all the pictures
are still in the project.
Even after the tweak, the motion setting windows
show durations of 0.1 seconds, pegged at the low end of what it
can be used for... at this point we have the motion setting window showing
something different than the setting in the xml file.
The proof will be in the story which saved fine.
The wmv file properties showed it as 3 seconds long... 3
times longer than the one second for all 100 pictures. Browsing the wmv
file in WMSnoop lets you see each frame, which showed the story having used
one picture per frame, with a few dropped totally. Which ones?
The first picture wasn't used, and neither was the last 2.
The 97 pictures between the first and last 2 where each there as full
pictures... one for each frame.
To see what part of the picture is in the saved story, here's a
typical one, showing the starting and ending positions of the motion
settings. The picture at the left was taken in the motion settings window
Here's the same picture in the saved story, using WMSnoop
as a viewer... cropped a bit differently than expected, but for this test
I'll accept almost anything, as long as it's the same picture.
Black Border Issue
For another test of the .01 second durations, I used a project
with just 5 pictures, exercising the PS3 option to remove black
borders before tweaking the duration setting.
When I opened the revised project and moved to the second screen
I received the usual notice about having black borders... I had already
removed them before the tweaking. I accepted the offer again, and somehow
ended up with worse black borders than in the beginning.
As TweakPS is a third party utility not officially tied into
PS3, I don't expect any such joint issues to be resolved by either
Microsoft or Mark. Use the best of each app and if something doesn't work right,
that's the price you pay for the benefits you get.
The other extreme of using 300 seconds per picture for my 100
picture test project would end up with a 500 minute story... let's try it.
the effect of having music in the project...
Before tweaking, I added music... a few external pieces,
and a few computer generated ones. Will it readjust the computer generated
pieces to fill the expanded time? Will it continue playing the external ones
that stopped early because of picture durations?
I learned something at this point. If you tweak the project and
try to open it in Photo Story, it considers it corrupt if it had external music
files added before tweaking. But internal computer-generated ones can go for the
tweaking ride without causing issues.
PS3 says the tweaked story project file with external
music files is corrupt.
Another check with a different story project with just 5
pictures and one external music file... worked fine all the way. So I
didn't get to the bottom line of the issue.
This one should be easy.... I removed the motion from the 100
pack, with music.... but got the same issue about a corrupt file when trying to
open it in PS3.
Tried it again after removing the external music files...
leaving the computer generated ones. Similar to the issue with music and
changing durations, it worked OK.
I saved the story and checked for any missing pictures... using
WMSnoop again. Everything looked good.
TweakPS give some feedback during changing of durations or
removal of motion, and said Complete when it finished.
When removing transitions there was no feedback other than
the mouse-over the window turning into an hourglass while it was still working.
And it didn't say Complete when done.
When really done the mouse cursor returns to normal and there's
a new wp3 file and associated backup file.
The issue with external music in the project
continued, and was by now a routine pattern.... the lesson learned was not to
add external music to a project until all tweaking
As with motion removal, the saved story looked good.
Again there was no feedback about the process working. Give
it enough time to finish. You'll know it's done when the new project file
shows up in your file manager.
The usual file corruption message when opening a
tweaked project file with external music included. Computer generated music
appeared to stay anchored to the same pictures it was originally assigned
to, and there was a long quiet period before the first music started... unless
the random first one has music tagged to it.
Closing... and What's Next?
Mark's TweakPS utility is routinely
used by hard core Photo Story 3 users. Thanks to him for moving it on into
the Vista environment where we can't see the horizon beyond.
From my perspective the utility is
just an easier way to hack the xml file of a saved story. Any such
hacking is done assuming an acceptable risk of something not working
right when the project is re-opened in Photo Story. I hope this newsletter helps
you understand things a bit more.
Don't add your background
music until after the tweaking is over and everything should be
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...